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Kuu-us Café: Indigenous restaurant, gift shop opens in Port Alberni

Kuu-us Café and Gifts raises funds for Kuu-us Crisis Line Society
Ken Watts, Tseshaht First Nation elected Chief Councillor, and Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns pay a visit to Kuu-us Cafe and Gifts in Port Alberni. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

A new café and gift store in Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island, offers a unique menu of traditional Nuu-chah-nulth food and raises funds for a local non-profit.

Kuu-us Café and Gifts, located on Gertrude Street, officially opened to the public on Jan. 15. Todd Flaro, manager of the store, says the response from the community has been positive.

“And the food’s amazing,” he says. “We’ve sold out every day we’ve been open.”

A “profit for non-profit” venture, the initiative raises funds for Kuu-us Crisis Line Society. The society runs a crisis line for suicide prevention, but also offers outreach support, housing, food hampers and a number of other services and programs.

Executive director Colin Minions and operations manager Sean McAnerin came up with the idea of an Indigenous-themed gift shop, gallery and café. Work began in October 2022 to add a commercial kitchen to the location.

“It’s not just a crisis line,” Flaro says. “They also do a lot of outreach within the community.”

Head chef Brandee Robinson created the menu at Kuu-us Café with the intent of bringing West Coast Indigenous food to the forefront. Robinson, who is Ahousaht First Nation, grew up in the back of the kitchen watching her grandmother cook. It inspired Robinson to enter the cooking business herself, starting out on boats and later moving into restaurant work.

“This is the chowder I grew up eating,” Robinson explained of the Kuu-us Café menu. “I didn’t grow up eating a lot of store-bought foods. That’s what I wanted to bring here – simple things put out in a good way, in a healthy way.”

The menu includes rotating game meat options of venison, elk and bison, as well as seafood and plenty of bannock (or fry bread). Chili and seafood chowder are on the menu every day, says Flaro, and bannock sandwiches — shaped like a Sasquatch foot — come in “Auntie” or “Uncle” size. There are grab-and-go options, as well as sit-down meals and desserts.

Along with the food, the cottage is also full of Indigenous and west coast artwork and gifts available to purchase. Flaro says all products are ethically sourced.

For now, the café is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Monday to Friday, but Flaro says he plans to open Saturdays in the future. The café also aims to offer online orders at

“We just wanted to test the waters to start,” Flaro says. “The response has been amazing so far. I keep hearing people say, ‘I can’t believe we finally have this.’”

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Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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