Full of Life Flatbread – California’s Produce Bounty Meets Culinary Creativity
If you’re traveling in California’s Santa Ynez Valley and ask locals where to eat, there’s a good chance they’ll direct you to Full Of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos. And, if you ask about this farm-to-table restaurant, there’s an even higher probability that you’ll hear Clark Staub’s name alongside terms like “pioneer,” “papa bear,” or “founding father”. That is because owner Clark Staub has a huge role in the town’s food scene. Nestled in the charming California town of Los Alamos, Full of Life Flatbread is a culinary gem that has delighted locals and visitors for the past two decades. It is full of rustic charm and unwavering commitment to local produce. And because of this commitment, Full of Life Flatbread has become a beloved fixture in this Central Coast community.
A Day In The Life At Full Of Life Flatbread
We recently visited Santa Barbara Wine Country. While there, Clark, his wife Jill, and their staff generously invited us into their kitchen. We learned the restaurant’s story and why they’re such an emblem of farm-to-table food in Santa Barbara County. Clark said it best, “the connection between what I do and what I make is very near and dear to me,” and that couldn’t be more evident when you eat at Full of Life.
How Long Has Full Of Life Flatbread Been A Restaurant?
Full of Life Flatbread recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. This is a testament to its enduring appeal, but the restaurant came about in a fortunate twist of fate. Clark ended up in Los Alamos when he exited California Highway 101 on a quest to fuel up his car. At the time, the town was mostly gas stations and biker bars. Clark saw a vacant building and with it, the potential to create something new. At the time, Clark had an organic bread bakery in Claremont, California, but he struggled to access quality ingredients. He was so determined to help his community connect to farm-fresh food that he started a local farmers’ market in Claremont. Realizing he could be neighbors with some of the most sought-after farms in Southern California, Clark moved to the Santa Ynez Valley.
Get To Know The Santa Ynez Valley
It’s probably evident by now that quality, local, seasonal produce is paramount to Clark. It’s safe to say that (and delicious wood-fired flatbread) are the guiding principles behind the restaurant. But, to truly understand this restaurant, let’s focus on the unique qualities of Santa Ynez Valley agriculture. Set on the north side of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Ynez Valley has a rich agricultural history. This history began with the Chumash people who were the first to inhabit the region. Later settlement saw Spanish missionaries bringing European farming techniques, and the valley’s agriculture centered around cattle, dairy, barley, and beans. Today, this stretch of California is best known for growing high-quality wine. Mixe amongst the vineyards are some of the most treasured farms in Southern California. These include farms such as Finley Farms, Tutti Frutti, and Roots Farm.
The Culinary Evolution of Los Alamos
Since Full of Life opened its doors, the Los Alamos food scene has changed. It has become a culinary hotspot, with many celebrated restaurants like Bell’s, Bob’s Well Bread, and Pico. There are now more than 6 restaurants in town, many whose owners once worked at Full of Life Flatbread.
A Commitment To Local Farms
For twenty years, Clark has changed the menu weekly to reflect the seasons, and locals return regularly to check out his latest culinary creations. He credits his wife (an accomplished chef in her own right) Jill with helping him to keep the inspiration alive. Clark and Jill met at a party in Paso Robles almost a decade ago, and she was drawn to the direct connection Clark was able to forge with the growers by being based in the Santa Ynez Valley. She has since moved, and they agree that one of their greatest honors is supporting local farmers, fishers, and ranchers.
A Hyper-Focus on Local Produce + Farms
As you can guess by now, what sets Full of Life Flatbread apart is its unwavering commitment to sourcing ingredients from local farms on California’s Central Coast. Clark believes in building solid relationships with farmers who share his passion for quality and sustainability. If you are wondering if Clark cares about the origin of his ingredients, ask him about pistachios from Cuyama Valley or the Navajo Churro lamb he gets from Outlaw Valley Ranch. He’ll wax poetic about everything from the origin story to the conditions of the latest harvest.
Some of the notable Central Coast farms that Full of Life Flatbread works with include Tutti Frutti for heirloom tomatoes and squash, Roots Farms and Finley Farms for winter squash and greens, and Mighty Cap Mushrooms for Lion’s Mane Mushrooms. These partnerships ensure that every dish at Full of Life Flatbread reflects Clark’s aim. Hise goal is for his food to have a sense of place.
When we visited, they were cooking up so many delicious dishes. Think Channel Island rock crab claws, Shaman bread with Cuyama pistachios, and Lompoc Valley boiled peanuts. In addition, they featured twist on prosciutto and melon made with local melons, and radicchio and honey nut squash salad. To die for was an Outlaw Valley Ranch Navajo Churro lamb with Tutti Frutti Farms green beans and heirloom tomatoes.
The Artistry of Flatbreads
The heart and soul of Full of Life Flatbread can be found in its signature flatbreads. These mouthwatering creations are baked to perfection in a 23-ton stone oven. This oven is a remarkable piece of equipment built by Clark Staub and his friends. The inspiration for this oven comes from Quebecan beehive ovens, adding a unique touch to the restaurant’s process.
The Classic Always-In-Season Dish At Full Of Life
One standout flatbread on Full of Life Flatbread’s ever-changing menu is the Coachella Valley Date and Bacon flatbread. It is topped with smoked leek cream sauce, walnuts, cheese, and wild arugula. This dish came about from a conversation with a local farmer. In chatting with Chris Milliken of Milliken Family Farms and upon discovering they grew dates in the Coachella Valley, Clark decided to create this now- signature dish.
The blend of sweet Coachella dates with smoky bacon on a perfectly charred flatbread has become a favorite among patrons.
Visit Full Of Life Flatbread
Full of Life Flatbread’s dedication to locally sourced ingredients, coupled with Clark Staub’s culinary prowess, has made it a cherished destination for those who seek a taste of California’s Central Coast. As the restaurant continues to evolve, it remains a testament to the power of creativity, community, and a deep appreciation for the richness of California-grown produce. Stop by Full of Life Flatbread for a meal, then explore Los Alamos town, being sure to stop by the darling Elderflat farm stand for local produce and other artisan goods, too.
Have A Santa Barbara Agritourism Adventure
Couple a visit to Full of Life Flatbread with a weekend trip to the Santa Ynez Valley or as a stop as you drive up California Highway 101. Be sure also to check out these ten things to do for food lovers in the Santa Ynez Valley so that you can round out your Central Coast agritourism experience!
225 Bell St, Los Alamos, CA 93440
Open Thursday to Sunday