Best Revival 2023 | El Rancho | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Brandon Marshall

Meanwhile, back at El Rancho... Seventy years ago, a couple from Wisconsin bought a roadhouse that stood alone on the road leading to Evergreen, turned it into a bakery/eatery, and five years later passed it on to their daughter, Donna, and her husband, Paul McEncroe. Together they transformed it into such a classic Colorado destination restaurant that when Interstate 70 was built right outside, El Rancho got its own exit. In the 35 years since the McEncroes sold the place, it has gone through many owners and incarnations, but the current revival looks like a winner: Bonanno Concepts is running the operation, treating tourists and locals alike to updated versions of traditional Western dishes as envisioned by chef/entrepreneur Frank Bonanno and his wife, Jacqueline.

Molly Martin

No opening, restaurant or otherwise, is as highly anticipated as the upcoming reboot of the iconic pink palace under new owners Trey Parker and Matt Stone. That means the pressure is on for one of the main characters in this South Park episode-in-the-making, chef Dana Rodriguez — though the fiery and talented Loca, as she's known, is well equipped to handle the heat. She's risen through the ranks, from Casa Bonita castoff (she was denied a job there back in 1998) to owner of Work & Class, Super Mega Bien and Cantina Loca, and now executive chef behind the buzziest debut of the year. So far, all we know about her plans for overhauling the famously bad food at Casa Bonita is that the famed sopaipillas will be on the menu. But we're confident that Rodriguez is poised to impress the masses when Casa Bonita finally welcomes fans again come May.

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