Pea Soup Andersen's
Old postcard advertising the Buellton restaurant
|Founded||Buellton, California (1924)|
Number of locations
Pea Soup Andersen's is a restaurant chain in California that primarily serves travelers. The chain consists of two locations along the state's two major highways: U.S. Route 101 in Buellton and Interstate 5 in Santa Nella. While the restaurants are best known for their pea soup, they serve complete home-style meals. Both locations include a bakery and gift shop and have an associated hotel on the property. The company also markets a line of canned soups.
The original Andersen's restaurant was founded in 1924 by Anton Andersen and his wife Juliette. Anton Andersen was born in Denmark and had received training in the restaurant business in Europe and New York City. Juliette was born in France. Anton and Juliette purchased property in the small town of Buellton, California, in Santa Barbara County. Buellton and neighboring Solvang were the focus of a Danish colony of Danish Americans and recent immigrants. They opened a small restaurant and named it "Andersen's Electric Cafe" in honor of their proudest possession, a new electric stove.
When the restaurant opened, they served simple fare such as sandwiches, pancakes, and coffee. From the beginning their customers were primarily people driving the main highway between Los Angeles and San Francisco (now U.S. Highway 101) - salesmen, tourists and truck drivers. After three months in business, pea soup was added to the menu which was made from a recipe handed down through Juliette's family. While the restaurant's reputation became known for their good food, it was Juliette's pea soup which was the main attraction.
In 1928, the Andersens added a hotel and dining room to the cafe on their property. These changes shifted the focus of Pea Soup Andersen's from being just a restaurant to a roadside attraction. With Buellton located along Highway 101, it made Pea Soup Andersen's a convenient stop for travelers heading between the Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area.
In the 1930s, their son Robert entered the business after graduating from Stanford University. He nicknamed himself "Pea Soup Andersen", which became the name of the restaurant and business in 1947. He established the tradition of billboards up and down the state of California. He also acquired the rights to a cartoon called "Little Known Occupations", which showed comical chefs splitting peas with a hammer and chisel, and turned them into the restaurant's mascots, "Hap-pea" and "Pea-wee".
In 1965, the restaurant was sold to Vince Evans. He developed a miniature train, aviary, and even a small wild animal park on the property, but they were demolished in 1970 to make room for a Danish-themed motel.
In 1976, the company established a second location in Santa Nella, California, in Merced County near Interstate 5. The property included a restaurant, gift shop, hotel, and gas station, all branded with the Andersen's name. A distinctive feature was a working windmill, attached to the restaurant and visible from the highway, which became a symbol of the company.
During the 1980s two additional short-lived restaurants were opened, in Mammoth Lakes and in Carlsbad near Interstate 5. The Carlsbad location is now a T.G.I. Friday's restaurant but still features the Andersen windmill.
After the death of the Evans family in 1980, the restaurants went through multiple ownerships. The two remaining properties, Buellton and Santa Nella, are now owned by Milt Guggia, a Central Coast restaurateur.
Throughout all of the years the restaurant has been in business, the menu has offered an option of all-you-can-eat pea soup, now called the "Traveller's Special". In 2012 it was noted that the restaurant sold 500 to 600 gallons of pea soup in a day.
|Buellton, California||US 101 and State Route 246|
|Santa Nella, California||I-5 and State Route 33|
- "Andersen's Pea Soup Puts Small City on Map", Tuscaloosa News, March 2, 1982
- "History". Pea Soup Andersen's. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- "Restaurant Begun at Santa Nella", Merced Sun-Star, March 3, 1976
- Graves, Bill (June 1, 2012). "Section 39". On the Back Roads: discovering Small Towns of America. Addicus Books.