Split Pea Andersen in Buellton closes for redevelopment

One of California’s most iconic roadside destinations closed suddenly this week, though guests hunting for a bowl of split pea soup might find it in Buellton again someday.

The century-old Pea Soup Andersen’s restaurant and hotel — beloved for its namesake soup, picturesque windmill and Scandinavian-themed dining facilities — shuttered one of its two remaining locations, but according to multiple representatives for the company, the Buellton restaurant could return after redevelopment of the site.

Pea Soup Andersen’s continues to operate its restaurant, market and banquet hall in Santa Nella, where employees were notified Tuesday of the closure of the sibling location, which was first reported by SantaBarbara.com.

A bowl of the chain’s signature pea soup at the Buellton location of Pea Soup Andersen’s in 2017.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

“What we know from our corporate office is that the Buellton location is actually going to be torn down and rebuilt; I’m not sure how long that’s going to take,” said Santa Nella restaurant manager Rose Palomino, an employee of roughly 35 years. “They’ve never indicated that we’re going to be closing anytime soon.… They’re tearing that one [Buellton] down, mainly because of the age; the wear and tear on it is pretty damaged.”

The Buellton location has seen countless guests since June 1924.

Denmark-born chef Anton Andersen and his wife, Juliette, began their beloved restaurant as a roadside stop called Andersen’s Electric Cafe, which sold coffee, sandwiches and other light dishes. Juliette, from France, excelled in making soups and as demand rose for her split pea soup especially, the duo dubbed their restaurant “The Home of Split Pea Soup.”

The Andersens built a hotel onto their restaurant and rebranded fittingly. In the 1930s their son, Robert, joined the family business and helped establish its iconography — including the restaurant and hotel’s famous roadside billboards depicting cartoon chefs (Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee) splitting peas with a mallet and chisel.

An exterior of the Buellton location of Pea Soup Andersen's in 2017.

An exterior of the Buellton location of Pea Soup Andersen’s in 2017.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

In 1965 the Andersens sold the property and brand to actor and rancher Vince Evans, who expanded the operation to Santa Nella. The brand changed hands multiple times since, but in 1999 Buellton was acquired by Milt Guggia Enterprises, followed by Santa Nella in 2007. The company also operates AJ Spurs steakhouses, Cracked Crab seafood restaurants, Crumbles Café & Bake Shop and multiple other California restaurants near the coast.

“What we know is it’s temporarily closed for redevelopment,” said Milt Guggia Enterprises properties administrator Krista Guggia, who noted that further details are currently unavailable. “As far as our Santa Nella location,” she added, “they will remain open [with] normal business hours and days as always.”

The canned split pea soup found online, in select grocery stores and in the Santa Nella restaurant is sold through a separate company, and will not be affected by the Buellton closure. Other items such as spice blends, Andersen’s-branded Danish cookies, dried soup mix and merchandise can also be ordered online.

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