Todd and I visited both Casa Bonita (his idea) and Colt and Gray (my idea) one night in February, and the only other thing that connected them was that I acted like a crazed photographer at both, to the point of annoying Todd (and probably other people). And racing around that way didn’t do much for my photographs either.
I realized later I could have sat down at our table at Casa Bonita and eaten “dinner” (my taco salad was a relatively safe choice), talked more to our dinner companions, and then taken photographs afterward. Probably, I would have gotten the same quality photographs without bouncing up and down like a Jill-in-the-Box. But I had just bought a new camera 5 days earlier, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.
It was a humbling experience. My new Canon 60D is a great camera, but the limits of its flash were fairly apparent at Casa Bonita. The pop-up flash wasn’t powerful enough for the dark interior. It worked well enough for members of the mariachi band, who stood close to our table.
But it didn’t work so well when I tried to capture the acts near the waterfall.
Those two photos had to be lightened up considerably, even after I bumped up the ISO to about 1,000.
Taking a photo from behind the waterfall gives some sense of the size of the place.
I think that the waterfall is behind the tower shown here. Our seats were on the top level, and there is at least 1 other level, possibly 2—I can’t remember. I know that we entered the restaurant, stood in this line, which reminds me of the security line at DIA,
and then walked up a ramp to get to our seats (right by the waterfall).
I wonder how much money Casa Bonita makes in an evening. There’s no reason to linger over dinner, but it’s worthwhile to hang around to watch more acts like this magician, buy cotton candy or toys, and play games in the arcade. One of our companions goes every year for her birthday. I can’t see myself going that often, but I would go back with a better flash and more time to concentrate on photography.
Colt and Gray is almost the complete opposite of Casa Bonita. The former is a small restaurant on an urban street in Denver’s Central Platte Valley neighborhood. It focuses on local, lovingly prepared food, and its bar features “mixologists” and locally made liquor such as the Leopold Brothers’ products shown here. Its dinner menu includes the category “Offal.” There is one similarity, though, between CB and C&G: it’s fun to sit at the bar and watch the bartenders in action.
So far, I’ve had the Spaniard, the Martinez with Old Tom Gin (spilled on me by an overly vigorous bartender, who promptly replaced it with a mix of tequila and mezcal and spicy vermouth), and the Fernet cocktail. Todd has had the Fancy-Free, which like the Fernet is on the current cocktails menu. But my favorite drink by far came after I requested a drink with chocolate. What I got in the absence of chocolate in the bar was a mixture of Root liqueur, Upslope Brown Ale, Bourbon bitters, and a whole egg. It was luscious, growing sweeter toward the bottom. It also caused the most annoying photo-incident of the night, because I had great difficulty getting the flash to focus. I finally managed it, but Todd was not happy about the strobe-light effect. And I was not happy when I went to edit this picture and discovered the white balance was set to tungsten (I had forgotten to change it to AWB after taking pictures at Casa Bonita). Thank goodness for RAW files.
I’ve been served one dinner at Colt and Gray (on an earlier visit) and lots of snacks. This burger was cooked properly (that is, I asked for medium and got a burger that was pink inside), but the real star of the meal was the broccoli with rosemary anchovy dressing. Broccoli is not my favorite vegetable, unless it’s grilled and has this salty dressing poured on it. Then I could eat it all day.
The gougeres crusted with blue cheese were nice enough, warm and bready, but I wasn’t as impressed by them as I expected to be.
What I wanted from Colt and Gray that night (besides something to wash the taste of Casa Bonita food out of my mouth) was a sweet, and the rich drink didn’t change that. I ordered the sticky toffee pudding with bourbon ice cream. The sticky toffee lived up to its name, but the best part of the dessert was the whiskey-flavored ice cream. Colt and Gray is a Denver restaurant to visit again and again, for dinner or for snacks and drinks. As Todd said on our first visit, “It’s a good day when you get grease stains all over your notebook.”