Bonavista Social Club

“Be sure to check out the Bonavista Social Club.”

“Are you going to the Bonavista Social Club?”

“You’ve got to get up to the peninsula – the Bonavista Social Club is there!”

We heard this over, and over, and over again.  In fact, the first time we heard about it was in EDMONTON.  Really though, people needn’t have been so insistent - a good play-on-words is reason enough to visit any place.  

The Bonavista Social Club is a restaurant in Upper Amherst Cove on the Bonavista Peninsula, and cleverly drew its name from Cuba’s iconic Buenavista Social Club

It was founded several years ago by Katie and Shane Hayes; she’s a chef who grew up in the area, and he’s from Ireland, where they met.  After their daughter was born, they decided to return to the peninsula, and converted Katie’s father’s woodworking shop into an eatery.  It’s quickly become a popular culinary destination, and has a specific mission in mind:

….the Bonavista Social Club harnesses the established farm gardens, animal husbandry and self sufficient lifestyle presently at work in Upper Amherst Cove to provide a truly unique experience of rural Newfoundland.

The restaurant sits on a steep, terraced hillside, and Katie and Shane take advantage of the space in front of their business to grow food in garden beds and a greenhouse. 

When we were there in October, one of the shelves inside was lined with dozens of vibrant, recently-harvested tomatoes.  

The restaurant is home to Newfoundland’s only commercial wood-fired bread oven; it seemed to be the heart of the restaurant, the point from which everything else radiated. 

They heat it with Newfoundland-grown white and silver birch, and the red bricks used to face the oven were collected from old buildings in St. John’s.  Each day, dozens of sourdough loaves, baguettes, bagels, focaccia, and various other breads are baked within it.  

With the oven at its core, the Bonavista Social Club is a spectacular setting to experience.  Katie’s dad, woodworker Mike Paterson, built and renovated the space, and is also responsible for its rustic wooden plates, bowls, and spoons.  The restaurant is fairly ample in size, yet feels cozy and warm; all the wood provides a sort of golden hue.  Wrapped in the warmth of the restaurant, we looked out over the bay, its shore lined with colourful homes.

We split a rhubarb lemonade (throwback to Two Sisters’ in Smithers!), a grilled cheese sandwich,

a pizza,

and a brownie. 

All were fantastic, and we wished we could have stayed for dinner; the house-made pappardelle and moose burger with partridgeberry ketchup were taunting us.  

To everyone who recommended the Bonavista Social Club, you can rest assured we made it there.  Actually, we drove three hours out of our way to catch them before they closed for the season.  You can also rest assured we loved it, and will now join the community of folks who enthusiastically endorse it.  

“Hey you!  Have you heard of the Bonavista Social Club?  What does it matter that we’re in Vancouver?  Get yourself there.”