Lula Lounge was formerly a Portuguese catering hall-slash-sports bar called Hollywood Nights.
The owners comes from drastically varied backgrounds - Jose Ortega was previously an illustrator, Jose Nieves was a real estate agent (and Ortega's landlord), while Tracey Jenkins worked as the managing editor of a literary magazine.
The purchasing deal was completed over espresso in what must have been a record five minutes and seemed at first to be a perfect match - the space was big and cheap but they quickly realized they had no idea what they were doing.
"We were just making it up," Ortega tells me, "and we drew from our friends: one said 'I'll be the chef,' another, 'I'll be the bartender,' but at first it was a disaster."
Perhaps it might have something to do with their screening process, with their head bartender having been selected for holding a major in Dostoevsky studies - a strange prerequisite for mixing drinks.
After going through several menu edits, they settled on what Jenkins terms "Latin soul food," such as vegetarian tamales and chicken dressed in a bourbon barbecue sauce with traditional Latin rice.
Dancing takes place Friday and Saturday evenings, following dinner and lessons from professional salsa teachers. As for the rest of the week, the space is open if there's a band booked, although they also frequently host fundraisers.
The space is dim, faintly lit by coloured paper lanterns and neon chandeliers. The large stage sits at the back of the dining room, and tables are lined on either side of a central corridor where the dance lessons take place.
The musicians range from jazz, to electronic, to big band, with each night offering a different flavor of Latin-inspired tunes.
Lula Lounge offers an array of tropical drinks in which Havana Club rum figures heavily, martinis like the Miss Lula ($9.30) - a mix of vodka, lychee liqueur and pineapple juice - shooters for $5.75 and specialty coffee.
Mojitos ($9.30) are considered their crown jewel, but to my taste buds, the simple mojito is not as flavourful as I typically prefer. It tastes strongly of only Havana Club rum and soda water rather than striking that ideal balance between mint, sugar, and liquor, but other varieties like the Green Apple or Cherry Bomb mojitos might fare better.
Domestic beers run between $4 for Pabst and $6.45, while imports top out at $6.45 for Guinness. They also offer a Sunday brunch with live music and a salsa lesson from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This cordless trio (saxophone, bass, drums) features a mixture of original music and classic compositions from a multitude of musical genres.
Doors open: 6:30 pm / Show starts: 7:30 pm.
Free Admission before 8:00 pm. $15 after.
Admission includes salsa lesson at 9:00 pm and live salsa at 10:30 pm.
One of Toronto's best-loved salsa singers, Yani developed his distinctive vocal style and dynamic stage presence with well known Cuban show bands including the internationally acclaimed orchestra, Valentin Y Los Del Caribe.
Doors Open: 6:30 pm
World Jazz Set: 7:30 to 8:30
Dance Lesson with AfroLatino Dance Co: 9:00 pm
Show starts: 10:30 pm
Admission: $15 Cover includes dance lesson. Women ...
Doors Open: 6:30 pm
Dance Lesson with Angela Seth: 9:00 pm
Show starts : 10:30 pm
Admission: $15 Cover includes dance lesson
Classic undiluted salsa under the direction of master percussionist Luisito Orbegoso. Recreating the classic New York salsa sound of the seventies.
Doors Open: 5:30 pm , Show Starts: 6:30 pm
Admission: $20 in advance
The ticket price and any money raised goes directly to the beneficiaries: Bennie 20 year old young man afflicted with a rare genetic condition called Familial Dysautonomia (FD). There are only 500 people affected in the world. FD is a dysfunction of the sensory and autonomic nervous systems. It affects swallowing (fluids go do...
Love Letters Cabaret presents
Five years running, once again Toronto's leading lady of burlesque, Pastel Supernova, brings her latest Love Letters Cabaret production to Lula Lounge for a solid dose of burlesque showgirls, bombshell vocalists and steamy Interactive VIP Experience.
The best kickline in the 6ix!
Dress to impress & party with the cast all night long to tunes by Jo...
Toronto’s twice Juno-nominated, Indo-fusion ensemble Autorickshaw kicks off their 2017 concert season - celebrating 15 years of music-making - with a concert entitled Autorickshaw: Under The Hood at Lula Lounge on Thursday, May 18, 2017. This concert was produced with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council. Featuring the quintet iteration of the ensemble including ...
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH CANADA'S RISING MUSIC STAR HERBIE FABULUS AND FRIENDS
"GOOD MAN" EP RELEASE PARTY
Live Video Shoot! Come be a part of music history!
HERBIE FABULUS, Canada's Fast Rising Reggae Star... with special guests Errol Starr, Tony Wild T Springer, Jerome Tucker, Kolette Easy and some of Toronto's top comedy!
RESERVATIONS GUARANTEE SEATING 416.588.0307 ...
Tribute to Michael Jackson, Sunday May 21st at Lula Lounge by TDot Batu Afro-Brazilian drumming crew.
No single artist indeed, no movement or force has eclipsed what Michael Jackson accomplished in the first years of his adult solo career. Jackson changed the balance in the pop world in a way that nobody has since. He forced rock & roll and the mainstream press to acknowledge that the bigges...
Horn Players Unite!
Be a part of brass history in the making on June 3, 2017 at 1pm when horn players of all types, levels, ages and musical backgrounds join Torontos Street Brass to perform as part of the 2017 Lulaworld Festival and Dundas West Fest.
Led by trombonist Christopher Butcher of the Heavyweights Brass Band, Street Brass community ensemble meets monthly to learn and play horn-based...
New York City based jazz guitarist who played with Dizzy Gillespie for 14 years appears for the first time in Toronto in many years. With Roberto Occhipinti on bass and Mark Kelso on drums.
Guitarist with Dizzy Gillespie from 1978 to 1992, Ed Cherry performed in Gillespie's quartet and big band as well as with The United Nation Orchestra that recorded the Grammy Award-winning Live at Royal...