In 1992, the Andresen family - parents Annette and Gerner, with children Kenneth and Katja - moved to Marin County from Denmark where they had owned restaurants in Copenhagen all their lives. Needless to say, they knew what they were doing when they opened The Lighthouse Cafe in Sausalito.
Ken, who now runs in San Rafael, was only five when he had his first restaurant experience working with his dad in Denmark, and twelve when they opened in Sausalito.
By the end of eighth grade, he was as a dishwasher at Harbor Point. From 1996 - 2000, the family owned Mark West Lodge in Santa Rosa, a fine dining establishment where he started out as a busboy and became a waiter at eighteen. He was trained in tableside flambée and worked many weddings in the garden on weekends.
Feeling that he should learn from “a real boss," other than his dad, Andresen spent time at Strawberry Joe’s, San Rafael's Chalet Basque and the Water Street Grille in Sausalito.
The Lighthouse Bar and Grill opened in November of 2003 on Courthouse Square in San Rafael. They are open for lunch and dinner daily, plus brunch on the weekends.
Danish components dot the menu - the most popular being the Danish meatballs featured as our recipe of the week - and include two kinds of herring - marinated in wine sauce and with curry dressing, very unusual for Marin restaurants.
You will find a great selection of salads such as Asian tofu, seared ahi, cilantro chicken and the special house salad which has organic baby greens mixed with walnuts, dried cranberries, golden raisins, tomato, cucumber, carmelized onions, goat cheese and is dressed with raspberry vinaigrette.
They recently partnered with Cheryl Jones, who owns “The Pleasure is Mine” catering. The new menu reflects her cooking combined with many of the Andresen’s long time specialties.
Last year, they changed the décor to accommodate larger parties, but kept the lighthouse theme. The art on the wall, which is for sale, is done by one of the waiters.
The outdoor patio has seating for 30 on Courthouse Square, a fun place to be on Farmer’s Market nights to “people watch” and listen to the live music in the plaza. Inside, the restaurant seats sixty. They are closed only on Sunday nights.
The Lighthouse Bar and Grill features a full bar. Manager and part-owner Andresen, whose smile is as wide as Tom Cruise’s - with personality to match - seems to channel Cruise’s character from the movie "Cocktail."
Widely known for his specialty drinks, the latest of which is an Espresso Martini with cream on top, Ken can even write your name or initials in chocolate on top of a froth. When the Giants were in the World Series, his black and orange cocktail hit it out of the park.
Regulars love the fact that The Lighthouse Bar and Grill is open until two on Friday and Saturdays. They cordon off the open kitchen around 10:30 p.m., with a stylish dark red drape, light the candles, and, voilá, the restaurant has a whole new vibe as a bar/lounge with cool music.
If you are wondering about little sister Katja, she manages Pet Pro on D Street in San Rafael where she cooks too – but for four-legged clients. Her specialty is “Bailey Bits” dog treats.
The Andresen family is very close and friendly, the food is great and the restaurant is fun and upbeat. Talk to Andresen about golf and don’t forget to order one of his specialty drinks. In honor of this article, he created a Patch cocktail. Mention that you read about it here, and you’ll get 50 percent off.
Lighthouse Bar and Grill special, Frikadellar, Danish Meatballs – Makes 12-15 meatballs, serves 4-6 people
1 pound ground pork
2 whole eggs
¼ cup finely chopped white onion
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup canola oil
½ stick of butter
Mix first set of ingredients and form meatballs in your hand. Lighthouse Bar and Grill shapes these with flat sides rather than round balls.
Melt butter with oil in frying pan and cook meatballs until golden brown on one side, turn over and cook other side. Spoon butter/oil mixture over top from time to time.
Cooking time is approximately five minutes each side.
You can make these in any size even tiny for cocktails. As an entrée, Lighthouse Bar and Grill serves three meatballs on a plate with pickled cucumber and beets, Danish pumpernickel bread and their secret recipe of Danish Remoulade. (Remoulade is available in specialty supermarkets, but what you will find on the shelf is not the same as their version, so come in and try the real thing.)