The newest iteration of Brackendale’s popular Fergie’s Cafe is currently under construction off the old Squamish Valley Road where the Cheakamus and Cheekeye Rivers meet. The previous version, you might remember, burned to the ground in a kitchen fire last Spring.
As co-owner Jake Freese tells it, he awoke in the middle of the night last April 3rd to see a strange fiery orange glow through the window. He rose to check it out, leaving his wife and business partner, Jessamy, in bed. He returned just a few seconds later, resigned to what he’d just seen.
“Do you want to come say goodbye to Fergie’s?”
By dawn the restaurant was a smoking ruin being picked over by dozens of local firefighters, most of whom were aware of the significance of what had happened.
Over the years, the charming little Brackendale cafe had evolved into something of an institution to thousands up and down the Sea-to-Sky. Despite menu updates and operational tweaks (and as the region underwent tremendous change), Fergie’s had stayed essentially the same, providing not only halcyon comfort and a sense of community connectedness to the queuing throng (there was almost always a line-up), but also familiar, unfussy deliciousness. So when it burned down it hit a lot of locals hard, as if something constant and certain had been taken from them.
It’s been a long while since Fergie’s began its journey to institutional renown. Before it was a cafe it was a fishing lodge, and before that – over 100 years ago – I think it was a logging camp. Jake and Jessamy, both adventurous imports from England’s east, have been in charge since 2010, turning it into a must-visit spot for al fresco feasting.
On a recent visit with them (and an overnight stay in one of the 12 adjacent Sunwolf cabins), we chatted about the fire, how they felt like custodians of Fergie’s rather than its owners, and the manner in which the place was going to be reborn.
Michelle and I sat in our cabin with them over fresh coffee and pastries, looking at the architectural plans together with front of house manager Naomi Horii and general manager Vanessa DeNardo. The design – by Chris Hunter of Squamish-based firm Hunter Office – is pretty stunning. Just beyond the windows of the cabin, we could see its concrete foundation pillars being put in, and from those see the rectangular footprint that juts out towards the river. It looks to be perfectly oriented to the mountain peak that looms large beyond the river.
The emphasis with the new Fergie’s will be on the outdoors, with the new, strikingly modern-looking, cantilevered structure – the 1,400 sqft of which will house a covered patio, an 8-seat bar and a state-of-the-art kitchen designed by Roger Newton (see also Araxi, Bar Oso, Wolf In The Fog) – acting as an umbrella for diners gathered underneath and around it. There will be 40 seats (warmed by a fireplace) positioned directly under the building with another 100+ seats spread out around the grass on picnic benches and communal tables. A further 30+ seats remain in the nearby cozy trailer, which was built in 2017 but mercifully left largely undamaged by the fire.
As mentioned, the foundation pillars were already in as we discussed the plans spread out in front of us. They are hoping to launch it by early May. The culinary writ is to serve the same food as before, albeit with some new dishes. The fundamental change will be a transition to table service — so no more queuing up. They’ll start with daytime-only services (plus special events and private functions), but are hoping to eventually offer evening service as well.
We’ll have more on the project as it nears completion, but in the meantime, here’s a look at what we saw…