By Steefenie Wick
In the mid to late 1920’s it was billed as “The Lighthouse -- a Beacon for Pleasure Seekers.” At that time the Lighthouse was part of an eighteen-hole miniature golf course designed to give “full-size thrills” to all who stopped by. Today the Lighthouse is a very inviting café that has served the residents of Sausalito for the past 20 years. Under the careful eye of Annette Andresen it has become a Sausalito tradition. Annette’s husband Gerner Andresen runs the Lighthouse Café in Corte Madera while their son Kenneth has taken over the Lighthouse Grill at Harbor Point in Mill Valley, keeping the tradition of good food and good service in the family.
The Andresens came to Marin in the 1990’s when Kenneth was 12 years old. He says he sometimes feels like he was born in the restaurant business. He attended school in Mill Valley, graduating from Tam High. “One of the best things that I get to do now,” he says, “are the reunions, those can really be fun. Then there are the wedding receptions, those are a lot of work but very rewarding when you see how happy you can make people.” This year Kenneth is helping the Sausalito Historical Society produce its annual fundraising event at his Lighthouse Grill at Harbor Point.
Andresen says that the facility has been very successful with local groups planning events that tend to draw folks from the neighborhoods of Mill Valley, Sausalito and Tiburon. He goes on to say that what people want from a local restaurant is good food and good service, something his parents taught him as the most important factors in running a successful establishment. When asked how he makes up his menu his answer is quite understandable: his mother has provided much of the inspiration for his menu. “Although I have the freedom to set my menu it’s still good to have something on the menu that seems familiar,” he says. “Take our Danish meatballs; to my knowledge; there is no restaurant in Denmark that has them on a menu. The whole idea of the Danish meatball was the wholesome aspect of it as comfort food. In Denmark it is cold and the diet consists of meat and potatoes but the Danish meatball, that you can only get in America, my mother’s recipe.”
When asked if he and members of his family were always interested in cooking, he says not really but his father Gerner became interested in the food industry when as a young man he worked the ferries in Denmark. Which is interesting because the theme of the Historical Society fundraiser this year is “Sausalito Ferry Tales.” On hand for the event will be Annie Sutter, whose book “The Old Ferryboats of Sausalito,” has become a classic volume on ferries that were beached on our waterfront. Their history continued as they went from floating power machines to artist studios, marine stores and in some cases restaurants. Joining her will be longtime Sausalito waterfront resident Chris Tellis.
Tellis as a young man growing up on the waterfront, has lived on many of the old ferries mentioned in Annie’s book. He has also lived aboard the City of Seattle. Built in 1888, it is the oldest wooden hulled ferry on the West Coast. It was purchased by his family in 1960, and he has maintained this vessel for the last 50 years. Annie Sutter writes in her book, ‘The City of Seattle was the lucky one, for she was bought by people who continued to care as the years went on, and it’s not an easy task to keep alive a 72-year-old ferry that had almost been scrapped way back in 1913.”
Tellis has also been very active in waterfront politics. at one time heading the group Art Zone which was set up to bring social change to the waterfront after years of what was known as the houseboat wars. Annie Sutter and Chris Tellis possess a vast knowledge of the old ferries as they gave up one part of the past to claim another. When dealing with history it is always rewarding to be able to have the people who were part of the period tell their stories about that time, sharing their own personal experiences.
Kenneth Andresen can tell you first-hand about tradition and sharing the knowledge, which is what his family did with him. He is the first to tell you about the importance of being known for good food, along with good service; these things become part of a tradition. A tradition that has its place in our local history, like the old ferries. On Sunday night November 6, these two speakers will come together in the elegant setting of Kenneth Andresen’s Lighthouse Grill, where once again history will be made and shared for an evening.
The Sausalito Historical Society would like to invite you to this fundraiser on Sunday, November 6, at the Lighthouse Grill at Harbor Point, 475 East Strawberry Drive, Mill Valley.
For information: 415-289-4117 or