Best of the High Country Area Champs

Best Area Wide Event/Festival

Gold – Rocky Mountain Oktoberfest

Silver – Cruise Above the Clouds

Bronze – Salute to American Veterans Rally

Honorable Mention – Old Fashion July 4th

Recurring Complaint – What happened to our great special events?

Last Year’s Champ – Cruise Above the Clouds

Alright, we won’t lie to you. The  last year was a bust with events due to COVID.  But in the wish list of our loyal voters, and based on past  memories, the Oktoberfest, still ranks as their favorite event, followed by the Cruise Above the Clouds and Salute to American Veterans Rally.  With a little luck, the 2021 Oktoberfest could be a go, so get ready to chug a few German beers and wines and partake in great dancing and festivities.  The future of some events this year is still uncertain, but by late summer and early fall, that scenario could change.  Many of our voters complained about the no-event scenario that struck our region.

Best Area Hotel/Motel

Gold – Country Lodge

Silver – Outlook Lodge

Bronze – Microtel Inn

Honorable Mention – Black Monarch Hotel

Last Year’s Champ – Country Lodge

It was a tight competition for the lodging place of choice among Best Of respondents. But when the dust was settled, the County Lodge in Woodland Park came out on top again. Country Lodge is actually one of the prime success stories of the WP Downtown Development Authority’s incentive packages (referred to as TIFs), paving the way for the Lodge’s latest addition, the Microtel Inn.  The Country Lodge bustles with a great pool, pub, patio food and live music. It is a prime place we recommend for out-of-town guests, situated in an ideal strategic spot. The unique Outlook Lodge in Green Mountain Fall  claimed the silver, and many lauded the unique Black Monarch Hotel in Victor.

Best Area Hangout

Gold – Ralf’s Breakroom

Silver – The Historic Ute Inn

Bronze – The Blue Moose

Honorable Mention: Peak View BBQ

Last Year’s Champ – The Historic Ute Inn

In a slight changing of the guard, Ralf’s has regained its status as the premiere local hangout.  Just spend a few hours there and you can see why.  Ralf’s actually represents the real local flavor of the town, gaming or no gaming;  just don’t take the bombardment of rumors and TMJ and  Chris Hazlett (the owner of Ralf’s) stories too seriously.   Many  Best Of voters, though, clearly favored the Ute, located on historic Midland Ave, as their favorite local hangout in the region. Is this a byproduct of Ute’s friendly atmosphere, their staff or reputation as a prime hub for great conversations, rumors or wild stories regarding the  DDA or the Bert Bergstrom legacy.  Of course, everything said at the Ute is true. The Blue Moose also is a big hit for area hangout favorites.

Best Area Bar

Gold – The Ute Inn

Silver – Peak View BBQ

Bronze – Crystola Roadhouse

Honorable Mention – Russ’ Place

Last Year’s Champ – Historic Ute Inn

In a repeat victory, the Historic Ute Inn defended its title as the premiere bar/eatery in the Pikes Peak universe. Old Bert Bergstrom, the former Ute owner and one-time ruler of Woodland Park would be proud. The Ute has an amazing legacy and is an overall fun place to hang out, whether you are a government bureaucrat, rich yuppie, a motorcycle enthusiast, military veteran, a lowly TMJ employee or sports fan or someone traveling through the area. The place offers great food, a friendly staff and are super owners with Karen and Murph.  Also, faring quite well in this vote were Peak View BBQ and Tap Room and the Crystola Roadhouse.

Best Area Sports Bar

Gold – McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub/Russ’ Place

Silver – Woody’s

Bronze – Blue Moose

Last year’s champ –  McGinty’s

In a big triumph for “The Center of the Known Universe,” (Divide, Colorado, for those who don’t know what we are referring to) both McGinty’s and Russ’ prevailed as the area’s top sports bar hangouts.  This vote was just too close to call.  So, you could say the big winner is  Divide.  And not surprisingly, Woody’s, where sports betting is alive and well,  made quite a showing as did the Blue Moose in Green Mountain Falls. All of these establishments were are known for their  friendly staff and are frequented by many sports’ enthusiasts, COVID scare or not.

