Best Of Awards (Part 2)

Illustration of concept with word the best on background

Cripple Creek, Teller County and the Region

In a continuation of our annual Best Of Awards showdown, and with no further delays, here are more winners and finalists. In our March 14 issue, we focused primarily on casino and gaming-related winners. This time, we will highlight some of the area-wide competitions and individual winners, along with a few other rather interesting categories.  Again, we appreciate all the great support we received from our readers and participants who turned in Best Of ballots in a record volume.  Also, special thanks to Tieva Simpson of the TMJ family for toiling over thousands of ballots in the final tabulations. 

Best Breakfast in the Area

Gold — The Pantry

Silver – Denny’s

Bronze – Hungry Bear

In a new competition this year, Best Of respondents clearly favored the popular culinary institution in Green Mountain Falls, known for their lavish breakfast entrees, award-winning cinnamon rolls, friendly service and lively conversations, courtesy of the charismatic owner Ben Stephens. Any wrongdoings at the GMF city hall or politics in the region, and you will catch the latest episode at The Pantry, and may learn a few things about our newspaper. Just ask Ben or frequent customer and civic leader Dick Bratton, who only visits The Pantry a mere 320 days a year. But not surprisingly, many readers love the variety offered at Denny’s off Hwy. 24, which has become a big supporter of youth programs and activities. Kudos to Denny’s for their great breakfast dishes and for our honoring the youth.  

Best Area Restaurant Steak

Gold – Swiss Chalet

Silver – Ute Inn

Gold – The Steakhouse

It’s hard to rival any of the great entrees at the Swiss Chalet, owned by Woodland Park’s own mayor, Neil Levy. But no politics at the Swiss Chalet are allowed, and please no discussions about the aquatic center. Instead, just sit back, sip a glass of wine or beverage of choice, and enjoy one of their trophy steaks or meat dishes. Their Tuesday prime rib specials are also a big hit with locals. The Historic Ute Inn has also made great strides in the meat showdown. And not surprisingly, The Steakhouse of Bronco Billy’s is extremely popular.

Best Restaurant in the Region for Seafood

Gold – Carmen’s

Silver – Mucky Duck

Bronze – Historic Ute Inn

In the last several years, Carmen’s, located next to the Gold Hill Theatres, has become a main community hub for great food, conversations, and yes, Woodland Park rumors. Many of our readers crave their special seafood entrees that conjure up memories of the East coast. And then there are the infamous stories from co-owner and operator Carlos. If we say too much here, we may be put to death. But a number of Best Of respondents love the seafood dishes at the Mucky Duck in Green Mountain Falls, while the Historic Ute Inn also fared quite well in this competition.

Best Area Wait Staff

Gold – McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Silver – Russ’

Bronze – Mucky Duck

Honorable Mention: Pint & Platter

In a tight competition, McGinty’s, which has increased their offerings with their new sports bar addition, prevailed as the service champs of the region. This still ranks as an amazing success story for Divide, a place that is definitely living up to its reputation as the Center of the Known Universe. During the recent St. Patty’s celebration, they proved once again why their servers generated top votes. Russ’, also located in Divide, carded a close second place, while the Mucky Duck in Green Mountain Falls also garnered many tallies.

Best Area Lodge or Hotel

Gold – Country Lodge

Silver – Gold King Inn

Bronze – Victor Hotel

Honorable Mention: Double Eagle

Lodging in the region is a subject that still generates much debate and speculation, with plans for increasing our current offerings quite a bit, or that’s what our mighty planners and regional consultants say. On a country-wide basis, TMJ voters heavily lobbied for the Country Lodge in Woodland Park, the first establishment that took a gamble on lodging year-round in the area. With the combination of a pool, pub and lounge, comfortable rooms and a prime location, this is a tough facility to beat. However, many readers favored the Gold King Inn, owned by the Wildwood, along with the quaint setting of the Victor Hotel, which offers a great chance to experience the revitalization of Victor, first-hand.

