Weekend Escape: Buellton

by Jo Anne Disney
October 24, 2013 • 280 views

San Simeon

Buellton has always been known as the “Gateway to the Santa Ynez Valley.” Driving up Highway 101, it is just north of Santa Barbara. This quaint little town is the home to that legendary split pea soup restaurant that has been in business over 85 years! And, you don’t have to worry about missing the turn off, because you can’t miss the Buellton sign that embellishes Andersen’s world famous split pea soup logo.

What do you know about Buellton and the Andersen’s legacy?  History tells us it all started on a Friday, June 13, 1924, when Anton Andersen and his wife Juliette bought a small parcel of land from William Budd. They opened a restaurant and called it “Andersen’s Electric Café,” in honor of their new electric stove. Anton was an experienced businessman, having trained in restaurants in Europe and New York. He packed away his tuxedo and began wearing a bib apron, which later became his personal trademark.

photo by Jo Anne Disney

photo by Jo Anne Disney

In the beginning, the restaurant served very simple foods such as pan cakes, coffee, ice cream sodas and the like to highway travelers. Many writers and reporters would stop in and enjoy the food since the café was on the road to the famous Hearst’s Castel. They wrote about it and “praised the excellent food and hospitable atmosphere in newspaper columns throughout the entire country.” This free publicity only added to the Andersen’s success. Then, in 1928, the Andersen’s expanded their business and added a hotel and dining room for their popular restaurant. “They called their new adventure the ‘Bueltmore,’ a play on words referring to Anton’s days with the Biltmore in Los Angeles.”  The popularity grew and many celebrities would stop in for a meal on their way up and down the coast, especially on their visits to Hearst’s Castle and the many grand parties.

Coming from the east of France and an expert cook, Juliette Andersen prepared many of the recipes she brought with her to this country. The most popular, of course, was her famous spit pea soup. History tells us that during WWII, 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.” After WWII, their son 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. A contest was held and from thousands of entries the names Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee were chosen.”

In 1947 the new coast highway was re-routed through the center of the town of Buellton. That same year the name of the restaurant was changed to “Pea Soup Andersen’s” So if you are looking for a quiet weekend that includes a beautiful drive up the coast, stop in the little town of Buellton and visit the best restaurant in town!

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