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.
Toronto singer-songwriters AHI, Coco Love Alcorn, and Julian Taylor will be featured at Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W., Toronto. Advance tickets $18 through www.lula.ca/calendar or $25 at the door. Dinner reservations also include guaranteed / reserved seating - call 416-588-0307 to reserve. Doors 6:30pm, show 7:30pm. Celebrate the end of winter - come on out and "break the ice"!
Welcome to Good Thursday, the annual event held at Lula Lounge on the Thursday of the Easter long weekend. For the third year in a row, local Soul, Jazz, and Funk-Rock Band, Yasgurs Farm, will hit the stage at Lula Lounge for an amazing night of entertainment.
This year we have a special treat to add to the mix. The legendary Canadian musician, writer, producer, impresario, and Jazz FM radio personality, Jaymz Bee will be hosting his birthday party at Lula Lounge featuring the extraordinary music of the Tiki Collective.
8:00pm: Tiki Collective
9:30pm: Yasgurs Farm 2 sets of Music
Advance tickets: $18.00
Door Price: $25.00
Dinner reservations can be made by calling Lula Lounge at:
Reservations guarantee seating!
Service fees are added on advance ticket price.
About the artists:
Yasgurs Farm is a Soul and Funk-Rock band based in Toronto, Ontario. Whether they are keeping the dance floor alive with everyones favorite hits, or laying down the groove with original material, they always leave their audience satisfied.
The band met while studying music at the University of Toronto. They found a connection in the timeless music of the 60s and 70s covering artists such as Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Chicago, Tower of Power, Blood Sweat and Tears, Earth Wind and Fire, and Steely Dan. With elite musicians in their rhythm and horn sections, Yasgurs Farm prides themselves on providing exceptional entertainment through authentic renditions of todays hits and yesterdays classics.
The band also puts their creative talent into full effect when writing and recording original material. They venture to create an organic sound that sits deep in the groove of their roots while encouraging freedom and improvisation. They look forward to releasing their debut album in the coming months.
You can find the band performing at venues all over southern Ontario. Keep up with dates on the band website: www.yasgurs.ca
Toronto Tiki Collective is a band that plays exotica, jazz and surf music with charts by musical director/guitarist Eric St-Laurent.
The band features Michael Davidson on vibraphone and also includes George Koller bass Ernie Tollar flutes and reeds Great Bob Scott drums and vocalists Jocelyn Barth, Jaymz Bee and Lily Frost.
The band is a collective and perform in various sizes ... there are also often special guests.
TTC had their debut concert at Lula Lounge last fall and have since played several parties and special events, including being the house band for the New Years Eve Massey Hall Comedy Extravaganza, followed by a second set December 31st at La Revolucion in the Junction.
April 13th is Jaymz Bees birthday and Toronto Tiki Collective are thrilled to celebrate it with their musical comrades in Yasgurs Farm.
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 Festival Hall. Cherry has released five albums as a leader, the latest of which Soul Tree, 2016 features Kyle Koehler on Hammond B3 and drummer Anwar Marshall. Cherry has also worked in Roy Hargrove's Crisol Latin jazz band and recorded with John Patton, Hamiett Bluiett, Jon Faddis, Paquito de Rivera and Henry Threadgill.
Door time: 6:00 pm
Show time: 7:00 pm.
Advance Tickets at https://bemusednetwork.com/events/detail/350
Dinner reservations guarantee seating. Call 416 588 0307 or visit www. lula.ca to reserve your table.
Presented by: Lula Music And Arts Centre
In honour of International Roma Day, Inanna Publications/Fernwood Publishing proudly announce the Toronto book launch for two new books A Romani Women’s Anthology and Writing the Roma. Music by The Gypsy Rebels, Saskia Tomkins, Otava Band, and “The Balkan Brass Gypsy Band”. Sponsored by the Roma Community Centre and Toronto Arts Council. Please join us for an afternoon of readings and revelry! Refreshments will be served. Free.
Doors Open: 7:00 pm, show starts: 8:00 pm
Admission: $10 at the Door. PWYC for Cultural Workers.
Dinner reservations guarantee seating. Call 416 588 0307 to reserve your table!
A Collaborative Celebration of World Music Nominees Comes to Lula Lounge!
Salsa Loca is a fundraising event in support of Dancing with Parkinson's and the Humber College Scholarship Fund. Our event starts at 7 PM and you can make dinner reservations by calling Lula Lounge. We will have Salsa dance lessons at 8 PM and there will be activities throughout the night with a live band. Tickets are on sale on our website for $20 and door tickets will cost $25.