When I try to describe living in Leucadia, my nutshell version usually goes something like this. Leucadia represents a sleepy, old-school coastal lifestyle that is slowly disappearing. It’s a mix of surfers, yoga/healthy living folks, big money, and locals all coexisting rather nicely. Funky shops and established eateries blend in with an emergence of new restaurants in a manner that currently works. Keep Leucadia Funky is the unofficial slogan that can be seen on bumper stickers and voiced by the locals who have been here a while. Change is happening in Leucadia with condos and large homes that seem a bit out-of-place jammed into tiny lots, and an upcoming streetscape project that will forever change the look and feel of Coast Highway 101.
Change happens though, and it takes folks like Dave and Erin Thomas, Karen Pankopf, and JP St. Pierre, the partners behind Café Ipe and Surfy Surfy to embrace it while maintaining what made Leucadia special to begin with. Many of us mourned the loss of the Longboard Grotto when it closed, but who better to give it fresh life than a group of local friends who have been immersed in the Encinitas surf culture their entire lives. They turned it into a one-of-a-kind surf boutique named after the call “surfy surfy” that went out to friends by JP St. Pierre when the waves were good in hopes of generating a group to paddle out. Most surfers have their similar code words or phrases to describe conditions so it only made sense when his opportunity came to open a surf shop to go with the obvious choice for a name and Surfy Surfy was born.
Soon after the surf shop opened in 2010, the building next door became available. They had noticed from being in the surf shop that many people came in with coffee so why not make it more convenient for them. The wheels were put in motion and Café Ipe opened in 2011. The two businesses really do complement one another and reflect the common vision of the partners to represent funky Leucadia and the surf culture, but also offer their own sense of style to suite contemporary tastes. Their eclectic mix of patrons is evidence that they have pulled that off and then some. Café Ipe was named after the beautiful Ipe tree in the center of the courtyard. They also did a lot of the finish work within the shop with Ipe wood, a native Brazilian wood that is symbolically known to represent strength.
Given the competitive coffee market, they also added another huge draw by bringing Dan Scheibe and his Revolution Roasters in-house. Dan roasts weekly in a very cool looking German Probat roaster and has developed a cult-like following. One of my most discerning coffee friends Pia Giambrone from Italy and most recently Seattle, latched on the coffee culture at Café Ipe immediately and would not go anywhere else. She was sold on the educated and passionate baristas and the tasty roast that provided her daily fix of either espresso, cappuccino, or espresso macchiato. Pia is a coffee connoisseur and I trust her judgment. I’ve taken to buying the bags of fresh roasted beans that Dan produces and enjoy having such high quality at home. I should also note that they offer an extensive selection of specialty teas.
The limited kitchen at Ipe manages to produce some very nice breakfast and lunch treats. The Dawn Patrol that combines egg, turkey, tomato, and cheese between an English muffin is what a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin aspires to…in a much cooler place to enjoy it. Yogurt with granola, oatmeal and a Euro breakfast are also available along with fresh donuts from VG’s, bagels, muffins and some really nice pastries. Lunch offers up some tasty salads and sandwiches including the Miracle Mile with ham, turkey, Swiss, cheddar, tomato, red onion, Romaine, sprouts, cucumber, avocado, mayo and Dijon mustard. It’s a monster sandwich and at $7.50 a hell of a value. The lox bagel is delicious and the Hawaiian chicken sandwich is a fun blend of coconut, pineapple, yogurt and bananas.
It should be noted that Café Ipe is now home to the world famous Surfing Madonna mural. It’s a fitting location for this iconic piece of art and paintings from local artists rotate through Ipe monthly. Live music happens all weekend in the courtyard and special events are common between Ipe and Surfy Surfy. My suggestion is to check them both out when you have some time to hang out in a slice of real coastal Leucadia. Ipe is at 970 North Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia and Surfy Surfy is right next door. Find them both on Facebook also.