This beach town has always lived by its bumper-sticker slogan, “Keep Leucadia Funky.” But by the look of all the upcoming activity and beautification, it might have to adjust to “Keep Leucadia Chic.” That’s right, one of the last hippie beach towns in S.D. is quickly becoming a destination, thanks to a bevy of new eateries and a landscaping overhaul that includes tree-planting and roundabouts, à la Bird Rock.
Sake House splashed onto the foodie scene with traditional Japanese and stellar sake six years ago, and a parade of haunts are now following suit. Ray Lowe and John Park, two former San Francisco chefs, left NorCal to open Fish 101. Garnering applause for its mod design and OMG oyster selection, Fish 101 is packed nightly for more than just fish tacos—they nail the fish-to-beer-batter ratio. Also on offer: craft brews, a solid shrimp Louie salad and a root beer float served with cookies for the wee set.
There’s also Hapi Fish, a new sushi hot spot known for its bustling happy hour and surf industry nights. It was opened by 27-year-old Oakland native Justin Masunaga, who earned chopsticks at sushi restaurants in O.C. and Vail. “Leucadia reminds me of mountain towns with rich people and hippies,” says Masunaga.
Next up? The bros behind the ballyhooed Bull Taco are expected to open a pizza joint.
Staples like Especial Norte, with its world-famous chicken soup, still have some of the best post-session grub, but now there’s Haggo’s Taco truck, a whimsical, converted mobile home next to the iconic Plant Lady. With images of Cousteau and Hunter S. Thompson hanging along the wooden façade, owner James Haggard, a longtime surfer and artist, enlists heirloom veggies from a local CSA for an elevated Mexican experience. The Cousteau taco is sautéed local halibut with red cabbage slaw, heirloom tomatoes and mango salsa cruda. (Hungry yet?)
For nightlife, Calypso and Le Papagayo both underwent recent facelifts, but spots like Bar Leucadian (formerly The Leucadian) and KapN Keno’s will never lose ’70s-style ambience.
“We don’t want Del Mar here,” says Nell Blevins, a bartender at Bar Leucadian, who added that the town of Leucadia is on its way there. Take Bergamot, a Bali-inspired boutique spa above PCH where clients can indulge in $75 ritualistic pedicures in flower-filled footbaths. A specialty rock treatment, Get Stoned, costs $420. Meanwhile, the tranquil grounds—replete with Balinese casitas—can be transformed to host private parties.
“Leucadia is a melting pot of millionaires, working-class citizens, surfers, students and derelicts,” says J.P. St. Pierre, owner of Surfy Surfy, a high-designed surf shop with rotating art shows.
So successful was St. Pierre’s endeavor that he recently transformed an old surfboard shed next door into a coffee shop, serving everything from the locally famous V.G.’s Donuts to organic salads. “A lot of us grew up here and now that we have kids of our own, we want to make it a place where the next generation of Leucadians can thrive and be proud.”
This June, Leucadians will have another reason to jump on the beach cruiser: wine. Costa Azul Winery has plans to open a full Mediterranean-style tapas bar and demonstration vineyard right on the 101. “It’s one of the best towns that I have ever been to,” says vintner Christopher Van. “I used to take trips down to Baja from Northern California and was always impressed with the laid-back culture.”