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by Donia Moore
Adele Lux’s father was a wise and practical man.
”If you need money,” he advised her, “work hard. If you need more money, work harder”.
Adele took his advice to heart. Her restaurant, Adele’s Café at the lovely San Clemente Inn is open 365 days a year from 7 am to 2 pm. Most of the time you can find Adele there personally supervising the American home-style cooking and friendly wait staff.
Working through high school at the Coffee Hut and later at Dave’s Mexican Restaurant, the passionate San Clemente native was deluged by a clientele that would not accept “no” for an answer. They continuously demanded when, not if, she was going to open her own café. No matter where she was working as a waitress, hungry clients would wait patiently for a table at her station so they could have her as their server.
For a while, Adele was interested in pursuing another ambition. After graduating from San Clemente High School, she decided to pursue a college education that would prepare her to take the Bar Exam to become an attorney. Intelligent, shrewd, and with a remarkable ability to read people, she would have made an outstanding contribution to that profession, but it wasn’t long before she returned to the food service industry. Her reason for changing tracks was simple: she made more money as a waitress than she ever could have brought in as a law student. Her brush with college left her with a keen awareness of how important it was to her to do what she loved, and she hasn’t strayed from the restaurant business again.
It took her 20 years of working as a waitress and a cook in several restaurants around San Clemente before she saved up enough money to finally open her own place, Adele’s Café - originally at the Old City Plaza. She has never looked back. Her happy clientele has loyally followed the pied piper of morning and mid-day meals from her first small restaurant in the Old City Plaza to her banquet-sized space in the newly remodeled San Clemente Inn.
Doing Things Right
One of the first purchases she made when she opened her original Café was a large stainless steel ice scoop. She still has it and it has become a symbol for doing things right in her restaurant.
“I don’t do things halfway. At my restaurant, all the meals I serve have to be right. Breakfast is my main event. Portions are generous. The bacon is crisp; the hash browns are crispy on the edges, moist and tender in the middle; the toast is buttered all the way to the edges on every piece. Lunch fans have compared the quality of the ingredients in my sandwiches to those served at the Ritz Carlton, at half the price. All my salads are cut to order. My potato salad is my mother’s recipe. Hot food is served hot and cold food is served cold. No compromises. My name is on that restaurant menu and I never forget that my reputation is on the line every day.” She knows how important word-of-mouth reviews are. “If a patron has a good experience, he may tell a few friends. But if he has a negative experience, he’ll tell everyone he knows.”
Building Community Bridges
Although food is Adele’s focus, she has worked to bring other facets of the community together. As a past Chairman of the Board of the San Clemente Chamber, Adele worked to bridge business growth and community, all the while championing the small businesses in town.
A special table is reserved in her restaurant for police officers and fire fighters; Adele is often approached by restaurant patrons who want to ask a question of local law enforcement representatives in a neutral and non-confrontational environment. Both patrons and law enforcement seem to be comfortable with this formula. Many an understanding of community policing has been fostered by the positive contact. Adele calls it, “another hug for the community”.
“I believe that you are where you are supposed to be, and that you get out of life what you are supposed to get. Every single person who is supposed to be here is here. And every one who isn’t supposed to be here isn’t. I have never had any trouble because I am where I am supposed to be.”
Adele is pretty sure that she is one of the luckiest business owners in San Clemente.
Of course, everyone knows how hard “lucky” people actually work to create their own good luck. Adele is no exception. Her willingness to try new things is becoming legendary.
When a star performer from the famous but now shuttered Boom Boom Room in Laguna Beach contacted her, she was quick to see the advantage of a partnership for both the entertainers and her restaurant. Her open-minded vision led to the production of a tasteful, classy and high energy PG 13 Drag Queen review. “Powder and Pouf” has been a monthly highlight of San Clemente nightlife for seven years now, drawing in both locals and visitors. The revolving attractive, talented and gifted performers put on a wonderful show most Saturday nights that is well worth seeing. Reservations are a must and tickets are available from Adele’s Café. The show led Adele into a dinner menu foray that includes filling and delectable home cooked meals.
Signs of the Times
When San Clemente’s City Council wanted to regulate pole signs of businesses along the I-5 freeway, Adele helped other businesses that already had their signs in place and the City Council to come to grandfathering compromises that benefited both groups. Adele was surrounded by dozens of supporters as she explained the necessity of leaving the signs in place for several of the small San Clemente businesses who relied on the exposure. The final outcome was supported by all parties.
Adele can be a bit of a prankster, too. Her not-so-subtle sense of humor led her to super glue 50-cent pieces all around her newspaper rack at her Old City Plaza restaurant as a joke. Everyone laughed as people walking by tried to pick up the glued coins. A rainy day may find her staff and off-duty police officers and contractors who have stepped in for a late lunch playing a spontaneous game of “Duck, Duck Goose” or “Seven Up” to while away time after the restaurant closes.
The Law of Attraction
“You get back what you put out” says Adele. She puts out amazing positive energy every single day. She wakes each morning, excited about what the day may bring. “It’s never the same twice”. She has a gratitude list she reads and adds to every day. Top of her list is husband Jerry, followed closely by that stainless steel ice shovel, her dog, and living in San Clemente.
“I know I’m meant to be here” she says.
Growing up, she assumed that everyone went to the beach on Christmas Day. She remembers thinking that cold white stuff was weird. Husband Jerry was raised a little further north, in Ohio, and has a different perspective on snow.
Everything for her restaurant fell right into line, including her application for a liquor license. She had applied for her license but hadn’t been advised of the results of her application so she went to visit the ABC offices. The representative told her that this was the day of the annual lottery for one of only 25 liquor licenses that were being granted. She needed to provide a cashiers’ check to apply, which she would receive back if she didn’t get the license. A few days later, she received a notice telling her she had been granted License # 17 of the lottery.
Even the restaurant space itself at the San Clemente Inn was a stroke of luck. Originally a high end restaurant called The Swallow’s Cove, the restaurant had fallen into closure and disuse due to a tax liability of the original owner. Adele was able to convince the owners of the San Clemente Inn to let her try to revitalize it. Because they had turned their rooms into vacation condos with kitchens, they didn’t see much of a need to open a restaurant again on the premises. But the wily General Manager, a regular client of Adele’s at her smaller restaurant, had kept up with the health department and fire department inspections so Adele was able to take the certificates to the city to get her business license.
A Perfect Party Place
Adele is not one to sit on the considerable laurels she has piled up in San Clemente. She has been looking around to see what else she can offer the community. She discovered a gap in the banquet business niche and is moving into it in a big way.
In addition to being on the same property as the San Clemente Inn, 157 parking spaces and a large banquet style room makes Adele’s a perfect place to party hearty. She is now offering her considerable catering following a venue for parties, life celebrations and weddings.
Her menus are customized and her passion for perfection ensures that the hot food will be hot and the cold food will be cold, and everything will be delicious. The dance area in front of the stage is perfect for the bride and groom’s first dance. The stage and sound equipment will carry the toasts and speeches to every corner of the room. Seating can be configured as needed.
Her Café has its very own entrance, now, but the restaurant will still be accessible through the lovely San Clemente Inn lobby when the remodeling is completed. Her wonderful new entrance door is a playful marvel of the community’s diversity, with a slew of familiar looking characters. Painted by artist Dino, it deserves a closer look.
Adele works hard, plays hard and, after a couple of years of recession, is now once again showing a profit on her dream. If she needs more money, she’ll follow her dad’s advice and work harder, although that’s difficult to imagine.