Pea Soup Andersen's

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A Caveat

Pea Soup Andersen's is a roadside eating institution. It has been around for more than 75 years and has restaurants on Highway 101 and Interstate 5. In addition to a restaurant serving all-American food, it has a small bakery and tourist shop with toys and souvenirs that can make your hours on the road more bearable if you have children.

We'd stopped at Pea Soup Andersen's in Santa Nella once before but the experience wasn't very clear in our minds (did we like it? did we hate it? did we just think it was blah?), so we decided to stop again on our last trip to LA, in November 2004.

Pea Soup Andersen's menu is a little bit more interesting (and expensive) than Denny's and other coffee shops. In addition to burgers and sandwiches, it has main entrees such as pastas, Danish meatballs and pot roast. Most salads and sandwiches are $8-10 with main entrees in the $10-14.50 region. For $4.50 more you can get unlimited pea soup or salad and a drink (drinks alone are $2.50-3). They also have a cheap children's menu which includes stereotypical children's dishes (burger, hot dog, P&J sandwich, Mac & cheese, chicken strips, etc.) for $3 - not a bad deal but it doesn't include the drink ($1-1.50).

I had a craving for mashed potatoes and other homey food so I decided to go for the pot roast sandwich which came with mashed potatoes. The "sandwich" turned out to be one piece of sliced bread topped with three slices of pot roast and a LOT of gravy with mashed potatoes on the side. It wasn't what I was expecting (a sandwich) but it wasn't bad. The meat was a bit too tough (which of course, defeated the whole purpose of being pot roast) and you couldn't really taste it under the gravy, but the gravy tasted fine. I did enjoy the mashed potatoes, they were fluffy and tasted like boxed mashed potatoes, but that was fine with me.

Neither Mike's or Mika's meal were as successful. Mike ordered the Danish Meatballs but was not thrilled. He expected the pork and veal meatballs to have some flavor, but they were very bland. The sauce helped, though it was too much like gravy to make it interesting. He thought the consistency of the meatballs was fine, however, as were the potatoes and cabbage.

Mika's baked maccaroni and cheese also suffered from a lack of flavor. We're lucky that she's not picky, as I can't imagine either an adult or an older child would have taken more than one bite from that dish. It was very bland and had no cheese flavor at all. Her chocolate milkshake suffered from a somewhat similar problem. It was overly sweet and tasted very artificial, so much so that I wondered if the milk, in addition to the chocolate, was man-made.

The hot buns that came with dinner were much better; they were a little bit stale by this time of night but still very enjoyable, they tasted like focaccia and were served with real butter.

We decided to skip dessert (a variety of cakes and pies are offered) and I got something sweet for the road, a cheese danish which tasted like your typical supermarket danish (not bad) and three cookies that were also disappointing, the oatmeal one had too much nutmeg and the macadamia one needed some cookie flavor.

Service was acceptable and Pea Soup Andersen's atmosphere is that of a typical coffee shop. Like most coffee shops, Pea Soup Andersen's is child friendly; they have a changing table and paper kids menus. The latter, however, didn't have any activities for little kids and came with ONE green crayon.

In all, we didn't think it gave us a better meal than Denny's and we're unlikely to go back.

Pea Soup Andersen's
I-5 Exit 407
12411 S Highway 33
Santa Nella, CA