Missing Pea Soup Andersen’s? These Restaurants Are Also Worthy of a Road Trip

The Buellton restaurant would have turned 100 in 2024. Here are 24 other California eateries that are 100 years or (much) older.

PUBLISHED JAN 21, 2024 10:07 P.M.
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Though Pea Soup Anderson’s signs may be a bit worn, the restaurant exterior retains its homey charm.

Though Pea Soup Anderson’s signs may be a bit worn, the restaurant exterior retains its homey charm.   Sharan Street   California Local

For those who frequently fly down Highway 101, certain landmarks stand out. For example, those kitschy billboards featuring cartoon characters Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee using a mallet to split a pea. But while the billboards may remain, thanks to their status as historic landmarks, the Buellton restaurant they’re advertising is no more.

On Jan. 9, the website SantaBarbara.com announced the closure of Pea Soup Andersen’s, which was about to hit the 100-year mark. Danish immigrant Anton Andersen, who had settled in the Solvang area (still California’s Mother Lode of Danish culture), joined forces with wife Juliette, a French immigrant with a killer recipe for split pea soup, to open the restaurant in 1924.


Though it changed ownership multiple times, its look and feel did not. The Gothic lettering of the “Andersen’s” sign, the Danish architecture, the stained-glass windows remain unchanged. It seemed immutable, an integral part of the drive from Los Angeles to the Bay Area.

But now it’s gone, with the building slated for redevelopment. Under different ownership, the neighboring Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn remains, but it dates back only to 1969. And those who make the L.A.-to-Bay Area trek along Interstate 5 can still get their fill of the “traveler’s special” (unlimited soup and a milkshake) at the Santa Nella branch, which opened in 1976. (There were also branches in Mammoth Lakes and Carlsbad—the latter of which featured a full-on windmill and is now home to the Windmill Food Hall).

The loss of Pea Soup Andersen’s is a reminder that all things must pass—and if we just pass them by, we’ll never get to see them again. In that spirit, below are 24 restaurants that in 2024 have endured a century or more. Check them out now, before they’re gone.



1. Swiss Hotel (1842)

The oldest walls of any California restaurant would seem to belong to the Swiss Hotel, which occupies an adobe structure in Sonoma that predates the California Republic. The adobe first served as the home of Don Salvador Vallejo, brother to Mexican general Mariano Vallejo (yes, the city was named after him—and Benicia was named after his wife). In 1892 it became a hotel; in 1923, Mose Mastelotto bought the building—and its current owner, Hank Marioni, is Mastelotto’s great-grandson. It perseveres today as a hotel and a beloved local hangout on Sonoma’s historic plaza. Closed Sunday night and all day Monday. 18 W Spain St, Sonoma, CA 95476 | (707) 938-2884 | SwissHotelSonoma.com

2. Tadich Grill (1849)

6516-tadich-grill-menu.jpgMany articles attach the title of “oldest restaurant in California” to San Francisco’s Tadich Grill, but we include it in this listing with an asterisk. True, its proud culinary history extends back to 1849, when two Croatian immigrants began selling fish dishes on San Francisco’s Long Wharf. But Tadich has occupied its present location only since 1967. One could argue that the retro “Art Deco, inside-a-boxcar look” (as The New York Times describes it) gives the restaurant the requisite historical gravitas. What to order? Cioppino—a real San Francisco treat. 240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111 | (415) 391-1849 | TadichGrillSF.com

3. Old Ship Saloon (1851)

Local lore (courtesy of the San Francisco Examiner) has it that when the three-masted ship Arkansas was towed onto San Francisco’s shore and abandoned, someone cut a hole on one side to create the first home of the Old Ship Saloon. After the 1906 earthquake and fire, a new building was erected on the same spot. The bar has gone under different names, but when Bill Duffy bought it in 1992, after spending a decade working there as a bartender, the name Old Ship Saloon was resurrected and has stuck since then. 298 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94111 | (415) 788-2222 | OldShipSaloonSF.com

