My interview with Amanda Kroetsch (owner of Living Cafe) began with me seeking advice. Two of my family members have recently been experimenting with new ways of eating; one is now a vegetarian and the other is exploring a gluten-free diet, which has forced me to look at cooking in an entirely different way. She assured me that it is a workable situation and calmed down this grain-eating carnivore!
Kroetsch is highly familiar with a variety of diets, which people choose either as a lifestyle preference, or elect to follow due to a health issue.
For fourteen years Kroetsch battled a long list of unexplained symptoms, which was diagnosed 5 years ago as Celiac disease. She found immediate relief when she adopted a gluten-free diet.
The organically inspired eatery opened last August. Aware that there was nothing like her restaurant in the village Kroetsch wanted to offer the community delicious, wholesome and nutrient dense foods. While she did not train as a chef she brings to the business her vast personal experience.
She admits that a strong desire to create the Living Cafe came from longing to have a place to dine with family and friends without the fear of getting sick and the embarrassment of being the odd one out.
While Kroetsch would ideally like to be a raw vegan she has discovered that a paleo diet (meat, vegetables and fruit) works best for her physiology. Whether you have no dietary restrictions, or you are a vegetarian, vegan, paleo-friendly, gluten-free or have food allergies, Living Cafe offers menu items to satisfy ever diner.
She dispels two myths about her business; it is neither exclusively vegetarian nor is it just a juice bar. So what will you find inside the busy cafe? The space is divided into two rooms with an archway separating the dining room from the kitchen and retail area. The light green walls of the eating space house a number of tables. Soft music was playing the day my taste testers and I enjoyed lunch. While we waited for our meal we sipped orange and mint infused alkaline water and perused cookbooks found on the bookshelf in the dining room.
Two of us enjoyed the BLT sandwich on gluten-free bread, which tricked us both. It did not taste like any gluten-free bread that I have eaten; it was like the real McCoy. Our other companion dined on the “Tuna” salad sandwich. The tuna is actually made from a raw nut pate (sunflower seeds and almonds) and was given a big two thumbs up, as were the house-made flax veggie crackers.
Only the freshest ingredients are used with a focus on Ocean Wise sustainable seafood sourced from local fishermen, ethical and organic meat and chicken from B.C. farms, free eggs from Rabbit River Farms located in Richmond, and organic produce from local farmers.
Comfort food is a large part of the Living Cafe experience. You will find revamped takes on many favourites that are flavourfully adapted to keep the yum-o-meter registering high. Some of the popular menu items include the vegan Caesar salad made with an in-house dressing and herb focaccia croutons. Smoothies are not made with ice or fillers but rather with organic frozen fruit and almond milk made in-house – Kroetsch describes it as a meal in a glass. The hearty vegan Moroccan stew, Chicken Salad sandwich, Herbivore Hash and Eggs Benny (made with vegan butternut squash hollandaise sauce) are all crowd pleasers.
Speaking of crowds, the cafe has been doing very well since it opened. Kroetsch is pleased to report that every month business has grown. She and her staff of 8 are thrilled by the amazing support of loyal locals and there is a fair amount of drop in traffic too. There is certainly spin off business from hungry whale watchers at neighbouring business Vancouver Whale Watch.
Young families have been great supporters of the restaurant. Steveston resident Tracy Johnstone says she does not know what she or family would do without Living Cafe. Their dietary needs hinge on the gluten-free baked goods that they can find nowhere else in Steveston. She has become one of the restaurants biggest fans.
The Living Cafe’s retail section offers a display case is packed with baked goods. To name just a few, you will find gingersnap cookies,
dairy free double chocolate cake, paleo mudpies, quinoa carrot cake, lemon blueberry muffins, chocolate zucchini loaf, banana bread, vegan cupcakes and scones.
The freezer case contains an array of gluten-free baked goods including baguettes, hamburger buns, quinoa bread, cinnamon raisin bread, pumpkin cranberry rosemary bread, chia flax bread and vegan pizza shells.
In the future Kroetsch would love to see everything that they use in the kitchen available in their retail section. Soon she will be introducing celiac safe bulk bins.
Living Cafe is open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With a goal to expand the dinner menu and an application for a liquor license in the works, it goes without saying that business is going to continue to climb. Whether you have special dietary needs or not, this is a wonderful place to dine and feel good about what you eat.
240-12240 Second Avenue
Richmond BC V7E 3L8