Best Grocery Store

Gold – Venture Foods

Silver – City Market

Bronze – Safeway

If you have read any articles or postings in TMJ recently, or visited their store in Divide, you may have experienced the amazing improvements at Venture Foods, located in both Divide and Cripple Creek. They are a true local grocery store for the folks of Teller County, catering the niche interests of Teller shoppers. City Market, though, still garners many loyal customers, while some shoppers enjoy the setup of the Safeway. 

Best Auto Repair Outlet

Gold – 4 Mile Auto

Silver – Big O Tires

Bronze – Schumacher’s Alignment and Tire Center

When it comes to auto repairs, tire adjustments, tune-ups and car maintenance, our fine abode can’t be matched. For a small county, Teller bustles with a rich variety of car and truck assistance shops. There are really no losers here and plenty of competition. That said, TMJ responders heavily favored 4-Mile Auto, located in one of the adjacent spots, next to the Safeway shopping center. They offer quite a realm of services. Readers also praised the services of Big O Tire and Schumacher’s.   

Best Cannabis Business

Gold – The Pothole

Silver – Maggie’s Farm

Bronze – Eagle’s Nest/Mountain Medicals

Despite some mixed opinions and comments by certain local elected leaders, Colorado has legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, on a limited basis, for adults.  Do we need to repeat that statement again, or maybe we should play a song for our leaders, outside the courthouse.  Maybe, we will recruit Bob Dylan.

In a fairly competitive vote, The Pothole, a cannabis club in the west side of Colorado Springs won as the premiere cannabis business for the second year in a row. The Pothole is known for its friendly atmosphere and a home-like setting. Maggie’s Farm in Manitou Springs also has gained growing popularity and was even given a positive endorsement by the police of chief of Manitou Springs during a recent meeting in Cripple Creek.

Best Cripple Creek Event

Gold – Salute to American Veterans Rally

Silver – Donkey Derby Days

Bronze – Cripple Creek Ice Fest

In a big upset from last year’s verdict, TMJ Best Of voters heavily rallied behind the Veterans Rally and motorcycle ride, both a popular and controversial event. It is regarded as one of the largest motorcycle processions and veteran events in the Rocky Mountain region. Recently, talk of cutting the funds for this gala practically stirred up a riot in the CC Council Chambers, with Marketing Director Steve Kitzman preparing for a quick exit, in case he got tarred and feathered.  We are happy to report that no violence occurred during this debate. Veterans and motorcycle riders made it clear they love the Salute Rally.  Many voters, though, favored the traditional Donkey Derby Days and the Cripple Creek Ice Festival. The latter event attracted nearly 80,000 followers.


Best Area Event (outside of Cripple Creek)

Gold – Cruise Above the Clouds

Silver – Woodland Park July 4th Celebration

Bronze – Manitou Springs Coffin Races

No big surprises here, as the idea of just giving the Cruise Above the Clouds hardly any money when it came to Woodland Park’s community investment funding this year generated quite an outrage. It even raised the blood pressure of Mayor Neil Levy, who usually takes a low-key diplomatic stand on virtually every issue, except for not supporting the Cruise Above the Clouds enough.  Regardless of the special event politics in WP, this festival has been amazingly successful in the last few years. Many TMJ readers, though, were quite impressed by the July 4th celebration in Woodland Park, while Manitou’s Coffin Races continue to awe locals and visitors alike.        

Best Area Controversy

Gold – Green Mountain Falls Marshal Search

Silver – Legal Weed Debate in Cripple Creek

Bronze – Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority Meetings

In a contest that didn’t lack interest, Best Of responders clearly were intrigued over the nearly year-long search for a head lawman in Green Mountain Falls. This difficult search, which prompted national reports of a lawless burg with people drawing guns, running down geese and looting, is now over. On Sunday, a big welcoming party was held for new marshal, Virgil Lynden Hodges. But many voters cited the recent debate over legalizing legal weed in Cripple Creek, which attracted some pretty lively discussions. Phase one of this battle is officially over for now, unless the issue is put to a city-wide vote. And of course, the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority Board meetings, held by a group of rather interesting and diverse personalities, fail to attract drama. Comparisons have been drawn between these gatherings and the press conferences of Donald Trump.