It caught our attention a couple of years ago during a junket up to the Comox Valley, but it wasn’t until recently that we managed to actually make it through the doors of Courtenay’s Common Ground Café. It is, undeniably, one of the most welcoming places in which we have enjoyed a meal during our extensive travels on Vancouver Island.
Common Ground is tucked up towards the top of Fifth Street in downtown Courtenay, just far enough out of the business core to be missable if you don’t tend to ever get lost or take exploratory detours during your adventures. And if you arrive on a weekend, too bad – they are only open weekdays and the gates leading up to the attractive cedar shake-clad historic home will be closed and locked. Truly though, this place is worth the effort to get there during the week.
Common Ground is operated by a small religious sect called The Twelve Tribes. Much of the café’s produce is sourced from the group’s communal farm in Merville, keeping in step with their goal of bringing the café patrons ‘true, wholesome food’. Judging by the lunch we enjoyed they are doing pretty well on that front.
My husband, who is most definitely not a huge salad fan, saw one of the Cranberry Nut salads headed for another table and immediately ordered one for himself, along with a bowl of scratch-made split pea soup and a slice of the restaurant’s house-made bread. The salad was declared the best he had ever eaten – unlike so many offerings in other places that are primarily greens this one was loaded with a generous combination of dried cranberries and a cornucopia of crunchy nuts, making for a filling and healthy meal. The soup had that unique combination of flavours and texture that declared, right from the first spoonful, that it was created with great ingredients and a deft hand.
I opted for the Montreal smoked meat sandwich, served on house-made bread with a mouth-watering sauerkraut, accompanied simply with potato chips and a flavourful dill pickle spear.
Aside from the tasty food at the Common Ground we loved the earthy, rustic ambiance. The group purchased the old house, built during the 1920s, in 2005 and spent several years refurbishing the interior with ‘found objects’ from the Comox Valley, including weathered barn board, driftwood, macramé hangings and a pretty little fountain. Although the place was packed solid when we first arrived the intriguing décor and warm welcome from the staff were enough to make us want to stick around, wait a few minutes for a table and see what was on offer. We also liked the fact that some of the original features of the old house, including the entrance and windows, remained intact thereby adding to the unique atmosphere.
Common Ground offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, with daily specials for all three times of day. You can also peruse the menu and, if you feel so inclined create your own sandwich by ordering a variety of ingredients that may not be included in the standard offerings. Gluten-free options are also available.
If you are looking for some lovely, reasonably-priced food served with warmth and good grace (and no proselytizing, I am pleased to report) in a unique and pristinely clean environment, Common Ground comes highly recommended. There are a couple of pretty outdoor patios at the front of the house that no doubt make for a charming al fresco dining option during good weather.
Common Ground does not have a web site, but has a Facebook presence under the listing of Common Ground Café Courtenay BC
Price rating: $ – $$
The café is located at 596 Fifth Street, Courtenay
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.68923513053117 Long. -125.00338450905428
N 49 41.354 W 125 00.203