4. Smiley’s Schooner Saloon (1851)

A long series of owners (chronicled here) have ensured that this drinking establishment continues to provide the townsfolk of the quirky coastal hamlet of Bolinas with a welcoming spot where they can mingle with neighbors and enjoy a brew and live tunes. Over the years it’s also been home to a bait shop, a barber shop, a pizza parlor and a newspaper, and motel rooms were added on the second floor in the 1950s. The current owners have given the food a big upgrade, serving an innovative array of Mexican dishes. 41 Wharf Rd, Bolinas, CA, 94924 | (415) 868-1311 | SmileysSaloon.com


5. Iron Door Saloon (1852)

A sign outside the Iron Door brags that it is “Calif’s Oldest Saloon,” and it’s not hard to find references online that claim it is actually California’s oldest bar. But it’s a hotly debated subject. As SFGate notes, even owners Chris and Corinna Loh aren’t sure: “While records show the building was finished in 1849—which would make it the oldest in the state—it’s impossible to know when the first whiskey would have been poured.” The good news is that the drinks still flow, with breakfast, lunch and dinner served as well. 18761 State Hwy 120, Groveland, CA 95321 | (209) 962-8904 | IronDoorSaloon.com

6. 7 Mile House (1853)

Originally built as a toll gate, this unprepossessing building has served up more than food over the years, with rumors of prostitution, illegal gambling, and bootlegged booze. Now it’s all about the burgers, which have been popular here for decades. The current owner, Vanessa Garcia, has made the restaurant a local hangout with a welcoming vibe and Filipino cuisine. She also has a passion for preserving the past and has co-authored See You at the 7 (available on Kindle), which delves into the establishment’s past. 2800 Bayshore Blvd, Brisbane, CA 94005 | (415) 467-2343 | 7MileHouse.com


7. The Old Clam House (1861)

6514-old-clam-house-window.jpgWhen this establishment opened its doors, Abraham Lincoln was in the White House and a bustling waterfront defined this neighborhood. Now there are freeway onramps, auto repair shops, and industrial buildings, but the Old Clam House endures, its interior an invitation to step back into San Francisco’s distant past and enjoy the bounty of the sea with platters of clams and oysters, bowls of cioppino, and three types of carpaccio: swordfish, salmon and octopus. Parking is tough, but one can always hail a Waymo robotaxi for this voyage into the past. 299 Bayshore Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94124 | (415) 695-2866 | TheOldClamHouse.com

8. Hotel Léger (1874)

A historic building in a town that is itself a historic landmark, the Hotel Léger in Calaveras County is one of the oldest continually operated hotels in the state. Lunch and dinner can be enjoyed in the saloon, in the stone-wall-lined dining rooms, or (weather permitting) on the patio overlooking an orange orchard. Renovation work has begun on the hotel rooms and the restaurant is temporarily closed; check the Léger’s Facebook page for updates. 8304 Main St, Mokelumne Hill, CA 95245 | (209) 286-1401 | HotelLeger.com

9. Union Hotel Restaurant (1879)

Soon after the North Pacific Coast Railroad came to the Sonoma County town of Occidental, the building that would become the Union Hotel took shape. But it wasn’t until 1925 that it was sold to Carlo Panizzera, who renamed it the Union Hotel and first operated it as a boarding house and restaurant. According to an account provided by the Rancho Bodega Historical Society, the restaurant fare improved considerably when Panizzera married waitress Mary Alberigi. They opened a new dining room in 1941, and their descendants continue to run the whole compound—hotel, Italian restaurant, banquet hall and saloon—to this day. 3777 Main St, Occidental, CA 95465 | (707) 874-3555 | UnionHotelOccidental.com

10. Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon (1883)

Though no food is served at this Oakland bar on Jack London Square, it earns a berth here for its irresistible history, well told in a recent article by KQED writer Rae Alexandra. Read all about it, then conjure up the spirit of Jack London and pick your poison: local brews, a smattering of wines, and basic cocktails. Designated drivers and non-imbibers can treat themselves to Alameda Soda Co. craft sodas. 48 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607 | (510) 839-6761 | HeinoldsFirstAndLastChance.com

11. Tivoli Bar and Grill (1885)

San Diego’s oldest bar is in a building that’s even older, having originally been built in 1864 as a boarding house/feed store/blacksmith shop. According to the San Diego Reader, “The original bar, which still graces the premises, was built in Boston and brought to San Diego by ship around Cape Horn.” The food is basic pub grub, lubricated by free-flowing bevvies. 505 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 | (619) 232-6754 | TivoliBar.com

