A Q&A with Main Deck Restaurant in Penn Yan, NY

When you pair thoughtfully crafted cuisine with a stunning lakefront property in the Finger Lakes, you’re in for a treat that will keep you coming back and will not disappoint! Answering this call is Penn Yan’s newest lakeside dining establishment, Main Deck, headed up by industry veteran and General Manager Brad Burritt, with Executive Chef Jason Lambert – a seasoned (pun intended!) culinary expert who has held coveted positions in some of the country’s most renowned restaurants – at the helm in the kitchen.

Located on the scenic shores of Keuka Lake (which makes for an excellent private event or wedding venue), Main Deck serves delectable dishes using locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant also offers variety in its service model, offering guests two additional dining experiences: the Tunnel Bar, which offers a more in-depth look into cocktail culture and local craft beers; and the seasonal grab-and-go, quick-service option called Scuttlebutts – both of which are on the property.

Adding to Main Deck’s appeal is its homage to the Penn Yan community and the Finger Lakes’ signature pastimes, such as the region’s wine culture and leisurely outdoor activities like boating. (Really – check out the boat propeller in their logo and the beautiful boat suspended from the ceiling of the dining area!)

We checked in with Brad Burritt to learn more about Main Deck, what guests can expect during their visit and the philosophy behind creating value for customers – from the menus that are curated, to the difference this restaurant looks to make in the way the Penn Yan community dines.

Brittany: Let’s start at the beginning: Could you give us some background on how Main Deck came to fruition?

Brad: Main Deck restaurant was started with the owner, Tim Stewart, who is a Penn Yan native and local to this Finger Lakes region. We wanted to add something to this area that complemented the surroundings and gave people an outlet to enjoy. Construction began in January of 2022 – six months later, we were opening, training staff and introducing Main Deck to the public.

Brittany: Wow, that is excellent! And I love hearing that Main Deck was born with the Penn Yan community in mind.

In addition to being a really picturesque destination right on Keuka Lake, I noticed a few other things that may attract visitors: Main Deck sort of functions in a couple of other ways with Scuttlebutts and the Tunnel Bar patio lounge. Could you tell me a little more about these different aspects of the restaurant?

Brad: It’s all one building: In the garage space in the lower level is the Tunnel Bar, and the look there has more of an industrial feel with features like the exposed ceiling, rock wall, and a steel sink-top bar. It’s both an indoor and outdoor space, with garage doors that open up to the patio where we have lounge chairs and fireplaces.

Brittany: Sounds beautiful for the evenings! And I see Main Deck occasionally has live music performances – another great element that adds to the ambiance.

How about Scuttlebutts?

Brad: We’re located next to a town park; and so at the top of the building, we created a corner kitchen for fast take-aways – so people can come up and order quick bites like corndogs, milkshakes and French fries. We want everyone to feel that they can come here to enjoy the space and the property.

Brittany: No matter what they’re in the mood for.

Brad: Exactly, and that’s the point: Whether you’re getting right off the boat at the dock, or if you want to bring the kids or family for brunch, or if it’s date night – there’s something for everybody.

For example, we have “Beer Flight Wednesday” where we have beer flights and fresh oysters that Chef Lambert shucks bar side. On Thursdays, we offer a three-course, prix fixe “Date Night” menu that builds up to our end-of-the-month wine dinner. And we have “Fish Fry-days and Lobster Night” on Fridays where we offer more casual options for lunch service, and then unique lobster specials for dinner.

Brittany: Wow, so someone could really spend their entire week at Main Deck if they wanted to. Well, keeping with the discussion around prix fixed, themed dinners: Main Deck had a Friendsgiving event in November, one for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. What’s the inspiration for hosting these types of events?

Brad: Let me first give you a bit more background into how Main Deck came to be: The county had engaged new business owners to revitalize and renovate areas, and this property specifically had been slated for this program. So with all of this in mind, we aim to be price sensitive and don’t want to come across as exclusive. We set up our prix fixe to be inclusive and give people an outlet to go out for dinners and have fun. And we care about our employees and their livelihoods; it’s important to us that we’re fair with our team members.

Brittany: That’s very encouraging, and it speaks even more to Main Deck’s dedication to being a staple in the Penn Yan community.

Brad: Absolutely. We aim to support local vendors as well. With our wine-pairing dinners, specifically, we choose to partner with the local wineries that we feel need more exposure. We purchase the wine at full price from the vendor, and discount it for our customers so they can enjoy that experience, which really benefits nearby businesses and customers all the way around.

Brittany: Fantastic! And while we’re speaking along the lines of sourcing ingredients locally, could you tell me more about Main Deck’s “farm-to-table” approach?

Brad: Everything on our menu is created, as much as possible, here. Just as a few examples, we make our own bacon, sausage, pickles, sauerkraut and bread. We’re brining, curing and smoking all of our meats and pastramis ourselves.

Brittany: Do your menus change periodically?

Brad: Yes, our menu changes seasonally because we want to take advantage of what’s available locally and keep our customers interested and engaged. We’re fortunate to be in New York where there are a lot of farms. In fact, right down the street from us is one of the oldest buckwheat producers here. We use buckwheat in items like our pancakes and soba noodles for ramen dishes.

Brittany: Oh, I love ramen. Just when I thought the menu couldn’t get any more appetizing…it does! What other types of crops or produce go into Main Deck’s meals?

Brad: We can utilize the fresh mushrooms that are found here. We’ve been using a lot of cauliflower and heartier greens because it’s colder, as well as carrots and more.

Brittany: Gotcha. Alternatively, will there be staple items on the menu that anyone can enjoy year-round?

Brad: Our burger is one of our best sellers! We grind our own beef for that. We’ve also got salads, flatbreads, and various chops and meats that are always available. Because of the colder season, we started adding a beef cheek from the butcher that is right up the street from us. It’s very hearty, and they’re great with our Alabama grits.

Brittany: I will definitely plan to stop by to savor some of these items, and I’m sure readers will too! These dishes sound too scrumptious not to try at least once.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about Main Deck?

Brad: Part of the concept when we started was to really drive that we are not just a dining room. I know from being in the restaurant business that we’re obligated to create value for customers and team members, and we care a lot about doing so.

Brittany: That sounds amazing. Thanks for taking some time to chat with me, Brad. I know Main Deck is going to be a Penn Yan favorite for anyone who stops by!