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Squamish food beat: New Festal Café offers gluten-free recipes

 ‘We want to make sure that we build it to the community and custom make it to the community,’ says owner.

A new café aims to bring more quality ingredients and healthy eating and drinking options to Squamish.

Festal Café opened in late January near the corner of Cleveland Avenue and Buckley Avenue, but owner Jason Gnanaprakasam has already felt the compliments on the food and drinks the café serves.

“They’re really happy,” he said of the customers so far. “And I’m actually happy because it’s a bit reassuring.”

Festal used to be located in Vancouver, but then moved to the current location in Squamish.

He said the food and menu have changed over time, but at its core, they want to serve quality ingredients.

“We strongly hold onto gluten-free [recipes],” he said. “We use wholesome ingredients.”

For example, instead of canola oil, they use ingredients like coconut oil, avocado oil or olive oil. Right now, he estimated that 70% of the ingredients are organic, but noted they are continuing to work with suppliers to make everything organic.

The name Festal means feast and at the café, he said, it can be seen as translating to “feasting with healthy foods.”

Gnanaprakasam had a number of recommendations for first-timers to the café, including the chipotle hash bowl for breakfast or the turkey bacon club sandwich for lunch.

“It has everything that you need, perfectly balanced and it tastes good as well,” he said of the turkey bacon club, which is served between slices of waffle made with cassava flour and coconut flour.

For dinner, he suggested the lasagne but also raved about the butter chicken.

“The butter chicken has no butter in it, so it’s dairy-free,” he said. “It’s made with cashew butter and it tastes exactly the same as a traditional butter chicken.” 

“And I’m Indian, I’m very critical [of] that, and I would eat it,” he said with a laugh.

After they finalized the menu, Gnanaprakasam said they would have a dietitian look it over and calculate nutritional information to benefit customers.

Kids menu in the works

While he said James Wong, the executive chef, is always working on new dishes, Gnanaprakasam said Wong is specifically working on a menu for kids, which he said would resemble the regular menu but presented in a way kids would like.

“It’s not just fried food that we want, so I want to shift that focus on having a healthier kids’ menu as well,” he said.

Gnanaprakasam expressed a lot of gratitude with the warm welcome the café has already received and noted they are always open for feedback, calling himself and Wong both “very easygoing.”

“We want to make sure that we build it to the community and custom make it to the community, keeping our founding principles which [are] gluten-free, healthy and using wholesome ingredients,” he said.

Festal Café is open daily except Tuesdays. Check out more information at festalcafe.com.

The Food Beat is a new series from The Squamish Chief newsroom focusing on restaurants, cafés and eateries in Squamish that are newly opened or have something newsworthy about them. If you think your business fits that bill and would like to be considered for this series, reach out to news@squamishchief.com.