One of my favorite childhood memories is going with my family to Simonsen’s Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf here in Fort Pierce. Every Sunday, the restaurant, owned and operated by Elna and Olaf Simonsen for thirty-six years, had a smorgasbord (Norwegian for buffet) which highlighted their steamed shrimp and peanut butter pie. Mrs. Simonsen started baking every morning at 5 and everything was made from scratch.
After church, my parents, brother, and I went to Simonsen’s, and being boys, my brother and I would embarrass my mother. When it was time for dessert, we took dinner plates and loaded them up with all the great cakes, cookies, and especially huge pieces of the peanut butter pie. I always tried to get the largest piece with the most filling and just a little meringue.
Mrs. Simonsen was known all over the Treasure Coast for her famous peanut butter pie, which she actually created by accident. The adage “Necessity is the mother of invention” is true. Apparently, Mrs. Simonsen was in the middle of making a coconut custard pie when she realized she was out of coconut. She decided to blend peanut butter and powdered sugar together and use it in her crust and topping.
Olaf loved the new pie so much that they decided to offer it at the restaurant. The rest is history. People from all over came into town searching for the restaurant with the new sensation–peanut butter pie. Even the publishers of the Southern Living Cookbooks visited the restaurant to sample the pie and loved it so much they published the recipe in one of their cookbooks.
In addition to great cooks/bakers, the Simonsens were really great folks. They were family oriented and wanted their restaurant to be a place where families could come, relax, and enjoy “real down home cooking.” Servicemen stationed in Fort Pierce during World War II especially loved Simonsen’s. Whether they could pay or not, when they came to the restaurant, they were always fed. For years after the war, the Simonsens received checks from those service men, usually with interest included, to pay for the tabs they had accumulated.
Unfortunately, Simonsen’s Restaurant no longer exists, but you can still get a slice of this delicious piece of Fort Pierce history. Come visit the Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd booth at the 2014 Chili Cook Off, this Saturday morning at 10 o’clock at the Fenn Center.