Best Of Cripple Creek – Part One

IMG_5689While Hollywood may have its annual Academy Awards competition, Cripple Creek boasts of its infamous “Best Of” championship, sponsored by The Mountain Jackpot newspaper over the last two decades. And once again, 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. This year we also added a few categories for “Best Of” contests, encompassing a wider area than just Cripple Creek and southern Teller County. (Contrary to public opinion, there is a world beyond Cripple Creek.) Due to space restraints, we are presenting the results of this detailed survey over the next several weeks with the main emphasis for our Jan. 26 issue on casino and business-related competitions.

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?????? (John, can you put in Belinda daughter’s name, or if you just want to list her first name, that is fine) 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.

Casino, Gaming and Business Competitions

The Most Money Won and Where
1. Colorado Grande
2. Century
3. Triple Crown
Honorable Mention: Wildwood
Last Year’s Champ: Johnny Nolon’s
In one of our newest competitions in the last few years for where gamblers win the biggest loot, Colorado Grande led the way, capturing the gold with reports circulating of $69,000 winnings. Not bad for a small mountain gaming town. Another TMJ Best Of gambler boasted of a $36,000 strike at Century. Triple Crown also fared extremely well in this competition for the biggest loots, as did the Wildwood. Not surprisingly, many readers 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. Triple Crown
3. Johnny Nolon’s
Honorable Mention: Wildwood
Last Year’s Champ: Bronco Billy’s

In the battle for the ultra-friendly, it only makes sense that the gaming establishment with the most impressive longevity record 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 eight or so major expansions, capped by probably its most impressive surge into the former Gold Rush, 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 favored the Triple Crown employees, who man a variety of establishments with vastly different styles. Johnny Nolon’s and the Wildwood also fared quite well in the friendly employee contest.

Best Casino Food

1. Bronco Billy’s
2. Wildwood
3. McGills (Triple Crown)
Honorable Mention: Colorado Grande
Last Year’s Champ: Bronco Billy’s
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 for the second year in a row. Many readers though, preferred the diverse choices at the Wildwood, which isn’t afraid to make changes with its culinary lineup. Wildwood now has four prime food outlets, capped by the new Creekside Bar and the Borriello Brothers. Some other top picks included The Pint and Platter at McGills with its great atmosphere and supreme burgers, a definite favorite among TMJ staffers.

And of course the Colorado Grande, with Maggie’s, received top marks as great place for morning and noon-time food-goers and just about any meal, while playing a few slots. Who can compete with a friendly ghost?

Best Casino Food Deals
2.Bronco Billy’s
3. Johnny Nolon’s
Honorable Mention: Century
Last Year’s Champ: Bronco Billy’s
In a sight upset, the Wildwood unseated Bronco Billy’s as the premiere spot for great food deals. This was an extremely close competition with many entries, as Cripple Creek gaming players are always looking for great culinary deals. Wildwood, known for its array of food discounts and choices, emerged as the big winner. Not surprisingly, Billy’s fared quite well in the food deal showdown, as did Johnny Nolon’s and Century, with its Mid-City Grill.

Best Restaurant for Fine Dining
1.Down Under (Triple Crown)
2.The Steakhouse (Bronco Billy’s)
3. Winfield’s (Double Eagle)
Honorable Mention: Mucky Duck
Many readers opted to cast tallies and make comments on their favorite spot in the Creek and outside the area for dine dining. And in a close vote, the Down Under, with its Australian fair, known for great entrees, buffets and even some ideal Greg Norman wines, prevailed as the top favorite, followed by the Billy’s Steakhouse and Winfield’s at Double Eagle. A hefty amount of readers also boasted of the Mucky Duck in lively Green Mountain Falls, a town with as many political woes these days as southern Teller in the early post-gambling days.

Best Wait Staff
1. Pint and Platter (Triple Crown)
2. Johnny Nolon’s
3. Wildwood
Last year’s Champ: Pint and Platter
Once again, the vast majority of Best Of participants favored the wait staff of McGills’ Pint and Platter. After all, Cripple Creek has quite an Irish heritage so it only makes sense that patrons enjoy the friendly service inside the town’s prime Irish pub. Meanwhile, Johnny Nolon’s and the Wildwood snagged the silver and bronze in this competition.

Loosest Slots
1.Johnny Nolon’s/Colorado Grande
2. Bronco Billy’s
3. Midnight Rose (Triple Crown)
Last Year’s Champ: Johnny Nolon’s
In another repeat victory in the duel of the Super Loose, Johnny Nolon’s, along with its sister or brother establishment, the Colorado Grande, emerged as the clear victor. This is the third consecutive win for Nolon’s in the battle of the loose slots. 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 and touted frequently by head manager and owner, David Minter. Well, TMJ readers and Best Of participants apparently agree with these claims that are part of the establishment’s colorful history. After all, old Johnny Nolon always liked a loose betting game, when he ran his saloon in the late 1890s. Bronco Billy’s snagged the silver in this coveted competition, while the Midnight Rose grabbed the bronze. Overall, most readers praised the loose slot arena in the Creek, at certain times.

Best Table Games
1.Triple Crown
2. Bronco Billy’s
3. Wildwood
Last Year’s Champ: Triple Crown
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. In one of our tightest competitions, Best Of participants favored the mega table area offered at Brass Ass, part of the Triple Crown Casinos, along with the Midnight Rose poker room activity. Meanwhile, in a neck-to-neck showdown for the runner-up spot, Billy’s slightly edged the Wildwood.

Best Lodging
2.Double Eagle
3.Bronco Billy’s
Honorable Mention: St. Nicholas/Colorado Grande
Last Year’s Champ: Century
For the second consecutive year, TMJ Best Of contestants favored the luxurious suites and lodging amenities of Century casino. For quite some time, these deluxe, trophy-rooms were known as the best secret in town. But now, the secret is out, as Century won this title again in convincing fashion.

And the Double Eagle, known for its lavish rooms, which actually prevailed as the first major casino to gamble on lodging nearly 20 years ago, snagged the silver. Meanwhile Bronco Billy’s, with its move into the Gold Rush, is becoming more well-known as a big lodging player. 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. This category featured the most contestants among casino/business competitions.

Best Entertainment
1.The Butte Theater
2.The Lounge (Bronco Billy’s)
3. The Gold Bar Room Theater
Honorable Mention: Brass Ass

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 impressive 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, worthy of a melodrama skit.

Many TMJ participants, though, raved about the acoustic performances at The Lounge (located just outside The Steakhouse in Bronco Billy’s) But many readers voted for the Gold Bar Room Theater. This spot, located inside the Imperial, has featured a variety of musical acts in the last year. The Brass Ass also garnered quite a few votes.

Best Casino Bar
1.Triple Crown
2. Double Eagle
3. Johnny Nolon’s
Honorable Mention: Bronco Billy’s
Last Year’s Champ: Triple Crown
With the arrival of gaming, casino bars have often become a frequent hangout, and a place to try your luck at video poker and other betting games at the same time. For this year’s Best Of competition, the Triple Crown Casinos, which boasts many diverse bars at its three establishments, snagged the gold. The top TMJ Best Of choice was the ever popular Brass Ass, touted as one of the oldest and classiest gaming establishments in Cripple Creek. Many readers also praised the atmosphere at The Pint and Platter in McGills, featuring a prime sports watching area, an authentic Irish pub with Harp beer on tap and many historic touches from the old country, great food and video poker.

Snagging the silver and bronze were the respective casino bars of the Double Eagle and Johnny Nolon’s.