Pea Soup Andersen's is a restaurant chain in California. It was founded in 1924 by Anton Andersen and his wife Juliette. Born in Denmark, Anton Andersen had trained as a chef in Europe and New York, also helping with the opening of the Biltmore Hotel. He and his wife purchased a property in the small town of Buellton, California in Santa Barbara County, neighbouring Solvang, a Danish community of recent immigrants.
The land in Buellton had previously been part of a Mexican Land Grant owned by Jose Maria Corarrubias and Joaquin Carillo of Santa Barbara. The land was purchased by the Buell Brothers in 1865. R.T Buell turned the land into a prosperous horse and cattle ranch and a dairy farm called Ranch San Carlos de Jonata. Buell married Miss Emily Budd in 1892 and they had five children. When Buell died in 1905 he was buried in the family plot which would later become the car park for Pea Soup Andersen's. His body was later moved to Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard.
The area of Buellton, located in the Santa Ynez Valley, changed rapidly and by 1911 Danish immigrants, attracted to the area, were settling there opening businesses and farms. When the highway was diverted through Buellton and electricity was bought to the valley the Andersen's saw an opportunity. They opened a small restaurant called Andersen's Electrical Cafe. The name was in honour of their prized new electric stove.
With a menu of simple foods including hotcakes, ice-creams, sodas and coffee, the café was created cater to the people that travelled the highway. Initially the customers were mostly people that were travelling between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The café also happened to be on the road to Hearst Castle at San Simeon. This was the heyday of the Hearst Media empire and writers and journalists such as Arthur Brisbane, one of the best known newspaper editors of the 20th Century and O.O McIntyre, a newspaper columnist of the 20s and 30s, stopped to eat at Andersen's. In this way praise for the establishment and the food it served was sent all across the country.
What would become the famous pea soup, a family recipe belonging to Juliette, Anton Andersen's French wife, was first added to the restaurant's menu three months after it was opened. Juliette was a fabulous cook and was responsible for preparing many of the popular recipes on the menu. As the establishment became more popular in 1928 the Andersen's built a hotel and dining room as well as sinking a well. the Andersen's called the new establishment The Bueltmore, a play on the name of the Biltmore Hotel. As Anton had worked in many well known restaurants, many famous chefs stopped by the Bueltmore.
In the 1930s Robert, Anton and Juliette's son, returned from Stanford University. Robert became instrumental in the marketing aspect of the restaurant. He discovered a cartoonist called Forbell who created a cartoon entitled "Little Known Occupations" for a magazine called Judge. The illustration depicted two chefs creating split pea soup using a chisel to split the peas. Andersen obtained the rights to the image. Robert famously used billboards as part of his marketing strategy.
Robert Andersen married Rosemary Mohan who opened a gift shop attached to the restaurant. the couple had a son called Robert in 1942.
During WWII the restaurant was closed to the public and instead served as a place that military personnel and their family were served meals. When the war was over Pea Soup Andersen's reopened. Robert commissioned a Disney trained artist to draw the two mascots for the restaurant Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee, whose names were chosen through a competition.
In 1947 the new coast road was rerouted through the centre of Buellton. That year the name of the restaurant became Pea Soup Andersen's. In 1965 Vince Evans, a successful business man and leader in the Santa Ynez Valley, purchased the restaurant. He was said to have bought Pea Soup Andersen's on a whim because he enjoyed the soup. He promoted the restaurant like it was a Hollywood film putting huge billboards up and hiring new chefs. Thriving under Evans management, the restaurant was said to be producing three quarters of a million bowls of soup a year. Evans added a small wild animal park and aviary filled with parrots as well as a miniature train to further attract customers. By the 1970s this was all demolished to make way for a Danish themed hotel. In 1967 a second location was established in Santa Nella, California in Merced County. The property had a restaurant, hotel, gas station and a gift shop as well as a working windmill.
Two short-lived restaurants were opened in Carlsbad and Mammoth Lakes. Following the death of the Evans family in 1980 the restaurants passed through several owners. Buellton and Santa Nella are now owned by Milt Guggia, a central coast restauranteur.
The Buellton Pea Soup Andersen's is said to be haunted by former owner Juliette Andersen. Strange sounds, unexplained music and doors opening and closing have all been reported. Furniture is also said to move on its own accord.
I have been to Pea Soup Andersen's several times on various trips to California and I always find it charming. The soup is very delicious and the gift shop always has unique and interesting wares.