Here’s what Colorado wants for Christmas, from Casa Bonita to cannabis hospitality

Coloradans are a generous bunch, which should put most of us (with a few exceptions) on Santa’s “nice” list this year. But there are some things we need, some presents we’re not afraid to ask for — ones that would make living here even better than it already is.

Powder days? Of course that’s here. So is a seat at one of Casa Bonita’s tables. But there are a few you might not expect. This list, compiled by the staff of The Know, is now on its way to the North Pole. May your Christmas be merry and bright.

Crab stuffed with pasta from one of Frasca's tasting menus. (Sarah Abell, provided by Frasca Food and Wine)
Crab stuffed with pasta from one of Frasca’s tasting menus. (Sarah Abell, provided by Frasca Food and Wine)

A Michelin-star restaurant

The famed Michelin Guide only reviews restaurants in four parts of the U.S.: New York, Illinois, Washington D.C. and California. That leaves just one time zone out of the picture. To remedy that situation, Michelin should come to Colorado and stay awhile. Restaurants here — like Beckon, Frasca, Sushi Den and The Wolf’s Tailor (which Bon Appétit named one of America’s 10 best restaurants in 2019) —  are on par with big city names and deserve a closer look.

A woman as mayor

Denver has boasted plenty of powerful women on the city council over the years, but the last time we elected a woman as mayor was, well, never. Voters got close in 2019 when the election came down to a runoff between incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock and Jamie Giellis, with Lisa Calderón giving them both a run for their money. The city’s voters should always elect the most qualified person for the job, and this time around there are several women running who have a real shot at winning.

Casa Bonita, the Lakewood restaurant, purchased ...
Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Casa Bonita, the Lakewood restaurant, purchased by the creators of “South Park” in 2021, is currently undergoing renovations in Lakewood, Colorado on Thursday, June 16, 2022. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

A Casa Bonita opening date

It’s been nearly three years since Casa Bonita closed during the pandemic — shutting off our access to honeyed sopapillas and Black Bart’s Cave. And while we got good news when Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the University of Colorado grads who created “South Park,” bought the beloved eatertainment venue in 2021, Casa Bonita has remained a construction zone — one likened to a hellish episode of “Kitchen Nightmares.” So, word of an official date would make for a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year of mariachi, cliff diving and sopapillas.

Sidewalks

No matter which side of Denver’s new sidewalk-building ordinance (which voters approved in early November) you came down on, the fact remains that the city has 300 miles of missing sidewalks and 830 miles of sidewalks that are too narrow for wheelchairs. The new rule should fix that, but at current funding levels, it could take decades, according to the Denver Post’s Joe Rubino. In the meantime, keep your boots on and watch your step.

A waiter talks to patrons he ...
Rachel Ellis, The Denver Post

A waiter talks to patrons he is serving in the outdoor seating area of Corridor 44 in Larimer Square in downtown Denver on Friday, June 19, 2020. The square was closed to vehicles to facilitate outdoor, socially distanced dining.

Permanent outdoor seating

And speaking of walkable cities, one of the only good things to come out of the pandemic was the boost to Colorado’s vaunted year-round patio culture. This was due in large part to decisions by many municipalities to close streets and allow bars and restaurants in the heart of shopping and dining area to seat people outdoors, something that created a pedestrian-friendly vibe. Arvada and Idaho Springs have made a few of those changes permanent. Maybe other cities will follow suit.

People move through the south security checkpoint line at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado on Friday, November 11, 2022. (Eli Imadali/Special to The Denver Post)
People move through the south security checkpoint line at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado on Friday, November 11, 2022. (Eli Imadali/Special to The Denver Post)

A construction-free DIA

You would be forgiven for your guffaws at this suggestion, considering what a mess Denver International Airport has been lately. And yet, is it really too much to ask for an aesthetically presentable, functional airport experience that isn’t regularly bisected by construction zones that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and never seem to end? Please, Santa.

The next step for cannabis culture

For some, Colorado’s legal cannabis and the impending rollout of legal psychedelics are a bridge too far. For others, they sit in a frustratingly gray area. Weed is legal, sort of. As attitudes change across the country toward cannabis, Colorado could remain a leader in the field by allowing for public smoking lounges where people can consume weed the same way they do alcohol in bars. Yes, legal drugs are the new Wild West, but that doesn’t mean we should hide in the saloon during shootouts between government officials, investors and small businesses.

A plethora of powder days

Yes, we wish for this every year. But Colorado has become all too accustomed to drought, which continues to take a toll on ski season. Predictions for powder days this winter are mixed, with some saying we’re in for a warmer and drier winter thanks to La Niña. and others saying that the triple-dip La Niña could bless the mountains. Sure, less snow makes it easier to drive, but what’s the point in sitting in Interstate 70 traffic without the promise of being able to carve fresh tracks?

Construction site of 16th Street Mall ...
Construction continues on the 16th Street Mall project in downtown Denver on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. The multimillion-dollar project will replace failing infrastructure, including updating power, sewer and water lines. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

A relevant 16th Street Mall

It’s unrealistic to expect a renaissance on the 16th Street Mall any time soon, given that the mile-long pedestrian corridor is flanked by ghostly office buildings and empty storefronts where many people don’t feel safe. Things will get worse before they get better since the city has just embarked on a massive renovation of the mall, one that will continue for at least another two years. What will it look like when it’s finished? Hopefully, a re-energized version of its full potential.

The Rockies and Broncos. Where to begin?

Whether you think the problems are on the field, the sidelines or in the front office, the Colorado Rockies and the Denver Broncos lately haven’t been able to pull together a winning season, let alone a playoff berth. And things aren’t looking up for either team. While the Broncos were supposed to get new life with a new quarterback, coach and owners, those changes haven’t exactly panned out, and fans are calling for the heads of both Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett. Over in LoDo, the decade-long slump that has mired the Rockies to annual irrelevancy doesn’t seem to bother ownership or the people who show up to the party deck. That’s sad, because there are baseball fans in this town who’d like to look forward to spring.

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