Calypso Cafe, Alas, is Permanently Closed


This was the official website for the Calypso Cafe.
Yelpers report that the cafe is permanently closed.
Content is from the site's archived pages and outside reviews.

The Calypso Cafe
576 N Coast Hwy 101
Encinitas, CA 92024



Leucadia’s Calypso Cafe closes

By Ken Leighton, Jan. 16, 2013

The Calypso Cafe, which opened in Leucadia in 1995 and featured music seven nights a week for most of its existence, held its final show this New Year’s Eve.

Located in a converted house, the Highway 101 restaurant represented one of the last vestiges of funky Leucadia. It was the unofficial home base for singer/songwriter Jack Tempchin (“Peaceful Easy Feelin,” “Already Gone,” “Slow Dancin’”) who played there weekly since the ’90s.

Candye Kane, Sue Palmer, Jeff Moore, Eve Selis and Cactus Twang, and Semisi and Sons were regular performers at the dinner club.

“That was a great place for musicians and songwriters,” says Tom Yearsley, who played there with his Paladins. “There was no television set to compete with. And for most of the first many years there was no talking allowed. When you sat there, you listened to music. It didn’t used to be amplified. It brought the audience right up close to the artist.”

Founder Gil Knafo ran the Calypso continuously until a September 2009 kitchen fire forced him to close. He says things weren’t the same when he reopened two years later.

“I spent too much to rebuild,” says Knafo. “Then, when we reopened, people would come in but not spend any money.” Knafo owned the property, but he says last year he started having trouble keeping up with the mortgage. “The bank put the property in foreclosure and sold the note six months ago. The new landlord let me stay rent-free until December 31.”

“Everyone is devastated by the closing,” he says. “All the musicians are very sad. Before us, nobody mixed music and food [in North County].”

Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control suspended the liquor license of the 1280-capacity Show Palace in Oceanside on December 20. Since it opened in 2000, the all-ages venue drew big weekend crowds with live Latin bands and recently started hosting hip-hop events, including shows by national headliners E-40 and Talib Kweli. According to ABC administrator Melissa Ryan, the indefinite suspension will be lifted when the owners prove the Show Palace regularly serves food and keeps better records to prove it sells at least 50 percent of its sales in food.

The suspension follows an October 26 multi-agency raid on the venue, when patrons were told to leave for two hours while authorities investigated the business.

But another violation that must also be corrected for the liquor license to be reactivated may be difficult for the 13-year-old restaurant/nightspot to surmount: Ryan says that while her ABC investigators were there, they found that live music could be heard outside the building. Even though there are no residences nearby and there were no complaints about loud noise, Ryan says that the Show Palace must now keep the sound of music from escaping.

Show Palace owner Jaun Cortes did not want to comment for this story.

“They are licensed as a restaurant but they are operating as a dancehall,” says a professional who deals with the ABC. “[The owner] is trying to put a square peg in a round hole. It looks he will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into being a restaurant.”




Gillies Knafo makes his home in Leucadia, CA while surfing his local break, Beacons, on a west swell. Gino's family Henri and Yvette are local residents. His brother Guy still lives in France with his wife, Brigitte and their daughter, Louise. Gilles and his family are very at home here at the beach. "Encinitas and the rest of the beach cities are a lot like coastal towns in other parts of the world. I think the ocean affects us and makes the coastal residents more relaxed and aware of their surroundings. It always seems like there is someone willing to help when the need arises. I think the locals here have a special generosity that is hard to find in other places."

Owner Gilles Knafo's background is as eclectic as the cuisine and decor of the Calypso cafe. He spent 2 winters working for a web enterprise selling trash bags and other cleaning supplies before returning to cuisine. "Each and every experience contributes to my abilities to prepare meals - even if it's not obvious how!" Gilles (pronounced "zheel") came to north county via Morocco (where he was born), Spain (where his family moved after years of operating a nightclub in Casablanca) and Paris (where his father, Henri, opened the restaurant that gave Gilles his hands on training as a restaurateur.

Henri Knafo moved to north county and opened Chez Henri in Del Mar Plaza nearly ten years ago. But Gilles stayed on in Paris to run the family restaurant In the City of Lights for a year before Joining his parents at Chez Henri, which specializes In classic French cuisine.

Gilles Knafo worked at the family restaurant for a couple of years before branching out on his own. He renovated the former Beach Cottage at 576 N. Highway 101 to reflect the eclectic concept of his restaurant.

The French, valuing their stomachs and rightly regarding cooking as a performing art, bestow considerable esteem on those youths who pursue careers in the kitchen. Gilles has a knack for marvelous Marseilles collation of shellfish, vegetables and aromatics, doubtless learned while toiling alongside his father the gruffy charming Henri Knafo. The brightivresentalion and flavorful displays are enhanced with a dash of Leucadran sun. Bon Appetit.


Elaine Y. Encinitas, CA
5.0 star rating
Why did you leave me Calypso?
Back I go to the therapist's office to deal with my abandonment issues.
So many wonderful memories at this awesome restaurant, mainly the delicious food. Always loved the fun ambiance.

Near, far, wherever you are. I believe that the heart does go on.......(sigh)


Alisa M. Encinitas, CA
3.0 star rating
I have always liked Calypso but was always a little uncomfortable because the seating is so bunched together.  After the remodel I was excited to come back because they just had to have arranged things a little better with space and comfort in mind.  Right?  WRONG!!!

You practically have to climb over people to get to your table.  And when we left I had to walk around someones chair to get out the front door.  I'm not kidding.  I realize restaurants need to make a buck but do you really need to shove more tables than will fit at the sacrifice of comfort of your partons in order to achieve a profit?  There has to be a better way.

The food as always was excellent but I was a little disappointed at the happy hour options.  The selection was a little electic and I guess I just wanted at least one plain normal looking item to jump out on me.  I ordered the shrimp ceasar salad and along with the bread and marinara style sauce I was fine.  They were both good and my friend really enjoyed her Thai peanut salad. 

The drinks were well made (I had the pom martini) and our bartender was attentive and nice.

My only other beef was that even though the crowd seemed to be a little older they had hired a DJ that was playing electronic club music that drove some people away.  I would have left if I hadn't already ordered food prior to her setting up.  Just didn't fit the clientelle.  And without the DJ it would have freed up additional room for the patrons to be able to spread out a bit.  I think a solo guitarist or keyboard person playing classics or soft jazz or rock would have been a much better fit.

I do like this place I just want to be able to "fit" at a table.  Is that too much to ask?


Jenn C.Carlsbad, CA
3.0 star rating
A pretty cool place. Good atmosphere. Live music, which I loved. The music on the night I went was kind of Zydeco/Cajun-ish. It was awesome! I enjoyed the atmosphere more than the food.

The food was a bit overpriced, but on Wednesdays they have a happy hour menu, and happy hour goes all night. I ordered a goat cheese salad, but i think they gave me the wrong one because there was definitely no goat cheese in my salad. Regardless, whatever salad I did get was pretty good. Bf got the mushroom ravioli dish, which was creamy, flavorful, and really good. However, overall, the food was a little on the pricey side for what it was.

In the future, if I come again, I'd probably come for a couple of drinks and appetizers for happy hour.


Tim C. Encinitas, CA
4.0 star rating
Well, it was cool while it lasted (often very packed), but just in case this place shows up on Yelp, it is CLOSED!
I'm hoping another restaurant will replace it soon...