This Squamish Hot Spot Is Worth The Drive From Vancouver
About halfway along the jaw-dropping Sea-to-Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler you’ll pass the charming town of Squamish. Within it sits the award-winning Sunwolf Resort, known for its stunning location, rustic riverside cabins and sustainable approach to hospitality.
But it is the onsite restaurant, Fergie’s Café, that really draws a crowd. A local favourite for decades, the café serves up delicious food in a beautiful setting at the confluence of the Cheakamus and Cheekye Rivers.
The café and resort are owned by the Freese family — Jake, Jess and their three little boys. In 2018, a devastating fire burned down the original café structure — a tiny local hot spot which had been on the site since the early 1900s. But the family rebuilt, blending old favourites with a cool new look.
Landsby spoke with Jess Freese about the design, their sustainable approach to business and the incredible community they serve.
What was the inspiration for the design that replaced the original building?
Our incredible location.
Since the fire decimated the existing structure, we were able to start the design fresh, though with some tight restrictions. The District of Squamish set us a mandate to build the bulk of the structure 10 feet above the flood plain on reinforced concrete columns. We decided to take advantage of this elevation and focus the building on the epic views of the river and mountains. At the same time, we carefully built around an iconic mature Black Walnut tree that shades our dining area on hot summer days.
The design was conceived by local passive house architect, Chris Hunter, with sustainability as the common denominator for every decision, from the materials to the mechanical systems. The intention was to have the café look like it naturally emerged from the surrounding west coast forest, which I think we’ve succeeded in doing. The building is large and impressive, but it fits into its environment like it was always meant to be there.
What feeling do you want your customers to have when they visit Fergie’s and dine here?
We hope our guests consider a visit to Fergie’s as a moment stolen from time. The hustle can be left behind at the car as you follow a winding wooden walkway lined with trees, cross a bridge and walk along the building with the beautiful walnut tree’s leaves within arm’s reach.
Parents can enjoy their meal in full while their kids play on the playground. Dogs get to hang out with their people instead of being left in the car or leashed off to the side. There is accessible seating and bathrooms, so no one is excluded. We want everyone to feel welcome, included, and immersed in nature.
What kind of food do you serve?
Our legendary brunch is what put us on the map, and these days it’s not unusual to find our guests have driven for over two hours to come and eat with us. The new dinner menu is all about food that brings people together, with an emphasis on our house smoked meats and fish. We love to surprise people with just how good our food is: it’s comfort food with wow factor.
Do you source local ingredients?
Sourcing ingredients locally is written into our company policies; it is an essential part of our operations. For example, our organic coffee comes from Galileo Coffee Comany, located in Squamish. Our organic eggs come from a farm less than 100 km away. We strongly feel that sustainability isn’t actually an option anymore; it’s a necessity. As a business, we consider our impact on the environment at every level of our operations.
What is the view like from Fergie’s?
Nature absolutely surrounds us. As you enter the restaurant along a walkway on the south side of the building, you can see little more than the dense foliage of the walnut tree. Then as you step out onto the front deck, the huge cantilevered roof over your head frames an immense panoramic view of Mount Alpha that really blows you away.
The majority of our seating is out on our lawn with trees all around and the Cheakamus River just a stone’s throw away. You can often spot an eagle gliding above with the peaks of the Tantalus Range behind. If you look carefully through the leaves, you can spy the only other man-made structures around: our Sunwolf lodge and riverside cabins.
What is your favourite thing about the building?
It might be a niche interest but our earth tube passive heating and cooling system is pretty neat! We have four intake tubes zigzagging 10 feet underground where the temperature is steady year round. This means in the summer the air is pre-cooled and in the winter it’s pre-heated before entering the restaurant, saving energy. It was a very innovative project headed by Trevor Butler, a specialist based in Kelowna.
Do you have a favourite spot to eat on the property?
Every spot offers something different: the picnic tables on the lawn offer a casual backyard feel, the heated undercover patio tables offer shelter on rainy days with a wood-burning fireplace to cozy thing up; the dining trailer offers a cabin-in-the-woods vibe with another fireplace framed by floor-to-ceiling windows and the Cheakamus River beyond; the upstairs deck has a treehouse effect with huge views of Mount Alpha.
Tell us a little bit about the community in which you are located?
Squamish is a beautiful community, both in its location and its people. There’s a deep-seated appreciation for where we get to live and play, whether it’s from long-time residents or newcomers. We have a small but growing community that’s equal distance from a world-class ski resort and an international city. We go through our day-to-day routines surrounded by mountains, ocean, rivers, lakes and lush forests. It’s hard not to feel passionate about protecting these natural spaces when they’re everywhere you look.
It’s the people who really make it, though. We celebrate each other’s successes and grieve each other’s losses together. It’s a place where helping hands are only waiting to be extended. We experienced that ourselves as a business when our café burned down, with assistance and support coming from all sides.