The Coast News Group
Live Culture Café co-founders Michael Zonfrilli and Patrick Otterson. Photo by David Boylan.

Lick the Plate: Lots of love for Live Culture Café

You may recall a Lick the Plate column last year that detailed the kombucha phenomenon and did a comparison of readily available brands in our area. Carlsbad-based Bambucha Kombucha took the honors and has since expanded their store and restaurant distribution throughout Southern California. Bambucha Kombucha co-owner Michael Zonfrilli recently expanded on his probiotic theme with a new venture called Live Culture Café in Leucadia. It’s in the former Yocadia spot and it’s a perfect location for the mix of healthy goodness that chef Zonfrilli has created.

Having known chef Zonfrilli for many years, I can attest to his culinary prowess and business acumen. He is not one to go into a venture without realistic expectations and a menu that is going to fit the location and the local audience.

His home surf break is Beacon’s and he has talked for years about opening a restaurant within proximity to that spot and that has come to fruition with Live Culture Café. His culinary resume is impressive as well, having served as an executive chef and consultant at some of the finest restaurants in the area and as a chef/instructor at the Art Institute culinary program. His co-founder at Live Culture is Patrick Otterson, who exudes the same passion and energy for the project as Michael and who you will see behind the counter on a regular basis.

They made some upgrades to the interior and the spacious outdoor deck received a nice facelift as well. If you are not familiar with the whole probiotic and live culture thing here is a brief overview. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you, especially your digestive system. Your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad and probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. They are found in kombucha and yogurt and have always been embraced as foods that are a healthy addition to your diet. Chef Zonfrilli likes to describe the menu and the mantra at Live Culture as “functional indulgence” and that’s a great way to put it. They feature delicious, probiotic rich, living foods including their locally made organic kombucha on tap, live culture frozen yogurt, cultured coconut vegan soft serve, acai sorbet, toasted sourdough sandwiches, gluten free baked goods and locally roasted coffee all served in a relaxed quick service style.

The on-tap menu flows into tasting flights, pint glasses, 12- and 16-ounce cups for take-out, and 32-ounce glass growlers available for purchase to be filled with locally made, certified organic, kombucha and locally roasted nitro cold-brew. Soft-serve frozen yogurt, containing active probiotic cultures, is offered in a waffle cone or bowl size of choice. Guests can choose healthy toppings to create their own bowl or try one of the specialty combinations. Vegan shakes and kombucha fro-yo floats are offered, but real vanilla ice cream is also available and used to whip up a Cali date shake, a classic chocolate malted, and a nitro cold brew coffee float.

In keeping with mother cultures and the benefits of fermentation, fresh sourdough is used to craft unique assorted sandwiches that are served hot and toasty in about two minutes. This is where chef Zonfrilli’s culinary background comes into play as the sandwiches are delicious and feature gourmet touches like the pepper jelly on the turkey, pesto on the salami, maple mustard on the ham, and fig jam on the brie sandwich. These sandwiches, along with the soft serve and chocolate malted shake give Live Culture that deli touch that had been missing along this stretch of Coast Highway in Leucadia. I’m all for the healthy gut stuff but I love a good sandwich and Live Culture serves them up quick, warm and delicious on Bread and Cie sourdough.

Other area products that are featured include Steeping Giant Cold Brew Coffee, Café Moto Coffee, Island Girl Gluten Free Breakfast Breads and SRF (Socially Responsible Foods) Cultured Soft Serve. A weekday lunch special of any sandwich and a kombucha for just $10 is offered from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Kombucha happy hour is from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays featuring discounted flights, pints and growler fills.

Live Culture Café is a fine addition to the dining scene in Leucadia and worth checking out for sure. Find them at 1076 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas. Call (808) 220-8687 or visit