Growing up in suburban Detroit, I was never more than a 20-minute drive to one of the many inland lakes in the area. Even Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and the southernmost tip of Lake Huron were a short drive away.
Going out to eat at one of the many restaurants on any of these freshwater gems was always a treat and gave the illusion of being “up north” as we called it, that magical place in Michigan where most Detroiters went to get away from the city.
When I heard about Decoy restaurant at Lakehouse Hotel & Resort I was intrigued. Could this possibly be a slice of the Midwest lakefront dining in San Marcos? Then I heard that one of my favorite San Diego chefs, David Warner had rejoined Eat.Drink.Sleep Hospitality Group as their new Corporate Executive Chef and it was time to check this place out.
While Lake San Marcos is not a natural lake, it sure feels like one and the plethora of pontoon boats and folks on paddleboards made me feel right at home.
Decoy itself is a fabulous space and the entire property and hotel has a fresh, contemporary look while still maintaining that lake resort vibe. The multi-course meal on a recent Monday night had chef Warner’s touches all over it. The Buttermilk Fried Quail, Whole Branzino, and Wild Boar Bolognese were standouts on a very solid menu.
They also now have a Decoy buffet brunch and Dock Bar located below Decoy with a separate menu. I will definitely be back to check out the bar and sample more of the menu but in the meantime wanted to share this conversation I had with chef Warner to give you some more insight on his background and style.
What influenced your move from Bottega Americano in East Village to Decoy in San Marcos?
Opening Bottega Americano was such an amazing experience. Being part of the concept, design and partnership of a very unique restaurant/marketplace from the very beginning is a chef’s dream. But, as a chef I get really excited about working with new ingredients/products and any chance to expand my craft. Coming back to Eat.Drink.Sleep. gives me the opportunity to do just that. With our many food outlets, I can now focus on the teaching and team building side of the kitchen. Working with my chefs and cooks to develop new concepts and better our properties.
Having had your fabulous cooking at JRDN, Bottega Americano, and now Decoy, I definitely recognize a David Warner style. How would you describe that?
Elevated Comfort Food. My food is very approachable. I use lots of seasonal vegetables and some modern techniques. I like my food to have a story behind what is on the plate. Whether it’s the farm the carrots are grown on or where we source our fish, I let the ingredients speak for themselves.
Tell me a bit about your culinary background and education prior to JRDN.
I graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After that I worked in Charleston South Carolina at a Relais & Chateaux property called Peninsula Grill. Then I moved back to my hometown Wildwood, New Jersey. There I worked at the Washington Inn in Cape May before moving to San Diego, California
Have there been chefs or instructors that have influenced you along the way?
Chef Andy Trousdale chef/instructor at culinary school. I worked at his restaurant when I wasn’t at school. Working with him gave me the opportunity to ask all the right questions.
Decoy Restaurant and the Lakehouse Hotel & Resort are somewhat of a hidden gem in San Marcos. How do you describe the resort to folks who are unfamiliar with it?
At Lakehouse, we invite guests to “escape the everyday.” You get to enjoy a full resort experience including TWO golf courses at St. Mark Golf Club, a full-service marina, tennis and multiple dining options at an affordable price. A lot of people are surprised to see the lake, mountain and pine trees because they associate North County with the coast.
What are some of your favorites on the menu?
I love our mussel dish, very flavorful with the chorizo and tomato broth. I also like our buttermilk fried quail with truffle honey and Carolina gold BBQ sauce.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 395-6905.