Chef Evan Bursey (left) and owner David Primmer (right). Photos by Joel Upshall for The Overcast.

David Primmer is lucky. He won the lottery. But the initial success of his new business, The Social House, is no happy accident. Happy, yes; accidental, no. 

Primmer was a man with a plan before he was the guy with the winning ticket. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Business and Administration from MUN in 2012, he has been writing up business plans in his spare time. These, even more than the 3.75 million dollar lotto win last summer, were his real golden tickets.

He not only, Oprah-like, opened his mind to the possibility of his dreams coming true, he plotted them out before he had the means, knowing he would make them happen somehow. And when luck did strike, he took it as an opportunity to get to work when many people would wallow in vacation.

After the win, he did declare he would take six months off to travel and relax, but one month later he was signing leases and working with his business partner and head chef (Evan Bursey) to get an ambitious multi-phase restaurant/entertainment complex up and running in the newly competitive downtown St. John’s market.

He had been scouting locations in St John’s for some time with his slew of business concepts, each one dependent on the right location. Like a trader watching stocks, he was watching properties and had come close to signing five other leases before contacting Fortis about 171 Water Street (previously Bianca’s) the very day it became available.

The Social House consists of four separate spaces: the main dining room which seats 88 with many small tops, a large “social” table (where strangers in small groups of 1 to many dine together), and a small bar; the piano lounge next door is roughly the same size as the dining room with booths for full food service, and there’s a 10-seater VIP booth in the back corner, and additional “drinks only” low tables along with the bar proper.


The chef’s room

Upstairs will be a large sports bar with a full sea-scape mural and flat screen TVs along the walls; behind the kitchen downstairs is the “Chef’s Room” for private functions that seats 12 (16 in a pinch) and has its own private deck.

But, despite the massive size of this endeavour, the parts that have opened as of this writing in mid-August  by all accounts have been pleasing customers from the first. Brunch service may be following soon and the sports bar is slated for an early fall opening.

The restaurant serves “Southern inspired” dishes, with a simple but not static menu of well designed comfort foods. The Bacon, buns, and beef (“ahhh, the three Bs”) are all made in house, which is why you will get the rare treat in this province of your waiter asking you “how you would like your burger done” upon ordering.

(The answer is “medium rare”… and, in my case, a few happy tears in anticipation of a burger as burgers were meant to be).

This is also the second place on the island to serve gumbo, making them the second awesomest menu on the island next to Grates Cove Studios. The deep fried pearl onions are to Outback Steak House’s Bloomin’ Onion what Merchant Tavern’s fried chicken sandwich is to the Big Mary: the best sort of parallel. The fries are frittes and as pretty as they are tasty, delicate and salty and served in a silver fry cup.

Each plate and glass is specific to the dish you order and these anachronistic touches manifest the overall feeling of moulding everything to maximize the comfort and enjoyment of the patron.

The service plays no small part in establishing this comfort. A staff hired for extroversion and work ethic sets you at ease and pays homage to the atmosphere of an outspoken southern eatery without delving into mimicry. The cocktail menu was made collaboratively with the staff and this manifests in the breadth of flavours available. At The Social House, there is something for everyone to enjoy all together.