Pea Soup Andersen's

The area of Buellton California began to change rapidly after the turn of the century. By 1911 Danish settlers were pouring into the area starting farms and businesses. William Budd, brother of Mrs. Emily Buell, opened a post office and it became an official United States Post Office in 1920. When the highway was diverted through Buellton in 1924 and electricity was brought to the valley, Anton and Juliette Andersen purchased a small parcel of land and building from William Budd and opened a restaurant.

Anton, who was trained in exclusive restaurants in Europe and New York, put his tuxedo in mothballs and donned a bib apron, soon to become his personal trademark. He and his charming wife, Juliette, opened a tiny restaurant and named it "Andersen's Electric Cafe," in honor of their prized possession, a new electric stove.

It was a complete about-face for Andersen, who had just come from New York, where he had been associated with world-class establishments such as Marguerey, Voisin, Louis Sherry and other notable establishments and restaurateurs of the day. He helped open the Los Angeles Biltmore until he tired of the rat race (as he put it) associated with city hotels. So, from catering to the gourmet trade, Anton and Juliette began their new venture by serving simple, wholesome everyday foods. hot cakes and coffee, ice cream sodas and such, to highway travelers. Their first customers were the salesmen, tourists and truck drivers who drove the main highway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The cafe was on the road to the fabulous Hearst Castle at San Simeon and as this was the heyday of Hearst's newspaper empire, many of the Hearst writers and reporters, such as Arthur Brisbane and 0.0. McIntyre developed the habit of stopping at Andersen's. Their praise of excellent food and hospitable atmosphere was carried in their newspaper columns throughout the entire country.

In 1928, the Andersen's sank a well and built a hotel and dining room for their now quite popular cafe. They named their new establishment the "Bueltmore," a play on words referring to Anton's days with the Biltmore.

Anton was quite a character, especially famous for his extraordinary capacity to remember faces and names without error. Soon celebrities were stopping for a meal on their way up and down the coast. Apparently the young Victor Borge was among the famous people who visited Andersen's in the early days. When he would enter the cafe the two men, Victor and Anton, would let out a whoop followed by rapid fire Danish at full volume, much to the amazement of the other customers. At the same time, Santa Barbarans and other Southern Californians were discovering Andersen's and learning to plan their outings and trips to enable them to make the stop.

Juliette was devoutly Catholic; she and young Robert attended mass in Solvang at Mission Santa Inez, one of California's original missions. She was a gracious woman, warm and friendly to all those around her. Juliette was from the east of France and an expert cook, so she prepared many of the recipes she had brought with her; the most popular with the customers was her split pea soup. Many special dishes now appear on the large Andersen menu, still the most popular specialty of all and the one which finally changed the name of the restaurant is Juliette's tasty and nourishing split pea soup.

With the demand for their split pea soup increasing steadily, the Andersen's soon had to locate large suppliers of peas far from their area. Just three years after the first bowl was served, they were amazed to realize they needed to order ONE TON of peas! When Anton faced the problem of what to do with one ton of peas, he solved it by putting them in the window, proclaiming the restaurant, "The Home of Split Pea Soup," the slogan it carries to this day.

Though a ton of peas seemed a staggering amount then, Andersen's today "splits" many tons of peas every month, transforming them into the famed soup. ..averaging thousands of bowls a day!

In recognition of the restaurant's pre-eminence as probably the world's foremost pea purchaser, the pea growers of Idaho have named Andersen's the location for the start of the annual "National Split Pea Soup Week" every November, to honor the pea and the delicious soup it makes.

There's no secret about the Andersen's Soup recipe...quite the contrary, for Andersen's even has bags of split peas with the recipe included in their specialty foods department. But, even with the recipe, many find that their soup just doesn't taste quite the same as the restaurant's. Perhaps it's the magical touch that Juliette lent to the cauldrons and ladles so many years ago!

During World War II, the restaurant closed to the public. The hotel rooms were used to house military personnel stationed locally and meals were served to servicemen and their families. Robert Andersen also purchased a small building across the street from the hotel and converted it to a canteen. The canteen was operated by the American Women's Voluntary Services (A.W.V.S.), patterned after a program begun in England. The canteen was called "Co Na Mar Corner," representing all the services: Coast Guard, Navy, Marines and Army. The local Valley members took turns providing meals for the servicemen on weekends.

After the war, Pea Soup Andersen's opened with a flourish. Robert commissioned Disney-trained artist Milt Neil to re-draw the two cartoon chefs to use for promotion and they became Pea Soup Andersen's trademark. The big fellow is shown having all the fun and the easy side of the work, as the little one holds the chisel, looking sad and a bit frightened, always in danger of the big mallet. A contest was held and from thousands of entries the names Hap-pea and Pea-Wee were chosen.

