The food revolution in St. John’s is spreading its way around the island, and Bonavista appears to be its next stop.
Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove has already established itself as one of the province’s must-visit eateries, and the Roots, Rants, and Roars fest is held in Ellison, near this historic town along the province’s eastern coast.
The next installment in the ongoing story of the rejuvenation of John Cabot’s long-ago landing spot will come in June of next year, when Jon Howse and Sylvie Mitford of Fixed Coffee and Baking, Fixed Coffee Bar, and Broken Books will move to Bonavista to open Boreal Diner on Church Street.
“It sort of landed in our laps,” Mitford said of the opportunity to open the diner in Bonavista. She and Howse already hoped to move to rural Newfoundland, then they were approached by John Norman of Bonavista Creative, an organization restoring historical properties in the town.
Mitford and Howse were already familiar with Bonavista, having visited multiple times in recent years. “We just fell in love with the place,” she said of the town, and in particular its downtown district. They hope Boreal Diner will soon be part of the ongoing revitalization of the downtown and wider Bonavista, which is already underway with Norman’s projects renovating old saltbox homes and recently announced funding for the Garrick Theatre.
Norman will be the landlord for the pair, and Boreal Diner will be located in George Templeman House, which has been empty for about 30 years and is currently being renovated by Bonavista Creative and Carma Construction. The building’s hand-hewn beams have been exposed, and the spot will have its original wood floors, wooden planks on the walls, and a fireplace, Mitford said.
Boreal Diner will likely benefit from its proximity to the culinary program at the College of the North Atlantic, also located in Bonavista. And locally sourced food, from Bonavista’s fish plant, nearby farms, foraged plants, and perhaps even local vegetable patches are also an important part of the plan. There’s a reclaiming of that sustainable culture underway in St. John’s, Mitford said, but she and Howse are excited to build a restaurant in a place where it never really disappeared in the first place.
“It’s super cool for us to be in a place where that culture is intact,” Mitford said.
They tested the concept in July with a week-long Boreal Diner pop-up event during Bonavista’s Church Street Festival and were thrilled at the local support they received. They really hope to integrate into the local community, she said, providing an eatery that won’t just appeal to tourists but that will be a spot locals make their own as well.
“We’re intending to be open year round,” Mitford said. “We don’t want to just be a tourist spot. We want to be part of the community.”