By Ashley Lockyer
The Fraser River gold rush only lasted from 1858 to 1865, but riches are still found in BC’s Fraser Valley when it comes to breakfast and baked goods (even some gluten-free gold). At Wendel’s Bookstore & Cafe you can devour a hearty brunch before you conquer the historic Fort Langley itself – a former Hudson’s Bay trading post – or just sip local coffee and adventure into a novel.
You can’t miss the cafe’s saloon-style building in the heart of town. From the sweeping patio bannisters to swinging doors, the cafe is a stronghold for breakfast classics: golden omelettes, pancakes, eggs benedict, and well-seasoned hash browns.
The cafe offers a taste of the area alongside the town’s BC heritage. All plates are made from carefully selected ingredients, using products like cage-free eggs, wild salmon, organic flour, and everything is locally sourced as much as possible.
Every slice of bread, even their tangy lemon-mascarpone topped French toast, is baked each morning. Sweet-tooths may have a hard time choosing between the bakery’s tarts, squares, scones, muffins, and flaky pastries made with seasonal fruits from nearby farms. The only thing that’s canned here are the mason jar pies (including mason jar tiramisu) and homemade jams.
“When the food is made from good ingredients, the flavour speaks for itself,” says owner Diane Morrison.
Each bite you take is into one of Diane’s mother’s recipes, from the breads to the benedicts. Many of the main dishes are internationally inspired by Diane’s days as a travel writer. The café’s namesake, Wendel, was Diane’s grandfather, and family photos line the walls. This cafe has a family business story that truly came out of a book.
While attending bookselling school (yes, it’s real) in Berkeley, California, Diane noticed all bookstores there offered coffee on the side, long before the days of big brand cafes. When she returned to Fort Langley to pursue her passion, Wendel’s Bookstore & Cafe was born. That was nearly 20 years ago.
Even their dedicated gluten-free bakery has a sweet story. One day, Diane’s mom noticed a little boy crying in her cafe. She offered him a cookie to cheer him up and was flabbergasted when told by his mother, “that’s why he’s crying, he’s celiac and can’t eat any of them.” That was that – everyone deserves to enjoy cookies! She set off into the bookstore and dug into the gluten-free baking books. They’ve been pioneering celiac-friendly recipes ever since.
Today from its Fort Langley base, Wendels True Foods has invaded grocery stores across the Lower Mainland, Toronto, and the Pacific Northwest with gluten-free goodness.
Celiac or not, if you just want to stroll with coffee in one hand and a flaky apple strudel in the other, you can walk around the quaint shops that host local foods, great restaurant patios, and bizarre antiques. If you’ve enjoyed a more ambitious brunch, you can walk it off on the scenic Fraser River trail before heading to the fort itself.
Fort Langley is often referred to as the birthplace of BC – before Canada was even a country – as it was on this site in 1858 that British Columbia was proclaimed a Crown Colony by James Douglas.The fort grounds let you get hands on with it’s story, and brunch in Wendel’s Bookstore & Cafe is a first chapter worth devouring.