Cafe Society

Black Hawk freezes out the current operators of Crook's Palace

Mike and Matt Casarez have been running a restaurant in the historic Crook's Palace since 2008, where they've attracted a following with their house-cured bacon, house-baked bread and house-churned ice cream. Over 1,000 flavors of ice cream, in fact, which just landed them in the Guinness Book of World Records.

But thanks to a rent hike from their landlord -- the city of Black Hawk -- they'll be out of the space by September 1. And unless the city approves another operator to take over operations at the almost 150-year-old building, the restaurant will shutter, too, until a replacement can be found.

And that's where things get tricky. "We were kind of blindsided by them raising the rent," explains Matt. "It's sort of baffling to us."

But then rumors started flying that the rent hike was imposed so that the city could bring in another restaurateur -- one who's a friend of a councilmember. That gossip is unconfirmed, though, and so the Casarez brothers are waiting until the Black Hawk City Council meeting, which takes place tomorrow, to find out whether a new operator really is lined up to take control.

"We don't want to make any accusations or assumptions," explains Matt. "But if that's true, we're definitely going to try to fight it just because we don't think it's right."

In the meantime, though, the brothers are already moving forward with Migg and Mutts Craft Creamery, their ice cream venture, and are searching for a spot in Denver where they can set up shop. And those plans will go forward regardless of what happens at tomorrow night's meeting.

"We're actually really excited about the ice cream shop," Matt says, "and we're going to do that no matter what."

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk