Best Of Cripple Creek Part One

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Our readers have declared their favorite places to gamble, play slots, cards and table games, dine, seek entertainment, hang out, converse and even gossip (yes, a rare concept in Cripple Creek).
In addition, voters weren’t shy about announcing their top picks for public servants, casino employees, card dealers, bartenders, local personalities and much more. In a heavily competitive “Best of Cripple Creek” contest, The Mountain Jackpot (TMJ) readers have dealt a few surprises and upsets, as well as obvious choices for the town’s high and low points. Due to space restraints, we are presenting the results of this detailed survey over the next two weeks with the main emphasis for our Jan. 7 issue on casino and business-related competitions.  More Best Of winners will be announced in forthcoming issues in our publication and on our website. 

So without any further delays, here are the city’s newly acclaimed winners. Also, we want to make a special thanks to Amanda May and friends for toiling over hundreds of ballots in the final tabulations.   

We also would like to thank everyone who participated, as the volume of responses was much higher than previous years. Hopefully, TMJ readers enjoyed some of the changes in our format, as this year we unveiled some new questions and ditched some of the old inquiries that were getting too old and stale. Look for further articles profiling a few distinguished winners of this year’s survey. Plus, the winners of those who entered our special drawings for prizes will be announced shortly.  

Casino, Gaming and Business Competitions 
The Best Place to Win Big

1.    Midnight Rose
2.    Bronco Billy’s

3.    Johnny Nolon’s

Honorable Mention:  Wildwood
In one of our newest competitions for where gamblers win the biggest loot, the Midnight Rose, the crown jewel of the Triple Crown Casinos, captured the gold with reports circulating of five figure winnings.  In fact, a few TMJ Best Of participants boasted of claims that topped the $30,000 figure.  Bronco Billy’s also fared well in this showdown with pretty impressive winning strikes, as did Johnny Nolon’s and the Wildwood. Not surprisingly, many readers also noted that they also have lost a hefty share of money in these same gaming-friendly establishments.  So the only way you can determine the accuracy of these reports is to play at these winning establishments yourself.  Go play in the Creek.  

Friendliest Employees

1. Bronco Billy’s
2. Big Jim’s
3. Johnny Nolon’s
Honorable Mention: Wildwood

In the battle for the ultra-friendly, it only makes sense that the gaming establishment with the most impressive longevity records among Creek casinos grabbed the gold. Billy’s started in Oct. 1991 as a small gaming hall and a few bar stools, with the intentions of becoming a true Colorado casino and establishing friendly customer service. After seven major expansions and 22 years later, this same theme remains.  Billy’s has been a frequent winner of the most-friendly competitions, largely because of their employees. The fact that Marc Murphy, the only original head CC casino manager remaining since the birth of gaming, is still in charge also doesn’t hurt. Our latest competition was no exception as Billy’s won this title in a landslide verdict.  
            
However, many of our readers sided with the ultra-friendly Big Jim’s Gambling Hall and Saloon, courtesy of Jim Druck and company inside the Imperial, and Johnny Nolon’s, a gambling offshoot of one of the more infamous characters to grace the town in its gold rush heyday.

Best Food

1. Bronco Billy’s 
2. Colorado Grande/Triple Crown
3. Wildwood

With a diverse combination of food choices, ranging from the basic and homey Home Café, to the Mexican fiesta paradise with Baja Billy’s and then the fine dining kingdom of The Steakhouse, how can you go wrong?  Bronco Billy’s cleared the decks as the premiere food choice in the Creek.  
  
Maggie’s namesake restaurant at the Colorado Grande was also rated as a great place for morning and noon-time food-goers and just about any meal. Who can compete with a friendly ghost? This classic restaurant is located in the downstairs of the Colorado Grande. As for local restaurants, the Down Under of the Midnight Rose received many favorable tallies and comments.  Even golfing wiz and award-winning wine-maker Greg Norman would be impressed with their collection of exquisite steaks, seafood and vintage specials. The Pint and Platter at McGill’s (another favorite Triple Crown casino), is popular with many who enjoy an Irish pub atmosphere, such as a few TMJ staffers.  And the Wildwood is always on the move in making food changes that cater to their customers’ needs. The Maverick’s Buffet has been a big hit with many TMJ Best Of participants.    

