Danish: a delightful flat pastry with a fruit or cream dollop in the middle. Also a culture. I had only experienced the pastry before I made my way up the coast to Solvang, CA. During the drive up the coast I enjoyed the beautiful spring weather. I turned onto the road to go through the Santa Ynez Mountains. The views were breathtaking between the spurts of rain downfalls. When I finally made my way into the city center of Solvang my first thought was "how cute."
I found my hotel, the King Frederik Inn and was delighted that it was within walking distance of most if not all of the shops and tourist attractions I wanted to visit. As lunch time rolled around I needed something to eat. I was looking for something more than pastries, chocolates and wines, whose shops lined the streets.
The Greenhouse Cafe came into view right next to the Mortenson Bakery. This cafe is actually inside of a real greenhouse, which has been converted into a restaurant. The dining area is all glass walls and ceiling. The kitchen and storage areas, though, have brick walls on the outside, I imagine to help control temperature in those parts of the cafe. Guest can choose to sit indoors or outdoors on the patio, where each table has its own umbrella to dine under.
I chose to sit indoors, and was able to speak with one of the owners, Elsemarie Peterson. I wanted to try some Danish food that wasn't a pastry so she suggested the Open Faced Combination. I took her suggestion and am glad I did. It came with three half sandwiches, roast beef, cheese, and meatball. The first thing I thought when I saw the dish was, where is the meatball one? In my mind meatballs were small round balls of beef in tomato sauce on top of spaghetti. As I learned, Danish meatballs are a bit different, they are large and not as crumbly, and eaten more like a meatloaf, then a topping for pasta. For this particular sandwich the meatball was thinly sliced and placed on top of a thin slice of bread, called Pumpernickel.
As I tasted each of the sandwiches my mouth was delighted. Each sandwich had a unique flavor and yet all corresponded nicely to one another. The homemade potato salad and pickled beets were also a nice add to the plate. Many of the Nordic dishes, like this one, are recipes of Elsemarie’s grandmother's.
The Greenhouse Cafe opened in 1994. Elsemarie uses her family's and culture’s traditional dishes and adds some American tastes in the menu to make dining at the cafe a true delight. The Peterson's hire local high school students to wait at their restaurants (Greenhouse Cafe and CHOMP). I asked if they had trouble getting people to work if there was a big game, homecoming, graduation or a school dance. She smiled and explained that it can be difficult, but those nights they generally give the seniors off and have the underclassmen work,if they don't have enough none high schoolers on their payroll to work.
The Greenhouse Cafe like many of the places I visited in Solvang, is a family oriented establishment, with good values, good food, and good energy. Not to be missed on your trip to Solvang!