12. Cold Spring Tavern (1860s)

What could be a more appropriate spot for a roadside meal than a former stagecoach stop? Though the age of the buildings themselves is uncertain, 1941 is the year when the Ovington-Wilson family took over the property. Cold Spring Tavern is perched on Highway 154 at the top of the San Marcos Pass, between Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley. Catch a glimpse of the Channel Islands on your way up the steep grade from Santa Barbara, and then take a break with some comfort food. Drop in for lunch Monday, Thursday, Friday and weekends, but reservations are a must for Friday and Saturday dinners. 5995 Stagecoach Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 | (805) 967-0066 | ColdSpringTavern.com

13. Duarte’s Tavern (1894)

6522-duartes-tavern.jpgThis slice of culinary history comes in multiple flavors: strawberry rhubarb, peach, apricot, apple and olallieberry. According to the restaurant’s website, Frank Duarte, a Portuguese immigrant, came to Pescadero—then a stagecoach stop—and opened up a saloon and barbershop. The pies came later—an addition by Frank’s wife, Emma, in the 1930s. Four generations later, the deliciousness continues. Aside from the famous pies and the cozy wooden interior, gently burnished by time, other seasonal delights include crab cioppino, crab sandwich, and crab melt with french fries. 202 Stage Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060 | (650) 879-0464 | DuartesTavern.com

14. Star Restaurant (1901)

The brightly colored three-story facade of this venerable Central Valley diner beckons, and the hand-painted sign on the windowpane adds to the homey appeal. Inside is a classic diner with all the breakfast and lunch favorites (including a burger with crinkle-cut fries—find the featured food porn on the restaurant’s Facebook page). On the Star’s 120th anniversary, the Hanford Sentinel looked back at its long history and also saluted current owner Sina Nann, who kept the restaurant going single-handedly through the worst of the pandemic. 122 W. Sixth St, Hanford, CA 93230 | (559) 584-7276

15. Cole’s French Dip (1908)

Angelenos can double-dip on sandwich greatness at two landmark eateries, both founded in 1908, and both claiming to be the origin point of the French dip sandwich. Cole’s may not have the strongest claim on that, but it does still occupy its original location in the Pacific Electric Building (once the center of Henry Huntington’s railway network). Food is ordered at the bar; guests must be 21 and older. (The Varnish, an interior speakeasy-style bar, begins serving drinks at 7 p.m.; call (213) 265-7089.) 118 E Sixth St, Los Angeles, CA 90014 | ColesFrenchDip.com

16. Philippe the Original (1908)

Those who always leaned toward believing that the French dip was crafted by French immigrant Philippe Mathieu will find confirmation in a 2016 article by Thrillist writer Jackson Landers. That justifies “The Original” in this establishment’s name, even though the location isn’t the original, because Philippe’s moved in 1951 when the 101 freeway forced a relocation. 1001 N. Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 | (213) 628-3781 | Philippes.com

17. Sam Wo Restaurant (1908)

Even though this Chinese restaurant has been in its present location only since 2015, the name Sam Wo inevitably comes up during discussions of storied restaurants in the City by the Bay. The Sam Wo story is too long to detail here, but a thorough Wikipedia page, a chapter in the book Tales From the Rubble, and the restaurant’s own compendium of headlines will provide food-history nerds ample reading material prior to a visit. 713 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94108 | (415) 989-8898 | SamWoRestaurant.com

18. Tong Fong Low (1912)

San Francisco may have the most oldest Chinatown in California, but Oroville, in Butte County—home to the largest Chinese community north of Sacramento—has not only the Chinese Temple (1863) but also Tong Fong Low, which has operated continuously since before World War I. Opened originally under the name “Charlie’s,” by Charlie You Gee, the business was sold to the Wong family in 1988. When the restaurant hit its 100th birthday, Brian Wong told the Times Standard that people sometimes ask him if the food is authentic Chinese. He tells them, “Yes, it’s authentic, but it’s authentic to this region.” 2051 Robinson St, Oroville, CA 95965 | (530) 441-0876 | TongFongLow.com