Best Manitou Spring Bar

Gold – The Keg

Silver – Armadillo Ranch

Bronze – The Townhouse

For Manitou-goers, plenty of options are now available with the area getting lifted from its Level Orange COVID restrictions.  When the votes were tallied, The Keg won top laurels as the best bar in Manitou Springs, while Armadillo Ranch snagged the runner-up spot.   Formally known as the Ancient Mariner, the Armadillo Ranch continues the tradition of live music, great drinks, and a place for folks and Manitou unusual characters (yes, there are plenty of them) to gather.  With COVID restrictions easing, look for more lively bar and restaurant happenings in Manitou.

Best Woodland Park Area Retail

Gold – Colorado Gear Lab

Silver – Mountain Top Games

Bronze – Miss Priss

Honorable Mention: The Cowhand

Last Year’s Champ – The Cowhand

In a big change from last year’s winning lineup, the Colorado Gear Lab, which caters to outdoor enthusiasts of all types, prevailed as the top Woodland Park retail hub.  This store has become a big hit, and it has given downtown Woodland a new flavor. Mountain Top Games also was heavily rated, along with Miss Priss, a local boutique that is becoming the talk of the town. Many Best Of voters definitely enjoy the new businesses coming to town.

Best Of respondents also love tradition and no shop better caters to the region’s rich cowboy and cowgirl past than The Cowhand.  The place abounds with locals and tourists, who want to sample the latest western gear.

Best Area Restaurant

Gold –  McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Silver – Pikes View BBQ

Bronze – Ralf’s Breakroom

Honorable Mention – The Mucky Duck

McGinty’s, the popular Divide eatery,  won as the top area restaurant pick.  McGinty’s is known for their great fish fry specials on Friday and Saturday,  burgers, pizza and their warm, Irish atmosphere, not to mention their sports bar. With Tracy McGinty at the helm for a number of years, the restaurant has become an amazing Divide institution and success story.

Best Fine Dining

Gold – Mucky Duck

Silver – Swiss Chalet

Bronze – Winfield’s (Double Eagle)

Even with the coronavirus, the Mucky Duck restaurant  in Green Mountain Falls hung tough as the best place on the mountain for a special meal with your spouse, enemy or whoever.  And it’s hard to beat the trophy-level entrees of the Swiss Chalet.  Winfield’s at the Double Eagle is another top favorite. With the further reopening of Teller County and the High Country, look for more choices in the Fine Dining arena.

Best Area Breakfast

Gold – The Hungry Bear

Silver – The Pantry (GMF)

Bronze – The Donut Mill

Last Year’s Champ – The Hungry Bear

Once again, the Bear is out of hibernation and luring breakfast-goers with epic proportions. The Hungry Bear in Woodland Park has established a reputation for breakfast plates that are worth dying for. They have won this title for three years  in a row. One of our former columnists literally established a second home in this friendly abode. The Pantry, a mainstay of Green Mountain Falls for decades, also snagged many votes in this tight completion.

Best Area Coffee

Gold – Café Leo

Silver – Tye Dye Java

Bronze – Human Bean

The times are definitely changing, when fierce competition rages over the best spot for coffee. In a tight contest, Café Leo, which has become a popular early morning spot in the heart of Woodland Park, snagged the gold.  But Tye Dye Java definitely gained top nods as probably the area’s most unique coffee hub, with its combination of specialty coffees, baked goods, ice cream and more. And the Human Bean, in Woodland Park, has gained a growing following

Best Lunch

Gold – The Historic Ute Inn

Silver– Pikes Peak BBQ

Bronze – BierWerks

Another great triumph for the Historic Ute and the legacy of Bert Bergstrom.  You won’t go hungry at the Ute, believe us.  Many voters, though, enjoy the regular barbecue dishes at Peak View BBQ

