Standing armies of tiny white and purple flowers invade every inch of the yard, melodious frog-song ripples through the still evening, baby lambs and piglets frolic and romp in the pastures, and love hangs in the air as thick and heavy as the warm, mossy scent after a gentle rain.  It is finally Spring here at the Hollow, and our hearts are as light as the breeze that is gently flowing through the window as I write.

It makes perfect sense to me that Valentine’s Day just happens to herald springtime.  It is by its very nature the most romantic of the seasons, as is evidenced by the baby bunnies and quail chicks in the backyard.  And when my thoughts turn to love and romance, I can think of no better way to celebrate it than a day away from having to cook and wash dishes!

Food is a part of every celebration in every culture and corner of the world, so it should come as no surprise to find happy folks roaming this way and that way in search of the perfect location to enjoy the tasty treats that will lovingly complement any happy occasion.  When it is my turn to find the perfect spot, I always tend to follow the “locals”.  Better than Michelin stars hanging proudly on the walls, a burgeoning parking lot is the highest testament to great food.  And if it also happens to have a place to tether your horse, then you really know you’ve found something special.

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Located just minutes up the road from our quaint town of Duncan, BC, in a charming and eclectic little place called “Whippletree Junction“, sits the famous Pioneer House restaurant.   Food-savvy locals here have been taking their sweethearts to this rustic log house since the 1970′s.  Current owner Gerald John, and until recently his mother Shelagh, have been the reason folks have kept coming back since 1977.  Featuring a menu of mouth-watering home-style cooking, the only problem is trying to decide what to order first!

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Coming through the ornate front doors takes you on a trip back in time to when guns and whiskey glasses dotted the bar and cancan girls danced gaily to jovial piano tunes.  This antique bar, found quite by accident in a deserted mining town near Butte, Montana by Whippletree Junction founder Randy Streit, brings authentic wild-west charm and feel to the log building that was specifically constructed to showcase it.  Still shining proudly with the original finish, it has undoubtedly witnessed many an evening filled with much merriment, and as legend has it, perhaps the occasional gun fight as well, as it graced the St.Francis saloon from 1890-1971.

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

The dining room is warm and cozy and the large fireplace makes a great place to sit and snuggle with your beloved as “Frank” the buffalo, a celebrated antique in his own right, keeps an ever-watchful eye on the goings-on beneath.  Western-themed artifacts and antique bric-a-brac adorn the walls and shelves creating a unique atmosphere to complement the hearty food and cheery chatter.

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

With nooks and crannies abound, it is an easy task to find the perfect spot to suit any occasion.  And if you happen to be dining without a family of your own, it is not unusual for the one at the next table to adopt you for a spell!  The friendly staff knows most of the patrons by name, and even if it is your first visit, you quickly feel welcome and a part of the festivities.

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

If you and your sweetie happen to have any room left after your dinner, you can enjoy a romantic tete-a-tete and steaming mug of coffee over a colossal cinnamon roll made just for sharing!

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

Pioneer House Restaurant - Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Pioneer House Restaurant – Duncan, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada –

So if you happen to be near Whippletree Junction anytime soon with a tired horse and a hungry sweetheart, mosey on down to the Pioneer House restaurant, order up a cold sarsaparilla and set a spell.  Gerald and his friendly team will be more than happy to take care of the cooking and cleaning, and your honey will think you’re sweeter than a heart-shaped box of bon-bons!

Thanks for joining us today as we ride off into the sunset with full bellies and warm hearts.  As always, please do share your thoughts and comments as we love them all dearly!

Until next time!

Warmly,

Mrs. Toad

Pioneer House Restaurant on Urbanspoon



  1. avatar Bev Oliver says:

    Lovely stuff once again, Toads. Beautifully written, Mrs. Toad, and the (now expected) spectacular warm lighting of Mr. Toad’s sumptuous photography! These images appear to step right through time. One expects crusty miners and outlaws to belly up to that bar! Perhaps brazen dance hall girls to lean provocatively over those rails; see what a spell you cast? Keep going! The world will beat a path to our door!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you so much for your comments today Bev, these are the exact feelings that we experienced being in such a wonderful place. That bar really is something impressive, and oh, the stories it could tell! Thanks for popping by, it’s always such a pleasure to see you here!

  2. avatar Colleen says:

    Such beautiful photos! This looks like such a warm and inviting place to visit. Great story Mrs. Toad!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Hi Colleen, thanks so much for your visit! The only thing more inviting than the wonderful atmosphere is the great food, and of course, Frank the buffalo! Thanks for your great comments.

  3. What a great set! this is our kinda place, the Empress would love this place, hard to pick a favorite, shot very well!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thanks Michael, Mr. Toad describes this place as “a target-rich environment” as there are so wonderful things just begging to be photographed! I suspect you and he would have a jolly good time shooting this place together!

  4. avatar Lisa Gordon says:

    What a wonderful place, and your photographs of it are just beautiful.

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you Lisa, having such a great subject to photograph makes our part much easier! Thanks so much for your visit today!

  5. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Great post Mrs. Toad. Oh how I wish that spring would hit Toronto. Today was the first day and it was still soooo cold :(

    These pictures are fabulous and I really want to come for a visit and have one of those cinnamon rolls!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Hi Edith, having grown up next door to you in Montreal, I can honestly say that a warm, gigantic cinnamon roll is exactly what you need! I hope spring finds you soon, and if not, you are always welcome to come and share some of ours!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Haha, good news Derrick, we know of just the place to help you with that! Thanks so much for your visit, we clearly need to do some research into the possibility of those cinnamon rolls making it through the mail!

  6. These images (love the warm tones & earthy feel) and your narrative are the perfect invitation to this inviting and cozy get-a-way! This tucked-away gem for locals and visitors alike is must be book-marked for future reference! Wonderful post Mrs. Toad!

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you so much Barbara, I am so glad the warm atmosphere comes through in the images as it really is just so cozy and warm…the perfect place to enjoy great food and great friends! Let us know if you ever plan to visit, we will save you a spot!

  7. Yes Randy built something interesting and good looking with a lot of historical relevant material. The whole place is great for a wander around but this log building is definitely the best.
    Write up and photography support each other perfectly here, and the beauty and feel of the place are captured just right. Very nice.

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you so much Joseph, Whippletree has always been one of my favourite places to visit, sort of like stepping into a fairytale! Judging by the number of cars parked in front of the Pioneer House at any given time, I’d say there are quite a few of us who agree that it is certainly the best part! So nice to see you here today!

  8. avatar Spencer says:

    Perfect shots of this rustic spot. Love them all and I must say the image with the buffalo head on the wall over the roaring fireplace is my favorite. Seems I just want to sit, naw on a rib bone, and read a great Steven King novel. Wonderfully captured.

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      I have to say Spencer, this sounds like a great afternoon to me! Thank you so much for your kind comments, we’ll be sure to let Frank know that he’s found a new friend! Thanks for your visit today.

  9. avatar Daphne Swift says:

    Beautiful photos and wonderful write up of one of our favourite valley eateries! The photography captures the warmth and character of this fabulous building. Thanks for sharing (although now I’m hankerin’ for one of those gigantic cinnamon buns…!)

    • avatar Mrs. Toad says:

      Thank you so much Daphne for your kind comments, we just love to connect with our extended neighbours! Perhaps we will see you there…we’ll just look for the cinnamon bun on the table! Thanks for stopping by today.

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