Best Food Deals
1.    Bronco Billy’s
2.    Midnight Rose
3.    Colorado Grande 

No competition whatsoever. The Billy’s 49 cent breakfast special has become an institution that practically dates back to when slots started ringing down Bennett Avenue in 1991 and Bronco Billy’s was a small  place and The Mountain Jackpot employees raided the place for early morning food and energy.  Well, the later point is still a reality. But it’s amazing that this food special is still the talk of the town. 

Many TMJ Best Of participants, though, enjoy the prime rib and seafood buffets at the Down Under of Midnight Rose.  And as always, good deals abound at the Colorado Grande.  Maggie enjoyed giving her guests hefty discounts. 

Loosest Slots
1.     Johnny Nolon’s 
2.     Bronco Billy’s 
3.     Century
Back by popular demand, this Loose showdown is a former TMJ Best Of competition that was put on hold due to the frustrating era of political correctness. Even the TMJ got tangled up in the familiar casino wars that sometime took the competitive fun out of the industry.  Well, the Loose Slot showdown is back. 

In the battle of the super loose, Johnny Nolon’s emerged as the victor by a fairly substantial margin.  That’s not surprising, as Nolon’s has frequently touted itself as the place “where the slots are looser,” a slogan backed up by some impressive statistics. Well, TMJ readers and Best Of participants apparently agree with these claims that are part of the establishment’s colorful history. Johnny Nolon always liked a loose betting game.. Bronco Billy’s and Midnight Rose also fared well in this competition, as did Century.

Best Table Games
1.Triple Crown
2. Bronco Billy’s
3. Wildwood

When Amendment 50 was implemented in the summer of 2009, the stakes definitely changed for Colorado gambling with the arrival of new games such as Roulette and Craps and higher limits. Although locally Cripple Creek hasn’t fared as well as gaming rival Black Hawk, the town definitely abounds with much more excitement for table game and card buffs. And without question, Best Of participants favored the mega table area offered at Brass Ass, part of the Triple Crown Casinos. This is just what folks imagined with these new added games. This area frequently features yells and excitement associated with the sounds of jubilation at the Roulette and Craps tables and other associated card games.  The card and table offerings of Billy’s are also a big hit.  And with Billy’s latest expansion into the former Jahns Jewelry store, this atmosphere will only improve. And since it opened for business in 2008, the Wildwood, a place that resembles the look of a Las Vegas-style casino area, has always been a popular haven for table games .     

Best Lodging
1.       Wildwood/Gold King
2.       Double Eagle
3.       St. Nicholas
Honorable Mention: Midnight Rose/Colorado Grande
The Gold King, Cripple Creek’s first lodging establishment to make a serious wager on limited stakes gambling (back then it was the Holiday Inn), grabbed the gold in the local lodging arena. Owned by the Wildwood, the Gold King offers great modern amenities at great prices.  It also features a mega-sized indoor pool, which serves as a great enticement. And the Double Eagle, known for its lavish rooms, snagged the silver.  Many TMJ readers definitely have a good appreciation of history, as the St. Nicholas, which  sports an extremely colorful past in the district’s pre and post-gaming period, received the bronze. Meanwhile, many TMJ Best Of participants favored the great accommodations and amenities offered at local casinos, such as Colorado Grande and Midnight Rose. All in all, local lodging amenities were cited as one of the big improvements in town in recent years.    

