The little new Moonlight cafe has a huge personality

Where: Moonlight Coffee & Tea, 345 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024 (Moonlight Plaza)
Open: every day from 06:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
What: La Costa Coffee Roasted Batch Infusion Blend
Price: $2.55 for a 12oz
What I listen to: Izaak Opatz, “Drunk on a Plane”

It’s late morning when I pull into the Moonlight Plaza parking lot, just north of the iconic Encinitas sign that spans Coastal Route 101. Moonlight Coffee & Tea is the latest addition to about 20 other cafes, roasters and coffee carts already calling this three and a half mile stretch of tarmac that encompasses Encinitas and Leucadia home.

Moonlight Coffee & Tea recently opened at Moonlight Plaza on Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt

Little did I know it as I walked towards the small whitewashed building with the blue roof and moldings, but there was a whirlwind inside. Victoria, the owner, is a force of nature.

Frankly, I’m surprised the coffee can hold it.

Inside is a counter with a pastry filled with locally sourced carbs that make me want to go hungry. A cooler filled with cold drinks is hidden in the corner behind me. There’s an espresso machine to the right, and a handwritten menu on the wall to the left spills over onto a second chalkboard.

Vintage coffee cans fill a shelf that wraps near the ceiling, and directly above is a chandelier of colorful coffee mugs. There is no light in the chandelier.

I order a cup of black coffee, which is hands down the cheapest (in terms of price) cup of coffee I’ve had in, oh, I don’t know, three years? Then I asked Victoria, “How did you end up here?” and in a short time I learned the following:

  • The coffee is a house blend roasted by La Costa Coffee Roasting.
  • Victoria cut her teeth at Peet’s Coffee for the better part of a decade before traveling the country, where she would pop into cafes to help train baristas for a few months before moving on.
  • Victoria is originally from Orange County but regularly visited Moonlight Beach as a child. There was a Mexican restaurant in that square where she used to go and which she fondly remembers.
  • When the opportunity arose here, it was just.
  • Victoria wants to do it all.

Like I said, a force of nature. It’s a small cafe with a lot of personality. I take my coffee outside and am faced with the difficult decision of where to sit.

A chandelier of colorful coffee cups hangs near vintage coffee cans and equipment at Moonlight Coffee & Tea in Encinitas.  Photo by Ryan Woldt
A chandelier of colorful coffee cups hangs near vintage coffee cans and equipment at Moonlight Coffee & Tea in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt

There are large tables and chairs just outside the entrance under a mural of a whale and a few more gazing up at the palm trees waving above the highway. Even more chairs sit near a new bike rack, and behind the cafe are the low tables and chairs which at this hour provide just the right combination of sun and shade.

I sip my coffee and look up at the palm trees. It feels like a very Californian experience. Even though there isn’t much foot traffic in the square, I can feel the energy radiating from the cafe behind me. A few locals with dogs sit closer to the cafe entrance to oversee the crew painting the parking lot lines, and the Piña crew next door prepares to open for lunch.

Moonlight Coffee and Tea is in the same center as The Coast News, and at one point a very mustachioed colleague of mine comes over and says, “Hello. What ? »

He tells me how happy they are that this little cafe has moved in. I’m paraphrasing, but he says something like, “It’s nice to have a cafe so close.

“What?” I ask. “From where I’m sitting, I can see at least three other cafes!”

“Yeah,” he said, “but it’s coffee, coffee. You know?”

* He can withdraw it. Really.

To roast! San Diego is a new column from Ryan Woldt, host of the To roast! Western coast coffee podcast, which can be streamed on: Search for features on North County cafes, cafes, and roasters.