With his iconic restaurant losing some of its sheen after 30-plus years and the recession taking its toll, Adele's chef Charlie Abowd figured he had two choices: trim back and buckle down, or go for something more casual.
"Everyone adjusted the way they do business," he said. "Everybody changed the way they live."
He thought about going to a dinner-only menu - the restaurant was still doing well, but the lunch trade had become a "hole" in his businesses, he said. But that would also mean laying off at least a quarter of his staff, some of whom have worked there for 20 years and whose kids Abowd has watched grow up.
So he went with the second option and broadened his net. Adele's Restaurant & Lounge has become the Cafe at Adele's, and breakfast was added to the menu. Abowd, also the owner of the restaurant, also was able to add staff instead of go through layoffs, he said.
Public reception to the change has been "excellent," Abowd said. "Better than excellent."
His dishes still emphasize what patrons say made Adele's special - organic, local and sustainable food prepared gourmet style - while adding items to make it more accessible.
"I don't know that I've changed (the fine-dining) style," Abowd said, even if the motif has become more casual. "If you look at my breakfast menu, it has the usual suspects on it, but all with a twist on it."
Dave Ziegler and Barb Prudic were walking into Adele's Thursday evening for a drink, and they said they weren't surprised at Abowd's deciding to change things up. In this economy, you have to try things, they said. Ziegler said, however, that he's glad Abowd didn't make drastic changes because he likes living so close to a "world class" restaurant.
"It wouldn't be the same without them," he said.
So while you still can get a short stack of pancakes or bacon and eggs, you also can get crepes with Dungeness crab or chicken-fried steak topped with Mississippi-style pan milk gravy enhanced with sauteed chicken-apple sausage and sage and with "just a bam" of chili sauce.
"(The menus) reflect more of what I do in the kitchen rather than what Adele's has done through the years," Abowd said, adding that the most popular and classic menu items still are on there. "All the things that we were known for, we still do."
He's also updated the feel of the place, changing the color scheme, refinishing the tables to showcase their dark-stained oak and reupholstering the furniture in the lounge. Some of the changes still are in the works, such as replacing all the lamps from the broad-shaded classic style to more minimalist ones.
Abowd also started a deal with Artsy Fartsy Art Gallery to showcase and sell some of its work, as well as the art of his wife, Carson City Supervisor Karen Abowd.
Prudic recalled that when she moved to Carson City several decades ago, the real estate agent pointed out Adele's as "that place with the bar sign" and told her it was the best in the area. And when friends from out of town visit, she makes a similar gesture.
"They ask, 'So where do we go for a nice meal? The lake?'" Prudic said. "And we say, 'No, just walk down the street.'"