In 1977, Paul and Adele Abowd bought a historic building at Carson and John streets in Carson City and converted it into Adele’s Restaurant and Lounge. The couple’s son Charlie, who had worked as a journeyman carpenter and contractor (and also did restaurant work) in California and Washington State, helped with the conversion.
In 1994, Charlie and his wife, Karen, purchased the business. They renamed it Cafe at Adele’s, changed the décor a bit, added breakfast, built a veranda, and geared the menu toward a wider demographic of clientele.
For the next 25 years, folks flocked to Adele’s.
During the Abowds’ tenure as restaurateurs, they found time for other pursuits as well. In 2005, Charlie and his staff cooked for members of the James Beard Foundation in New York City. He called it a “spiritual moment” to cook in the place where favorites Julia Child and Jacques Pepin did.
In 2010, Karen was elected a city supervisor and served for eight years. A downtown Carson Street upgrade was completed during her tenure on the city’s five-member governing board.
The restaurant was gutted by a fire in 2019. It closed and was then razed—and is sorely missed.
Earlier this year, Charlie published a book, Recipes and Rambles That Made Adele’s a Nevada Hot Spot: Forty Years of Cuisine and History as Told by Chef Charlie Abowd. It’s partly a memoir, partly a recipe book, and partly a collection of customers’ fond memories.
Pete Ernaut, a former Nevada assemblyman who is now a government affairs officer for R&R Partners, said in the book that he loved Charlie’s paella.
“But more than anything,” he wrote, “I loved his lamb, which is saying something because I am Basque. I have always said the best Basque chef I have ever met was Lebanese. His cuisine was wonderful and inventive and always extraordinary.”
At Adele’s, politics and cuisine were both on the table. Governors, legislators, lobbyists and hangers-on haunted the place.
“It is said that more deals happened in Adele’s than at the legislature,” wrote Colette Burau, a Carson City real estate agent, in Recipes and Rambles.
“It was the restaurant in Carson City,” said Will Adler, a principal at Silver State Government Relations of Carson City. “It was the lobbyists’ bar. I loved Adele’s, personally, and really miss it.”
Said Ernaut: “Everybody who was anybody held court there.”
When I left journalism in 2016 and ran for city supervisor after 45 years as a newsman, a fundraising event at Adele’s kicked off my campaign.
Sarah Adler, formerly the state’s director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and now a principal for Silver State Government Relations, credits Charlie and Karen with helping spur a downtown renaissance. Karen won Adler’s praise for starting The Greenhouse Project (TGP), a nonprofit that distributes fresh produce to food-insecure folks, after she witnessed food insecurity among the kids she was teaching at St. Teresa of Avila, the couple’s Roman Catholic church. TGP has distributed more than 25,000 pounds of food since 2013.
TGP for years raised funds via dinners and musical events such as the Concert Under the Stars at Adele’s and other venues. For a fundraiser, the group once asked artists—including Karen—to decorate chairs for an auction. She used some of Charlie’s Jerry Garcia ties to re-upholster the seat of a bishop’s chair. He treasured the musician’s neckwear, so he won a bidding war for that chair. By now, he’s paid for the ties many times over. The chair still graces the Abowds’ Carson City home.
“They used their credibility and name recognition to raise funds for The Greenhouse Project,” said Adler. “It really had a broad impact.”
Charlie Abowd will be doing a book signing from 1:30 to 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, as part of the Carson City Murals and Music Festival, at the Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King St. Admission is free. For more information, visit visitcarsoncity.com/muralsandmusic.