Cafe Secret has new owner, new look and B&B


Cafe Secret, a funky sidewalk cafe in Del Mar, boasts not only a unique menu but its namesake “secret,” a bed and breakfast tucked away in back.

Cafe Secret’s owner, New Orleans native Chris Lakey, 32, ended up in San Diego when a trip to visit his brother in Orange County unexpectedly turned into a permanent move.

Lakey’s interest in food was first sparked in his boyhood home of New Orleans when a friend’s father would host friends on weekends to eat home-cooked French food.

When he was working toward his business degree at the University of Alabama, Lakey worked in different restaurants and decided that the industry was where he wanted to spend his career.

“The last (chef) I apprenticed with was this Swiss-trained chef who was very old school, throwing pans and yelling, and it was either you learned it his way or the highway,” Lakey said. “I learned a lot, but I also learned that’s not the way to run a business anymore ... you have to be much more accommodating.”

When his younger brother lost his home in Hurricane Katrina and relocated to Orange County, Lakey paid him a visit and quickly fell in love with the coastal community of Encinitas. When he decided to make the move permanent, he began to look for a small cafe to run.

“So literally I never got on the second half of my trip back to New Orleans,” Lakey said. “I just stayed. Basically I had all my stuff shipped out, little by little. I just sold my house two months ago in Birmingham … it’s kind of odd how we both ended up out here. But I absolutely love it.”

Lakey said that unlike many cafes, his menu would not be posted on a chalkboard, enabling him to be more creative.

“Originally I was going to do just the chalkboard, and it just became too overwhelming,” he said. “You end up leaving the same things on there, whereas if you have a menu and specials, you constantly have to reinvent it.” Conveniently, the Clone printing shop is located close to the cafe, enabling Lakey to change the menu whenever he wants.

Cafe Secret already features a few healthy entrees on the breakfast menu, and in the future, Lakey would also like his dishes to include more organic ingredients. Everything is made in the cafe itself, and no processed foods are used.

Some of the mouth-watering lunch treats already on the menu include a shrimp wrap with spinach, cranberries, cherry tomatoes, cojita cheese and salsa fresca, and a fish burger with grilled Mahi, Napa slaw and tomato on a French roll. For breakfast, there is a “Go Green” wrap with egg whites, spinach, zucchini and avocado with pesto and cojita cheese in a spinach tortilla. A croissant sandwich features carved caramelized ham, sharp cheddar and scrambled eggs.

So far, Lakey said his new business is doing well and is receiving a positive response.

“A lot of people that have just moved into town, they like a smaller place where you actually remember their names, their kid’s names,” he said. “We’ve got a real tight knit community.”

Cafe Secret is aptly named because the “secret” is the bed and breakfast in the back. The two-story bed and breakfast has a penthouse with a Jacuzzi on the upper level and three, one-bedrooms on the ground level. So far it has hosted guests from Italy, Russia, Canada and Germany.

Despite having been open only since mid-August after a major remodeling, Cafe Secret has catered at least three private parties, including a wedding. In the picturesque courtyard connecting the cafe to the bed and breakfast, Lakey would also like to start hosting movie nights.

Cafe Secret is located at 1140 Camino Del Mar and is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Breakfast is served until 11 a.m. when lunch starts. Call (858) 792-0821 for information.