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Eat & Drink

Order using sign language at new Toronto restaurant

Posted by Staff / July 7, 2014

signs restaurant torontoYou just might learn something when you order at Signs, a new restaurant opening at Yonge and Wellesley on July 16. Specifically, you'll pick up a couple of signs in ASL: The restaurant employs mostly deaf servers, and customers will be encouraged to order in sign language using a provided cheat sheet.

Owner Anjan Manikumar told the Star he was inspired to create the restaurant after learning a few signs to communicate with a regular customer at a Boston Pizza he previously managed in Markham. The restaurant is an effort to create jobs for deaf Torontonians - a 1998 survey found that 37% of deaf Canadians were unemployed - as well as educate the city's hearing population.

As for the food: expect a "contemporary menu with a blend of Canadian and international food" featuring a selection of game meats. Here's how to sign "rabbit" - it may come in handy.



JC / July 7, 2014 at 09:40 am
I think the concept is a great idea, but the tone of the article felt a bit like everything was important except the food. In the end, it will survive on that since everything else is really window dressing and might come off a bit gimmicky, or for those involved with the deaf community. Competition in the resto biz is tough enough.
.. / July 7, 2014 at 10:57 am
Ive never heard about this.
uhh / July 7, 2014 at 11:11 am
I'm all for creating jobs and employment for the deaf, but I think the novelty will wear off pretty quickly for the average patron.
noir is gross / July 7, 2014 at 11:33 am
but how is the food?
Amy replying to a comment from noir is gross / July 7, 2014 at 11:41 am
Not open yet. Won't know until July 16th
Mel replying to a comment from Huh? / July 7, 2014 at 01:49 pm
Yes there is a demand for inconvenient dining ever see the line up outside Grand Electric or Pizza libretto? Now that's inconvenient before you even get in the door to be greeted by a hipster too cool to care about you're order.
Jackie replying to a comment from Huh? / July 7, 2014 at 07:42 pm
I can not believe the people suggesting this is a novelty, or funded by gov't grants...are you kidding me ? Toronto, you should be ashamed of yourself. You have a very large deaf community, and like any offical language and its culture (which its both), isnt it nice to have a place to communicate to people directly in your first language? Isn't it wonderful to have a gathering spot for students learning sign language to go and communicate with the deaf community? Isn't it nice to have a place to share your language and culture with other's who maybe have never been exposed to it before? I know Toronto has China town, and little Italy , etc. How wonderful that when a resturant or in your case actual sections to your city are designated to specific cultures and there traditions and language and food, to share with others or connect those that identify with it. I am so frustrated with hearing people assuming that deaf people lack this because they can't hear. This resturant is about connecting human beings together. Think about the whole picture before you make ignorant comments.
mark replying to a comment from Jackie / July 7, 2014 at 08:27 pm
Well said Jackie, I couldn't agree with you more!
D / July 7, 2014 at 10:07 pm
Any one tried o.noir restaurant?
D / July 7, 2014 at 10:08 pm
Anyone heard of o.noir restaurant? Also a gimmick but I believe alive and well in T and Montreal.
G / July 7, 2014 at 10:19 pm
Signs help the deaf community and hearing community to be untied. to have a better understanding our worlds. To prove that we, deafs, CAN DO THIS.
G / July 7, 2014 at 10:20 pm
I agreed with what Jackie said. You said it all!
carol replying to a comment from Jackie / July 7, 2014 at 10:35 pm
I fully agree with Jackie, I have a daughter who is deaf & I think this restaurant is a great idea. It is very difficult when my daughter goes to any eating establishment, store etc. @ tries to order anything. Should sign language not be considered one of our languages?
April / July 7, 2014 at 10:45 pm
Yeah But to call it "Signs" brings a bit of gimmicky!
MrsP / July 7, 2014 at 11:15 pm
so gimmicky.
MRRRRRR / July 7, 2014 at 11:17 pm
Wouldn't this restaurant be considered discriminatory, only catering those who 'sign'?


Dave / July 8, 2014 at 01:33 am
I wholeheartedly agree with Jackie.

As for other responses.... O'Noir is a restaurant about the Blind. Umm, apples and oranges, ahhh, being deaf is much like Apples instead of oranges. Auditory and vision are both important senses but entirely different things when it comes to perception.

However, about SIGNS - it sounds like it is a restaurant with a dash of American Sign Language... gimmicky or not, it makes sense. With staff using sign language - and being able to learn a language while eating an infamous dish by Chef Marc Breton. I cannot wait to see how this kind of dining experience pan out.
RM / July 8, 2014 at 04:51 am
This is only a block or two from O Noir, but it doesn't sound like a similar experience. I can understand the appeal of dining in the dark- gimmicky, sure, but probably pretty cool (I've been too scared to try). But Signs doesn't sound like it's adding anything special to the dining experience (for hearing-enabled people, anyway)- just adding a level of accessibility, which I think is commendable. I don't see why that should be any more "gimmicky" than providing braille on menus.
Get back to us when you find out what the food is like, BlogTO.
Ruchika / July 8, 2014 at 11:40 am
What is the exact address of this restaurant?
Signs Restaurant replying to a comment from MRRRRRR / July 8, 2014 at 01:13 pm

We encourage customers to use Sign Language to order, and it doesn't mean that we only serve the people who "sign". Customers can always point at the food items to order if they don't want to sign.

