In September of 1999 I was back at school at Black Hills State University in Spearfish. I needed a job to pay rent and wanted to find a gig in Deadwood, only 15 minutes away. Checked the local job listings and that led me to getting a job busing tables at Jake's restaurant atop the Midnight Star, owned by Kevin Costner in 1989. At the time it was arguably the best dining experience in South Dakota.

Now that place where a lot of really cool memories from my college days is closed for good.

The Midnight Star featured a classy gaming hall on the first floor, Diamond Lil's sports bar on the second floor, both filled with memorabilia from Costner's movies. At the top was Jake's.

Did I ever meet Kevin Costner? Yes, once. I was assigned to bus his table when he and his parents came in for Mother's Day brunch. I only had two interactions with him. First he just looked up as I stopped by to fill water glasses and asked "How are you today?" I responded that all was well and thought about how surreal this was. I just picked up plates and hauled them away. When I stopped by with the pitcher of iced tea to refill his half empty glass, as I was trained to dutifully do, he quickly grabbed the top of the glass and stopped me from filling it up. I was confused. What the hell is this all about?

"I've got the lemon and sugar mixture perfect," he looked up at me and said grinning. "Wait until it's totally empty, then fill it."

"Gotcha," I said. "I'm the same way with coffee."

Jake's, named for Costner's character in the movie Silverado, was such a cool place to eat in. I loved to brag to my East River friends that it was the best restaurant in the state. When I worked there it definitely was. The dimly lit restaurant was illuminated in daylight by skylights in the approximately eighteen foot ceiling. At night the glow of the lights on Main Street Deadwood shone up against the ceiling. A local pianist played as guests dined. At night candles lit the tables along with the extravagant fireplace at the west end in front of table twelve, the best table in the joint where my wife and I sat just a few months before we got married in 2007.

Andy Erickson
Andy Erickson

Of course the food was exquisite. It was my first foray into fancy food. I tried things I previously wouldn't have eaten as a lifelong picky eater. As a broke college student it was often a saving grace to have to work because we were allowed to eat a reasonable amount of food, bread, and baked potatoes.

I'm sad to see it go. Whenever I was in the Black Hills I would try to eat there. In later years it wasn't what I remembered but it was still really good. I met a lot of great people there. A few of them are still friends to this day.

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