    
Best Entertainment
1.   The Butte Theater
2.   The Lounge (Bronco Billy’s)
3.   The assorted characters at Ralf’s
Honorable Mention:  The Gold Bar Room Theater
Cripple Creek is a town that prides itself on entertainment.  And probably no venue caters to this need better than the Butte Theater, which now ranks as one of the best and most comfortable hubs for live theater and community shows in the entire Pikes Peak region. The Butte, with the very impresive Thin Air Theatre Company, now showcases a diverse assortment of shows including Broadway musicals, comedies, melodramas and holiday performances.  There is no shortage of performances in the Creek. The Butte also has garnered much better support from the current group of elected leaders than past years, when the fate of The Butte became quite a political entertainment show. 

Many TMJ participants, though, raved about the acoustic performances at The Lounge (located just outside The Steakhouse in Bronco Billy’s,) with such performers as Crosser Davis, Ceol Ceili and more.  But some readers voted for the assorted characters at Ralf’s Grill and Saloon, who aren’t lacking in story-telling abilities especially following a few beverages of choice.  However, another great entertaining spot is the Gold Bar Room Theater inside the Imperial. The Ledfords have done an incredible job in renovating this gem of a theater, which now abounds with some great shows. 

Best Casino Bar
1.    Big Jim’s
2.    Grande/Bronco Billy’s
3.    Wildwood
Although it’s not the biggest gaming hangout in town, the main floor bar and slot hub of Big Jim’s Gambling Hall and Saloon, definitely ranks as the friendliest, according to TMJ readers.  Since the inception of gaming, casino bars have turned into popular spots for catching up on local rumors, meeting people, watching sports and winning (or losing) a little money on the side.  And if you spend a little time talking with general manager/owner Jim Druck, you can see why people like hanging out at Big Jim’s. 

Snagging a close second were the respective casino bars of Colorado Grande and Bronco Billy’s.  

Best Players Club

1.     Bronco Billy’s
2.     Wildwood
3.     Century/Johnny Nolon’s
Honorable Mention:  Midnight Rose
Players Clubs are often viewed as the promotional lifeblood of local casinos.  And in another first place triumph for Bronco Billy’s, the casino prevailed as the Players Club of choice, in a tight race with the Wildwood, Century and Johnny Nolon’s. 

Best Non-Gaming Retail Store
1.     9494
2.     General Store
3.     Cripple Creek Candy and Variety
Whoever said gambling and retail hubs just don’t mix?  Although the pickings are slimmer from the good old days, prior to gaming, the town’s retail core still prevails as one the town’s best kept secrets, with a variety of options for non-casino folks and families, and those in quest of needed items and gifts without having to go down the hill. The nay-sayer critics have been silenced, with the growth of more specialty gift shops.  The city’s growing volume of sales tax revenue is further proof that the retail spirit in the Creek is alive and well. 

In our latest competition, the 9494 (Gifts with Altitude) store, with the name stemming from the town’s 9,494-foot elevation level, grabbed the gold in convincing fashion.  9494 offers a unique, eclectic selection of gifts and rare items, including special handbags, jewelry and pajamas. The General Store, which has become a Cripple Creek institution and is an amazing non-gaming survivor, snagged the silver. However, many of our readers enjoy the incredible chocolate treats at Cripple Creek Candy and Variety, and the always interesting conversations with co-owner Lou Goldman.  

Best Place for Locals to Hang-out
1.    Ralf’s 
2.    The Creek
3.    Red Rooster
Honorable Mention: Colorado Grande and the Cripple Creek Elks.
No competition whatsoever, as Ralf’s snagged this title in a runaway vote.  Under the leadership and management of the charismatic Chris Hazlett, a long-time resident who also serves on the CC city council, Ralf’s Grill and Saloon has evolved into the prime non-gaming hangout and place to catch up on the latest Cripple Creek or national rumor.  The actual truth behind these stories is another factor and part of the legacy of Cripple Creek.  It is one of the main after-meeting gathering spots for the town’s elected leaders (According to local folklore, that is where many decisions are made) and offers some great entertainment too.  

Many TMJ responders, though, enjoy The Creek, while the Red Rooster at the Imperial continues to attract quite a following.