Best Area Restaurant on the Weekends

Gold – The Pantry

Silver – The Mucky Duck

Bronze – Hungry Bear

Honorable Mention: Historic Ute Inn

The Pantry easily prevailed as the top eatery for weekend feasts, whether for breakfast or lunch. The Pantry is a big hit among non-Teller visitors on the weekends, a trait exhibited by their long lines for those trophy-level breakfast dishes.  They are especially known for their omelets and pancakes. They were closely followed by The Mucky Duck and Hungry Bear

Best Area Steak

Gold – Swiss Chalet

Silver – Historic Ute Inn

Last Year’s Champ: The Steakhouse

Let’s face it and no offense to your veggies: Teller County is Meat Country. As a result, the quest for the best steak in the region is quite tense. But not surprisingly, the Swiss Chalet and the Historic Ute Inn reigned as the main choices among steak-goers in the High Country.

Best Area Seafood

Gold – Fusion Japan

Silver – McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Bronze – Mucky Duck

Last Year’s Champ – Carmen’s

Fusion Japan, located in Gold Hill Square South, has gained quite a reputation for their seafood dishes, and it’s hard to rival the Fish Fry specials at McGinty’s.  The Mucky Duck, especially their salmon and trout specialties, have been quite popular.

Best Oriental Food

Gold – Ralf’s Breakroom

Silver – Mayflower

Bronze – Fusion Japan

Who would ever imagine that the top local hangout and Cripple Creek bar would also rate as the spot for the Best Oriental Food?  But credit this achievement to the  Vietnamese creations of head chef ???, the wife of Ralf’s owner, Chris Hazlett. She is regarded as an international chef of the highest caliber. These specials have already attracted a growing following on Facebook and have become the talk of the town. The Mayflower Chinese restaurant in Woodland Park also gained quite a hefty number of votes, along with Fusion Japan.

Best Area Burger

Gold – Russ’ Place

Silver – Historic Ute Inn

Bronze – McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Honorable Mention – Crystola Roadhouse

No competition whatsoever, as Russ’ easily snagged the top prize as the Best Burger in the land, taking the  They are a hard act to follow with their variety of classic burgers, made however you want them.  The Historic Ute Inn, though, is still an extremely popular outlet for burgers and practically all food items. McGinty’s, meanwhile, is well regarded for their diverse selections of burgers.

Last Year’s Champ: Russ’ Place


Best Area Pizza

Gold – Blue Moose Tavern

Silver – Ralf’s Breakroom

Bronze – AJ Pizza

Honorable Mention: Cripple Cow

Last Year’s Champ –  Blue Moose Tavern

In a repeat title, the Blue Moose, a fixture of Green Mountain Falls for decades (even if it sported different names), prevailed as the pizza king of the region for the third year in a row. With a variety of choices and rather creative names, the Blue Moose pizza has gained legendary status. They are a top hit among our staff for weekly gatherings. Many of our readers, though, favor the pizzas of Ralf’s in Cripple Creek.

Best Area Waitstaff

Gold – McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Silver – Lombard’s

Bronze – Historic Ute Inn

Honorable Mention –  Carmen’s

Last Year’s Champ – Carmen’s

With a region bombarded with a slew of restaurants and eateries, the contest for the Best Wait Staff can be outright brutal. After the dust was settled, McGinty’s in Divide came out on top for another consecutive year. They are well known for their friendly employees and personable staff.  They were followed this year by Lombard’s at the Double Eagle and the Historic Ute Inn.

Best Area BBQ

Gold – Peak View BBQ and Tap Room

Silver – Smokin Rusty’s BBQ

  Bronze – The Historic Ute Inn

Last Year’s Champ – Ute Inn.

In a changing of the guard, the Peak View BBQ and Tap Room, known for its amazing rib, beef and chicken freshly-made barbecue regular entrees, easily snagged the bronze.   The Smokin Rusty’s food truck  in Cripple Creek and the Ute, though, made impressive showings.

Cripple Creek Results

Area Champion Results Part 2

Area Champion Results Part 3