Adolph's Restaurant to Close After 47 Years of Bringing Alpine Flavors to Park City
After a 47-year run of providing his Swiss cooking and hospitality in a handful of different locations in Park City, Adolph Imboden is closing the doors to his popular restaurant on Kearns Boulevard at the end of April.
Adolph Imboden, 79, was born in Switzerland during World War II. Without the financial resources and having lost his father at a young age, as a teenager his passion for ski racing was diverted to learning a trade. His mother thought he had some talent for cooking so at the age of 16, he started a 3-year apprenticeship and then attended a hotel and restaurant management school.
After giving Polly Stern a ski lesson in St. Moritz, Switzerland – Adolph learned that her family owned the Park City Ski Area before they sold it to develop Deer Valley Resort.
They offered him a job as food and beverage manager of the resort and he made the move to Park City in 1971, running the resort’s food operations for 3 years. In 1974, he opened up a small restaurant at the bottom of Park Avenue.
“You know, in my profession as most chefs are wanting to have their own place eventually,” Imboden said. “And then in ’74, I found a little place. We call it Adolph’s White Haus. The reason probably it was a little building sort of and we painted it white and thought that that would look good, and called it the White Haus and I stayed there for 3 years.”
In 1977, he moved down the street to the city’s golf course where he operated Adolph’s Restaurant – serving lunch on the patio and Sunday brunch, as well as dinner inside where the cathedral windows overlooked the ski slopes and golf course.
In the 1990s the property owner decided to tear down the building and redeveloped it into the Hotel Park City. The restaurant space was leased to a national chain. In 1997, Adolph and his long-time business partner secured the lease at a defunct restaurant on 1500 Kearns Blvd., where a handful of prior chefs had tried to make a go of the location off Main Street.
To date, Adolph’s has been the only restaurant to succeed there.
His fans followed, and he has hosted many celebrities, athletes, and ski racers over the years – as evidenced by the hundreds of signed photographs on the restaurant’s walls.
“From the celebrities to the World Cup the athletes and, you know, celebrities, Hollywood – Dustin Hoffman, Sidney Poitier, Ella Fitzgerald I met her, Louie Armstrong actually way back in Switzerland, Robert Redford. ... Johnny Carson,” he said. “We had so many, some special events and excitement in there and, you know, during all these years.”
The University of Utah Ski Archives will be preserving many of the photos for its collection.
After a difficult year of dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Adolph wasn’t quite ready to part with the business, but his hand was forced when he couldn’t come to terms for a new lease with the building’s new owner.
While he knew the lease was ending, Adolph was surprised when an offer was taken off the table. At his age – almost 79 – he felt a five-year lease was too long of a commitment.
“We pretty much had to actually a deal in somewhere in January to extend the lease for one year with an option for a second year exercise at that time,” he said. “Then that was changed around the middle of February to five years, only. I was then luckily found a partner – a co-lessee – and presented that to the landlord, but I was told that I was too late with the offer. So, I was just not ready to sign a lease for five years at that at a time.
“So that's, unfortunately, how it happened. I think also for me you know I thought about my age and time, how long I've been here, so maybe everything happens for a reason, and I have so many ideas I still want to do and go on from here.”
The owner of the building did not return KPCW’s requests for comment.
Adolph plans to stay open through the end of April and then use the month of May to clear the building. At that point, it will be the end of an era – the idea of an owner/chef working in the kitchen and visiting with guests on a nightly basis is pretty much a bygone these days.
“You don't see that anymore and you probably won't in the future, us, you know, you have managers and people who represent the restaurants, then again, not too many restaurants are really named after the owner,” he said. “All these years, and I didn't want to, would ever want to, change that and of course, I was always happy to see my customers and talk to them and every night, pretty much, and I have such a good crew there to do the rest.”
In the days ahead when he doesn’t have to worry about staffing the restaurant, getting the food and liquor order in on time or fixing the never-ending equipment malfunctions, Adolph hopes to resume his guided tours of his hometown in Switzerland for skiing and hiking trips as well as put together a photo and recipe book – when he may finally publish the recipe for his famous house salad dressing.