Solvang is the type of gimmicky town that normally we’d see once, take a few pictures, and move on; but because we love aebelskivers so much it has become an unmissable repeat detour for trips to Santa Barbara County. Its streets are lined with windmills, shops selling clogs, and pancake houses. Of the many Scandinavian eateries in this assertively Danish village, the Solvang Restaurant is our favorite, mostly because of aebelskivers and sausages.
Aebelskivers are ball shaped pancakes. They are sometimes described as Danish beignets, but that’s a stretch because they are not fried. They are somewhere between a beignet and a Dutch baby pancake, but really more like the latter. The restaurant sells its flour mix and pans to make aebelskivers at home, but our attempts have taught us that it takes skill to cook them without uncooked batter hiding in the middle, especially when they’re the baseball-size type that the restaurant serves.
As you breach the sphere of a Solvang restaurant aebelskiver, an airy, moist inside is revealed. They are well-browned and covered with a brightly acidic, thin raspberry sauce and a light dusting of powdered sugar. The sauce is as tart as it is sweet and looser than a syrup, so it leaves the pancakes tasting refreshing and breakfasty, not too much like a dessert — like crepes with sugar and lemon. You can get them ala mode if you are more in the mood for dessert. The melting ice cream blends well with the sauce and the eggy cakes. Whether you eat aebelskivers for breakfast or dessert, they match well with the restaurant’s surprisingly rich coffee.
Other good options are Danish sausage and meatballs, both made in house. The meatballs are fairly dense but tasty. The sausage is better. It’s herbal and complex with a thick, rustic casing. A combo meal of these comes with a large scoop of smooth mashed potatoes mimicking the meatball. All of the meat and potatoes are covered with gravy. The plate is balanced by a sharply acidic and long simmered red cabbage and a hearty bowl of split pea soup. The split pea soup is both starchy and savory, and good enough to make a trip to the famed Pea Soup Andersen’s in Buellton less necessary.
A Danish hot dog also makes a nice lunch. The frankfurter itself is a highlight. It looks pale because of veal in the blend, but offers good smoke and a juicy snap in every bite. However, the bun is plain and topped only with crisp onion strings like those in green bean casserole. The rings exaggerate the dryness of the bun. We like to add some of the cucumber salad that comes alongside to give it much needed acid and moisture. Sure, we could have used table ketchup or mustard, but that seemed beneath the pedigree of this proud wiener.