Uncertainty surrounds sudden shuttering of establishment that had been in business for nearly 100 years

By Mike Chaldu


Residents, diners, city leaders, and more in Buellton are still trying to make sense of the sudden closure of longtime city landmark Pea Soup Anderson’s restaurant on Highway 246 and Avenue of Flags.

Reports of the closure started coming in on social media on Tuesday, Jan 9, and a post in the blog “The Restaurant Guy” on santabarbara.com said the closure was confirmed by Pea Soup Andersen’s sister location in Santa Nella in Northern California. That restaurant’s management said said the Buellton property was sold and will be redeveloped and that an all-new Pea Soup Andersen’s will open in the future, according to “The Restaurant Guy.”

Before the most recent sale, the restaurant was owned by Milt Guggia Enterprises, which still owns AJ Spurs restaurants in Buellton and Grover Beach, as well as four restaurants in Santa Maria.

The restaurant also had an adjacent hotel, the Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn; however, the separately owned hotel was not part of the sale and is still operating, as confirmed by a press release sent by the inn on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

The outdoor sign is lighted up at Pea Soup Andersen’s in Buellton. The restaurant has temporarily closed after a recent sale. Contributed Photo

“Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn located in Buellton, California is open and welcoming guests,” the release said. “The neighboring restaurant with a similar name, Pea Soup Andersen’s Restaurant, recently closed for redevelopment; however Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn is independently owned and operated, and remains open. 

“Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn has a rich history within the Santa Ynez Valley dating back to its establishment in 1969 by the original owners, Daryl Nielsen and Vince Evans. The hotel is still managed by the Nielsen family, who have dedicated 55 years to maintaining the high standards and traditions of Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn. 

“Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn looks forward to what the future holds for their Buellton neighbor.”

Meanwhile, the Buellton City Council held its first regular meeting of 2024 on Thursday, Jan. 11, and addressed the restaurant’s situation at the end of the meeting.

“I can confirm that Pea Soup Andersen’s has closed,” said City Manager Scott Wolfe in giving his report. “We cannot confirm who has purchased the building and what their intentions are. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Wolfe said any new developments concerning the Pea Soup Anderson’s property would be highlighted on Buellton’s Community Engagement webpage at Buellton.civilspace.io

Councilmember John Sanchez pointed out that the restaurant site has been designated a historical landmark, and asked Wolfe if the City Council could make sure the building isn’t torn down.

“The Pea Soup Andersen building has been designated as a local historical landmark; that does not necessarily preclude the building from being removed,” Wolfe said.

“In fact, I assume anything other than extension or continuation of the existing Pea Soup Andersen’s would require removal of the building. However the landmark ordinance we have gives City Council some discretion to ensure there’s some recognition of the building.”

Buellton Mayor Dave King, however, said he remembers when the landmark ordinance when it was adopted and why.

“When he had the ordinance not precluding being taken down,” King said. “It was because that building might now come up to modern standards.”

If the building were, in fact, to build some down, it would spell the end to a local business and location that would have reached its 100th anniversary on June 13 of this year.

Pea Soup Andersen’s started out when Anton and Juliette Andersen purchased a small parcel of land and building from William Budd, brother of city namesake Emily Buell, and opened a restaurant. Because electricity had just reached the area and the Andersens had just acquired an electric stove, the couple called the new place Andersen’s Electrical Cafe.

Anton and Juliette began their new venture by serving simple, wholesome foods like 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. 

However, soon their most popular dish was the split pea story made from an old family recipe, one that would become the restaurant’s new name and identity.

Their son, Robert, returned to the family business after graduating from Stanford in the 1930’s. Robert was by all accounts a very forward-looking man. When he returned to Buellton, Robert established the billboards for which the restaurant became known.

In the early 1930s, a cartoon appeared in the old “Judge” magazine. It was one of a series by the famous cartoonist Forbell, under the heading of “Little Known Occupations.” The cartoon showed the little known occupation of splitting peas for pea soup, with two comic chefs standing at a chopping table, one holding a huge chisel, splitting peas singly as they came down a chute.

Andersen obtained permission to use the idea for advertising. He even adopted his nickname “Pea Soup,” the eventual trademark and official name of the family business. In 1941, Robert married Rosemary Mohan. She immediately became active in the family business and opened a gift shop which remains today filled with wonder for children and adults alike.

In 1965, Robert “Pea-Soup” Andersen decided he needed a break from the high-paced family business and sold the Buellton restaurant to Vince Evans, larger-than-life personality.

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. He also expanded the Pea Soup Andersen’s empire and opened the Santa Nella location in 1976.

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 the death of the Evans family, Pea Soup Andersens went through multiple ownership changes. Guggia, a Central Coast restaurateur, purchased Pea Soup Andersen’s Buellton in 1999 and Pea Soup Andersen’s Santa Nella in 2007.