Lifestyle

Common Ground Cafe's food 'made with love'

QASHAB VAN WALLEGHEM, from left, Mitzpah Fontaine, Alon Saylor and Amanah Bacsu are part of the community that co-owns Common Ground Café. - PHOTO BY RENEE ANDOR
QASHAB VAN WALLEGHEM, from left, Mitzpah Fontaine, Alon Saylor and Amanah Bacsu are part of the community that co-owns Common Ground Café.
— image credit: PHOTO BY RENEE ANDOR

Healthy-tasting home-cooked food and a cozy atmosphere is what you'll find when you go to Common Ground Cafe to eat.

Located in a former house on Fifth Street, Common Ground features funky wooden furniture, weathered wood walls, stonework and macramé, which give the place a rustic and original look.

Friendly staff promptly greeted my lunch companion and I, and we took a seat at one of the interesting booth seats.

I ordered the daily special, a tuna melt, and chose the curried yam soup to go with it. The soup was creamy with the just right hint of curry heat. I told our server how delicious it was and she replied that it's a customer favourite — I can certainly see why.

The tuna melt had tuna with melted cheddar cheese and lettuce and tomato on a sesame bun and was completely satisfying.

My companion chose the roast beef sandwich, which had cheddar cheese, onion, tomato and horseradish on an onion roll. We both noticed all the food tasted healthy and home-cooked — my companion actually commented that the roast beef reminded her of her mother's.

Co-owner Qashab Van Walleghem explained why the food tastes so good.

"It's all made with love," he said, noting the food isn't 100 per cent organic, but it's as locally sourced as possible. "We bake our own bread and we make all our desserts and sweets and soups from scratch, too."

The café is co-owned by about five or six families, and a few single people, who all live on a communal property together in Merville.

"As a people we're a community; we all live together in common unity and this is our business. It's like a big family, so we live like a big family and it's like a big family business," he said, adding the business doesn't issue any paycheques and the community shares the profits. "We all work here together, we take turns doing the shifts — pretty much everyone has at least a little bit of time we get the café."

Food from the community's farm is used in the restaurant, such as the root vegetables in the soups, and extra vegetables are sold at the café in the summertime as well.

They also take bread and vegetable scraps from the café back to the farm for their chickens.

The community has lived in the Valley for about eight years, and opened the café about 2.5 years ago, but Van Walleghem noted many of the people came from other similar communities in Canada and have known each other for as long as 25 years.

The community built the café together, with some help from other North American communities that have people skilled in certain trades like stonework.

"It's based on the theme of the very first one 40 years ago in Tennessee, which is basically a lot of just found, recycled and restored materials put together to make something beautiful," explained Van Walleghem of the café's look. "A lot of things on their own, they're not nice, but if you put them together the right way, they make something beautiful.

"It's kind of like us. A lot of us, we didn't really fit in out there, we were kind of misfits or tossed out into the trash but all together we found a community life that is, the whole is something beautiful."

According to Van Walleghem, the community plans to start on an addition in the spring and he estimates the space should nearly double in size when complete. The group hopes to put in a fireplace and have a comfortable social space in the new part of the café, as well as a larger kitchen. They also plan to sell their bread out of the café.

The café features a patio area with six tables during the summer months. It offers reasonably priced breakfast, lunch and dinner fare, as well as a selection of espresso-based drinks and Yerba Maté teas, which boast many health benefits.

Common Ground Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays. It is closed on weekends.

It is located at 596 Fifth St. in Courtenay and the phone number is 250-897-1111.

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