Landmark restaurant opens with new owners

Written by Lenore Rutherford, The Union Democrat July 19, 2011 01:02 pm

    Two Tuolumne County men re-opened the former Kelly’s Kitchen in Sugar Pine earlier this month planning to capture the family atmosphere and customer service offered there since the 1950s.
    The restaurant, on Highway 108, is now called Kelly’s Mountain House Restaurant and Alpine Tavern.
    The new owners are Dan Vaughn and Johnny Robben. Vaughn and his sisters own and operate Pinecrest Store, which was opened more than 40 years ago by their father.
       Robben is a Realtor and has worked in the service industry for 35 years at such places as the MGM Grand, Intercontinental Hotel, Sunol Golf Course, Jamestown Hotel, Eproson House, Strawberry Inn and Lake Tulloch Resort.
    Robben said they are trying to bring back the restaurant’s reputation for homemade food and family atmosphere. One way that will be done is with the addition of a new pastry chef starting Aug. 1, who will make fresh, homemade pies like the ones that were part of the restaurant’s reputation for many years.
    “We already have a wonderful young chef,” Robben said.
    Jordan Henderson, 24, has been working alongside his family in the kitchen since he was 6. He has an incredible knack for putting ingredients together, Robben said.
    Robben said the restaurant had a soft opening with a limited menu and is expanding the offerings gradually.
    A grand opening will be held sometime in August. It is already open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, and the staff will keep the fryers running until midnight for people who need a late meal on the way up or down the mountain.
    The restaurant features a “kid’s corner” at one end of the building where children can play while their parents relax over dinner and the Alpine Tavern at the other end, which has been remodeled and decorated with skiing memorabilia.
    “We are dedicated to providing service at the level the Sloops and Kellys did,” Robben said.
    Bob and Florence Kelly first opened the restaurant as a family-run business in 1950.
    Bob and Marvel Sloop bought it in 1965. Both families lived above the restaurant with their children, who also worked there.
    The restaurant property includes land across Highway 108 overlooking an enormous canyon. The Sloops trimmed the trees to expose sunset views, and the sunsets remain part of the restaurant’s ambiance.
    They sold the restaurant in 1989, after running it for 24 years, then ran it again for a short time in the mid-1990s after a foreclosure.
    “We can’t believe how excited the community is to see Kelly’s reopened,” Robben said. “We are honored to be able to try to bring back the wonderful reputation the Kellys and Sloops had.”

    Contact Lenore Rutherford at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 588-4585.