Animator and comic artist MILT NEIL died in October,1997. In the 'thirties and 'forties, Neil worked for Disney on Fantasia, The Reluctant Dragon, Dumbo, Bambi and Saludos Amigos. After World War II he ran his own commercial shop on the East Coast, and he was a long-time instructor at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Art. Anyone who has ever driven Highway 101 between Oxnard and San Luis Obispo has seen Neil's cartoon logo for the omnipresent Anderson's Pea Soup billboards.

Robert "Pea-Soup"Andersen decided he needed a break from the high paced family business and in April of 1965 sold the Buellton restaurant to Vince Evans. The new owner of Pea Soup Andersen's was a larger than life personality, well known and already an established leader in the Santa Ynez Valley. At the end of World War II, Vince began a career in acting and developed a close friendship with fellow actor Ronald Reagan, who later purchased a ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley. Vince and his wife Margery moved to a 900-acre ranch south of Buellton in 1959. They raised cattle, grew alfalfa and operated a feed store. When he purchased Pea Soup Andersen's, he jumped into his newest adventure with the same high energy and enthusiasm that he displayed for many other ventures.

The business thrived under Evans' hand. By then the restaurant was purchasing 50 tons of peas each year, enough for three-quarters of a million bowls of soup! He built an aviary and filled it with parrots, he installed a train for children to ride that went from the restaurant to the area where the motel now stands, and even had a miniature wild animal park for two years. The park was discontinued in 1970 to make way for the addition of a Danish style motel in 1970. The Evans were very active with the renowned Rancho Vistadores, Santa Barbara Symphony and constantly supported the Valley children's 4-H projects. In 1979, Vince purchased an English Pub that had stood for over 100 years at the Liverpool railway station in London. The Pub was reconstructed in Buellton and opened as a bar and entertainment center. The 1970 also brought more locations as Vince added two more by the same name in Mammoth Mountain and in Santa Nella, south of Stockton.

Vince had expansive dreams and the energy to make the dreams a reality. Unfortunately, neither dreams nor energy could change the cards fate dealt him. On April 23, 1980, Vince, his wife Margery and their 21 year old daughter, Venetia, were tragically killed in a small plane crash just minutes from the Santa Ynez Valley airport.

After Vince died, the company fell into the hands of a bank's estate department. In 1982, a fourth Pea Soup Andersen's restaurant was added, along with a hotel, in Carlsbad just off I-5 at Palomar Airport Road. The following year, Pea Soup Properties and PSA Management were formed by a group of financial planners to acquire the estate's assets.

The ill-conceived Carlsbad property was the catalyst for filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1986.

That was the end of the Travelers Special.


They Always Come Back:
The original Location is still open and serving their famous Travelers Special. (Half of any sandwich and a bottomless bowl of Split Pea Soup)



LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I've been by the original location countless times when doing business trips to Solvang and Santa Ynez. Perhaps I should ask Bo Derek to join me for a bottomless bowl of pea soup next time. Care to join us?

cadmstr said...

One of my young memories is dining at the Carlsbad Pea Soup Andersen's. The place was so big, with the landmark windmill outside, giant beams in the ceilings, and very dark lighting, but the most compelling feature was the giant cartoon on the wall of the big and little guy splitting peas w/ an axe. That little factory was just behind the wall of our table in my young mind, and I was mesmerized with the thought. The soup was great, but the memories were even better. Too bad the windmill is now a TGIF's. Just glad that Andersen's sell their soup in a can. Ahhh, memories!

Shaun said...

"Buellton Wild Animal Park" I went there in the early '70's, soon after the SB oil spill. The husband and wife ran the show. They allowed visiting kids to feed their large adult pet bear Oreos, mouth-to-mouth! It was quite an amazing experience.
I heard that not too long after that, that the husband died from an attack of one of his wild animals. Sad, so very sad.

Tracie Olivera Lundahl said...

I was one of those kids that fed the bear Oreo's! Pat Derby was the women that ran the show.She is now saving elephants, tigers, bears, and many moor animals that would have most likly died if it wasn't for Pat. She runs P.A.W.S now in northern California and has saved a lot of lives. Thank you Pat, your angel to animals. Tracie Olivera Lundahl

Anonymous said...

What about the one in Selma, CA, that is now a Spike and Rail? (South of Fresno on the 99)

Anonymous said...

After seeing the signs for some years, I finally stopped in one time. I was disappointed that the pea soup wasn't made with a hambone. It's vegetarian, which is great for vegetarians, but making it with a hambone gives pea soup some serious girth.

It's a pretty interesting place otherwise, though.

Unknown said...

When was the Mammoth Lakes Pea Soup closed? Skiers here miss it like crazy!

Anonymous said...

If you are looking for a restaurant called "Pea Soup Andersen's" ; look no farther. The restaurant is located in a Danish community town in California called "Solvang". It is there, in that town, where you'll find the restaurant ; and they still make and serve their famous "Green Pea Soup". ^_^

Lisa said...

I fed the bear, but it was fig newtons when I was there.