Signs Restaurant
Deaf / July 8, 2014 at 01:26 pm
I am looking forward to this restaurant, as are most deaf people I know. The deaf community interest in employment at the restaurant is huge. Employment for deaf people is critical: for a given age and sex, working-age deaf people are only 55% as likely as non-deaf people to have had a job in the past year (based on Statistics Canada data). The owner of SIGNS took the time between concept and announcement to actually learn ASL and this is a huge gesture of respect that we appreciate, and to invest his own money in developing the business.

It doesn't "cater to" only deaf people. From other profiles, there will be guides at the table to help patrons communicate if they don't know sign language. You will never be worse off than me in any other restaurant, pointing at the menu. The deaf servers will have lifelong experience communicating with hearing people who can't sign.

I don't know why anyone would get in a snit over this vs. any of the other numerous minority food venues where you may not find yourself having a first language in common with the server. Is an Ethiopian restaurant "gimmicky"? It's not like the only thing the restaurant serves is sign language. There is, like, food also. Sure, if the food doesn't impress you and the sign language doesn't entice you, you won't return. Like, why would you go to the Rainforest Cafe more than once? Why reproach the restaurant or the blog for highlighting its most unique characteristic? Does an Ethiopian restaurant advertise its interior decor? Does Rainforest Cafe lead its press releases with descriptions of its hamburgers? The *name* is gimmicky? Did you write to complain about the name of the bacon restaurant, "Rashers", or the breastaurant chain "Hooters"?

Deaf people will likely go because we will be able to communicate without wait staff sighing in exasperation, or mocking us because we can't hear and may not speak well (and we know you do). Hearing people may go because they are curious (ASL is one of the most popular languages to learn; although we do not count it in Canadian surveys and censuses, it's the 4th most-used language in the USA), for a novelty to show out-of-town guests, because the downtown location is convenient and there's not much else in that strip around Yonge and Wellesley, or possibly even because the food is good. If I wasn't using them to communicate, my fingers would be crossed for its success.
Signs Restaurant replying to a comment from Ruchika / July 8, 2014 at 01:33 pm
The address of Signs restaurant is 558 Yonge Street, M4Y 1Z1
Lexa / July 8, 2014 at 01:47 pm
Very, very well said Jackie!!! I agree with you completely!
Aurora replying to a comment from Aurora / July 8, 2014 at 02:15 pm
I'm surprised it has not translated well. I write again:

"I want to make it a success. Diversity fosters a culture of tolerance and respect for minorities. I send a hug from Spain.
Tom Sawyer / July 9, 2014 at 09:38 am
Hi there,
We sell a device called an HME Server Call widly used in restaurants where the wait staff carry a vibating pager.
The deaf staff would never miss an order up, when the pager vibes from the kitchen panel the deaf server will know the order is ready for table delivery.
We also offer text messaging to the kitchen allowing deaf folks to text their food order to the kitchen.
We think that the deaf hand motions would be better than text to kitchen however if the clients have difficulty with the food sign language simply contact us at your convenience.
Quest direct phone number is 905-467-1491 and yes we offer free test trials. Thanks, Tom
Viswanathan / July 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm
We are a group of disabled persons who are planning a lunch on August 2, 2014, Saturday. Please share details on how to book a table. Also, is the restaurant wheelchair accessible including the washrooms? As of now, we are planning to go to another place on Yonge St.
anita narayan iyer / July 10, 2014 at 11:58 pm
Great idea. Wishing you all success!
anita / July 11, 2014 at 12:01 am
Signs Restaurant replying to a comment from Viswanathan / July 12, 2014 at 01:26 pm
The restaurant is wheelchair accessible including the washrooms, however, the opening may be delayed because of the delay in construction and permit issues. So, we are looking more at the end of July/ beginning of August 2014 for the opening.
Ruchika / July 17, 2014 at 10:29 am
I was planning to come to this restaurant today for dinner, will it be open?
Ruchika / July 17, 2014 at 10:39 am
Also, whats the phone number of this restaurant?
Jess / July 25, 2014 at 01:03 pm
Congratulations and good luck in the opening of this restaurant. I look forward to eating with you and applaud the concept.
>?!???!?!?!? / July 29, 2014 at 06:11 pm
not open still... will be sometime next week? wonder what is the delay??

Kim T replying to a comment from Deaf / July 30, 2014 at 04:52 pm
Well said, DEAF.
To bring both cultures together in a positive way is something to be celebrated!

