In the trendy California beach town of La Jolla, a booming suburb north of downtown San Diego, luxury meets easy living. Sun-kissed shores and crashing waves against the green backdrop of Mount Soledad beckon, boasting sea caves begging to be explored, scenic cliffs with expansive panoramas, and well-kept hiking trails. Nicknamed The Jewel of America’s Finest City, this village by the sea is dotted with boutiques, art galleries, fast-casual eateries, and an array of health and fitness clubs, all encapsulating the serenity of coastal living and the laid-back vibe of Southern California. La Jolla’s adventurous yet relaxed spirit echoes through town, perhaps nowhere more than at Trilogy Sanctuary.

From the outside, a first-floor awning advertises a plant-based café, yoga studio, and waterfront views, but a peek inside leads only to an empty hallway. To unlock the unique, multifaceted experience of Trilogy, follow the rainbow stairs up to the rooftop where a plant-based oasis and wellness-minded community await.

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Step into the sunshine and follow the path of vibrant succulents—past the eco-conscious lifestyle boutique and aerial yoga class—as you head toward the all-vegan café. The brick-lined industrial space features a massive wooden coffee bar where chalkboard menus hint at Trilogy’s expansive, gluten-free food and drink menu while patrons sit and clack away on laptops and nearby yogis gracefully glide and spin through the air from billowing fabric. For those craving crisp ocean breezes, the outdoor patio’s collection of sofa sets and coffee tables welcome diners to connect with one other under twinkling string lights, while single-party seating offers a more private experience perfect for a weekend date. 

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But who’s responsible for carving out this meatless haven? To truly understand the aura of this community hub, you first have to meet the owners: husband-and-wife team Joe Caldera and Leila Dora. 

How the founders met

Growing up in the drizzly village of Pytchley in Northamptonshire, two hours north of London, Dora ached for sun-soaked adventure. In 2010, after years of nonstop work and endless saving, she embarked on a solo travel journey she’d always yearned for. First stop: South America.

Nearly 5,300 miles away in Berkeley, CA, Caldera also longed for a change of scenery. The Venezuela native with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and new experiences was constantly on the move. Just as Dora made her way to South America, ready to immerse herself in the lifestyle and cultures of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, Caldera was itching to make his next move after living in the Bay Area for a few years. So, no stranger to nomadic living, he packed up his basic necessities and hit the road in his Prius, “led purely by intuition.”

Nearly 300 miles north of Berkeley, the nomad camped at Mount Shasta where he ran into a former co-worker looking to make his way to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for Burning Man, a nine-day festival celebrating community, art, and culture. At that same time, back in South America, Dora was hopping on a plane to the United States, excited for the next leg of her tour: Burning Man.

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Caldera and Dora’s serendipitous meeting began with a search for a mysterious campsite within the festival grounds. Caldera, unable to find his destination, approached Dora—who was hoping to locate the same campsite—for help. Although the two were unsuccessful in their search, the real work had just begun: despite having just met, the pair felt an inexplicable connection and spent the rest of Burning Man side by side, falling in love. 

After a whirlwind nine days, Dora phoned her friends and family back home to share the exciting news: she’d found the love of her life. The couple, committed to their respective journeys across the globe, went their separate ways after Burning Man but not before agreeing to meet in San Diego in four months’ time, just before the winter holidays. Once more, Dora packed her bags and took off, this time to Asia where she completed a yoga teacher training. Caldera, too, continued his journey on the road, making his way toward the warm weather of San Diego. Sixteen weeks later, after daily, cross-time-zone calls, Dora flew to San Diego where she spent two weeks with Caldera, their new romance already holding up to the test of time and distance. Six months later, in August 2011, the pair decided to make the Southern California metropolis their new home, but something was missing. 

Away from their friends and family, Caldera and Dora quickly found themselves longing for a sense of community. Dora’s gluten-free, plant-based diet often made eating out a chore, and when the nutritional counselor couldn’t easily dine on the town, she knew there had to be others like her. Motivated by the hardship of Dora’s gluten-sensitivity and digestive issues, the couple got to work on creating their own space, and in 2014, Trilogy Sanctuary officially opened its doors. 