19. San Antonio Winery (1917)

The oldest winery in Los Angeles can be found in an industrial area of downtown. Founded by Italian immigrant Santo Cambianica, the business survived Prohibition by becoming the top provider of altar wine—a fitting niche for a winery dedicated to a saint. Four generations later, it’s still a family business. In addition to making California wines, San Antonio Winery imports Stella Rosa wines from Italy. But more on point for this list, they also have a lot to offer tourists: indoor and outdoor dining, wine tasting, winery tours, and a gift shop that offers something for any occasion: birthdays, holidays, bridal showers, retirement parties and more. 737 Lamar St, Los Angeles, CA 90031 | Restaurant: (323) 986-2360 | Tasting Room: (323) 330-8771 | SanAntonioWinery.com

20. Musso & Frank Grill (1919)

Ever since Sept. 27, 1919, when Frank Toulet teamed up with restaurateur Joseph Musso, this eatery has been a fixture on Hollywood Boulevard. Even when it passed on to new owners in 1927 (Italian immigrants Joseph Carissimi and John Mosso), the restaurant moved just one door over. Musso & Frank oozes Old Hollywood ambiance; it was featured to good effect in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Ocean’s Eleven and multiple Mad Men episodes, among other supporting roles. Doors closed temporarily during the pandemic but Musso’s is back serving dinners nightly except Monday, eliciting sighs of relief in Tinseltown and across the Southland. 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028 | (323) 467-7788 | MussoAndFrank.com

21. Barney’s Beanery (1920)

What could be more L.A. than Barney’s Beanery? Beatniks, rock musicians, movie stars and artists have made their way here. Janis Joplin reportedly ate her last meal there; Lizard King Jim Morrison famously unleashed his trouser snake; Ed Kienholz memorialized it in an art installation. Founder John “Barney” Anthony—an L.A. native and World War I veteran—first tried out his restaurant in Berkeley before moving to West Hollywood in 1927. But when it comes to the sheer weight of memorabilia affixed to walls, counters and ceilings, Barney’s is a historical heavyweight. There was talk in 2016 about a housing development displacing the eatery from its spot along the old Route 66, but at present the WeHo landmark seems secure, and is still serving every day until 2 a.m. 8447 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069 | (323) 654-2287 | BarneysBeanery.com

22. Hang Ah Tea Room (1920)

Many of the restaurants listed here are notable as much for their decor as for their food. Not so for Hang Ah Tea Room, a nondescript Chinese restaurant tucked in a San Francisco alley. Its claim to fame: the oldest dim sum purveyor in the United States—an assertion made proudly by Frank Chui, who took over the place in 2014 along with a college friend, Billy Lai. Chui told SFGate that when he took over from the owners, who had run the place since the 1970s, “the stipulation was that Chui and Lai could not change anything.” So Hang Ah offers up the classics—shu mai, pork buns, bao, potstickers—with the only innovation being the ability to order online. 1 Pagoda Place, San Francisco, CA 94108 | (415) 982-5686 | HangAhDimSumSF.com

23. Tam O’Shanter (1922)

Among the various centenarian restaurants in Los Angeles, the Tam O’Shanter stands out because it’s been operated by the same family in the same location for the whole time. Jampacked with artwork and knickknacks, the interior of the softly lit restaurant almost glows, as if preserved in amber. And the exterior is also iconic. Owners Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp commissioned art director Harry Oliver, who enlisted movie-industry carpenters to construct the building in Storybook architectural style. And then there’s the classic Scottish dishes and the encyclopedic whisky offerings. The only thing new is the outdoor seating, added during the pandemic. 2980 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039 | (323) 664-0228 | TamOShanter.com

24. El Cholo (1923)

The oldest extant Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles—older, even, than Olvera Street’s La Golondrina (1930) and Cielito Lindo (1933)—is the extremely popular El Cholo, which opened up in Exposition Park in 1923 and then moved twice before settling down on Western Avenue in 1931. Fans of the restaurant are loyal, and have included such luminaries as Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Nat King Cole, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Anjelica Huston, and Michelle Phillips (according to Eater Los Angeles, the Mamas & the Papas vocalist even did a recording for El Cholo’s voicemail machine). And speaking of high-profile clientele, the Los Angeles Times reports that Vice President Kamala Harris is a regular when she’s at home, but the Brentwood resident favors the Santa Monica outpost, which opened in 1997. 1121 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006 | (323) 734-2773 | ElCholo.com


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