To Signs Restaurant - Congratulations on opening soon and looking forward to visiting with Deaf and Hearing friends.
Let us know how/when to make reservations.
DeafA / July 31, 2014 at 07:27 am
Is the restaurant open yet? I was planning on coming next weekend and maybe dropping in. I am a bit on the pickier side so do you have common dishes like pizza or pasta or something? I'd love to say that I'd try one of your game dishes but that's a little too much for me :) my friend may try though.
olivia / August 2, 2014 at 11:25 pm
I ate here on Friday night with my boyfriend. It was unreal. Firstly, the food was super delicious - we both ordered the butternut squash ravioli. Presentation was beautiful, and the food itself was 5 gold stars! Our server was deaf, and was such a great ASL teacher. She encouraged us to learn some basic ASL signs, and we practiced them with her throughout the night. We had SO much fun, and learned a lot more than I thought we would. I really encourage you guys to try Signs out, it was such a wonderfully delicious experience.
Katie / August 3, 2014 at 08:24 pm
I think this is a fabulous idea. And if the food is good, there's no reason why it shouldn't thrive. I would love to give it a try. I may get a chance soon, since my son will be attending George Brown School for the Performing Arts in September. Maybe we'll go there after we get him moved in.
Lydia Segal replying to a comment from Huh? / August 4, 2014 at 11:27 am
Inconvenient dining? Aren't you just the Spirit of Joy!
Lydia Segal replying to a comment from No / August 4, 2014 at 11:30 am
I read the article again and fail to see where there is mention of any funding. What did I miss?
Tina / August 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm
What is the price range?
Megan replying to a comment from JC / August 4, 2014 at 08:29 pm
What is the price range to eat here?
Monica / August 4, 2014 at 09:27 pm
I would love to bring my kids here! We've taught them some ASL (through the "signing time" series) as a means to early communication, but want them to continue learning. What a great way to show them signing is a real language used by all sorts of people!
Mary Beth / August 4, 2014 at 09:27 pm
I think this is a wonderful idea. I am sure they will have a great menu but creating an awareness of the communication challenges of the hearing disabled is an exceptional idea while enjoying fine dining. I look forward to going there very soon. I don't see this an a novelty and I am sure it will be enjoyed for many years to come. Anyone who wants to say differently falls on deaf ears!
RyiRyi / August 4, 2014 at 10:57 pm
I have never had a reason to go to canada until now! This is beautiful
Kalpana / August 5, 2014 at 01:15 am
Well done guyz...wish u all de best..
Maggie / August 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm
Is there a menu online somewhere? I hope to go down there next week but need to know there is something my Mother in law will eat. Thank you and best of luck on your venture. Brilliant idea!
Julie / August 5, 2014 at 07:35 pm
I am very excited for this restaurant ! The idea of fantastic food and eager servers is what all restaurants should thrive for! A restaurant company that CARES about their staff and their customers needs will be Signs's accomplishment!
Me,myself and I- the new world replying to a comment from Huh? / August 7, 2014 at 02:29 am
How tragic that such a comment is made so brashly. Do you also expect the TTC to ban people with canes, walkers or wheelchairs from using the system during rush hour because its inconvenient for people like yourself? And why not make it legal for all restaurants to ban anyone that doesn't speak English fluently from being seated at peak times since the wait staff may have to spend a couple extra minutes with them before arriving at your table and would not meet your expectations around taking your order soon enough thereby inconveniencing you. The chances of any new restaurant surviving past the first year is slim and given the super high rents on Yonge Street it is further reduced so your prediction that it will be closed and stated as though a business guru or clairvoyant is proclaiming the future is lame. Could you tell us also if the sun will rise tomorrow or is that too much of an inconvenience?
karla / August 7, 2014 at 06:08 pm
I am excited to try it. Such a beautiful concept-
Kudos !!

My Fave --Being Deaf doesn't make you Dumb--
Just as Hearing doesn't make you Smart
Gary / August 17, 2014 at 09:01 am
After witnessing my first dinner at SIGNS last night. There is evidence that AUDISM is practised here. (google the word up, it is correctly spelled)

The owner doesn't really sign that well if you see her communicating with her deaf staff. She doesn't "listen" to them when you can see it for yourself. They appear distressed when she talks to them.

The food was excellent though but I will not go back after seeing the owner - my heart feels for the deaf waiters.
P / August 19, 2014 at 01:03 pm
What is the menu like??
shelley and Owen / August 20, 2014 at 12:08 am
wonder if they will open on September 1, 2014? its Stat. holiday as Labour Day.
James / September 6, 2014 at 07:48 pm
Went there last night and loved it. Food was great, the service was terrific, as was the atmosphere. The servers at Signs actually seem to enjoy their jobs. This is a huge contrast to the bored staff at some of the other restaurants in the city---you know the type of server with the world-weary/"I'm too cool to work here" poseur attitudes. I will definitely go to Signs again.
Maya Roy replying to a comment from Jackie / September 10, 2014 at 01:06 pm
Hear Hear! You are so RIGHT!!!!
Karen / January 17, 2015 at 04:54 pm
Ever since I saw the promotional video for one of Toronto’s newest restaurants called Signs, I knew I wanted to try it out. It’s the only restaurant in Toronto where all of the servers are deaf and use American sign language to communicate with the guests. This takes the dining experience to a whole new level.

Read the rest of my review at:
Other Cities: Montreal