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On Trilogy Sanctuary’s menu

Stepping foot into Trilogy means forgetting all you think you know about gluten-free dining. Here, the fast-casual fare is bold proof that the “GF” you see on menus is nothing to be scared of. Visitors can start their day with a choice of 13 smoothies and five açai and pitaya bowls, perfect for fueling a rooftop yoga session overlooking the Pacific Ocean. After a morning sweat, head to the café for fluffy pancakes; hearty avocado toast dressed with pesto, a sprinkling of hemp seeds, and sprouts; or a fully loaded breakfast bowl with rosemary potatoes, black beans, quinoa, spinach, and some ingenious scrambled cauliflower eggs.

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For a one-of-a-kind take on breakfast classics, order the Trilaquilles—where those same fluffy cauliflower eggs are hit with Latin spices and paired with handmade corn tortillas drizzled with pumpkin seed mole, cashew sour cream, pico de gallo, and avocado served over a bed of rice. Or go for the Eggz Benedict with eggs served with avocado, tomato, Hollandaise, and a choice of buckwheat pita or a toasted muffin.

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Stopping by for a quick weekday lunch? Caldera recommends his personal favorite, the Two Perfect Tacos, featuring meaty, housemade quinoa chorizo, eggplant bacon, and pico de gallo wrapped in a signature red corn tortilla, then drizzled with creamy almond-chipotle sauce for a mild kick of heat. Saucy enchiladas and mole-marinated jackfruit tacos will satisfy any hankering for Mexican grub.

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The globally inspired menu, an ever-changing collection of dishes developed by the café’s chefs past and present, leaves few cuisines unexplored. For a taste of Italy, order the Squash & Meatballs, which sees warm roasted spaghetti squash and mushroom-bean-rice meatballs smothered in a fennel marinara sauce topped with rosemary cheese and superfood parmesan. For an American classic, indulge in the hefty mushroom-bean burger with sun-dried tomato cashew aioli, cashew cheese, caramelized onion, avocado, and eggplant bacon. 

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And make sure to save room for dessert, easily Dora’s favorite part of the menu. The Transcendent, a rich, chocolaty brownie served warm with coconut ice cream, walnut-date caramel sauce, and raw cacao nibs will have you ordering seconds while you wait for the night’s festivities to commence.

Home away from home

“When we first decided we wanted to create a business, I really wanted it to be a place that housed the different things I loved to do,” says Dora. “At the time, it was food and yoga.” This unique business model encompassed another of the couple’s passions: wellness. “To create true wellness, it’s not just about eating good food or about being fit and healthy. It’s about body, mind, and spirit. You can’t have one without the others if you’re trying to find real balance.”

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Two years after their café’s grand opening, they acquired the yoga studio located just beneath the café, allowing them to expand their practice—which previously had to take place in their boutique space—and open a new lifestyle shop complete with sustainable clothing, vegan leather notebooks, soy candles, essential oils, home décor, and more.

Today, Trilogy Sanctuary continues to foster a diverse community, not only through yoga, but through a series of signature events. In a town where 78 percent of residents are white and 29 percent are over 65, Dora and Caldera are proud to draw guests of all ages and backgrounds. In the summer, patrons gather on the rooftop patio as local musicians perform against a setting sun. When the full moon is bright in the night sky, a drum circle complete with aerial and fire performances breaks out. And under a new moon, you’ll find patrons enjoying mugs of cacao before finishing the night with a light yoga flow.

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The next time you’re in this jewel of a city, a stop at Trilogy Sanctuary will guarantee feel-good food, world-class yoga, spiritual healing, and jaw-dropping performances. If you’re lucky, in between bites of delectable and perhaps perspective-shifting food, you may just spot Dora and her performing troupe spinning from the heavens or playing with fire. Just about anything is possible in La Jolla.  

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