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.
Juno-nominated pianist, composer and arranger Fern Lindzon has been called “a rare and fascinating talent" by Montreal jazz critic Irwin Block. Fern will be joined by George Koller on bass and Chris Gale on sax.
Doors Open: 6:30 pm / Show Starts: 7:30 pm.
FREE admission before 8:00 pm. $15 after 8:00 pm. Admission includes salsa lesson at 9:15 pm and live salsa at 10:30 pm.
Take a trip to Cuba without leaving Toronto! Led by piano player Jorge Betancourt, Cafe Cubano is one of Toronto's most popular salsa and timber bands. Dance Lesson with Sarita Leyva.
Doors Open: 6:30 pm / World Jazz Set: 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm / Dance Lesson: 9:00 pm / Show Starts: 10:30 pm.
Admission: $15 includes dance lesson. Women free before 10:00 pm.
Reservations for our dinner and ...
Take a trip to Puerto Rico without Leaving Toronto with this big salsa band led by bassist Ruddy Bolaños. Enjoy some of your favourite Puerto Rican dance music! Join the complimentary dance lesson with Dreyser Garcia at 9:15. Doors Open: 6:30 pm / Dance Lesson: 9:15 pm / Show Starts: 10:30 pm.
Admission: $15 cover includes dance lesson.
Dinner reservations guarantee seating, make yours by...
Embrace and Love Your Body, it's the most AMAZING thing you will ever own.
Our Body Beautiful event celebrates the imperfect perfection of our bodies. Get prepared for a tribute to self love and self acceptance and an evening of vulnerable and inspirational story telling. Whether you are at the beginning or the end of your journey towards self acceptance - join us on March 27th at the Lula L...
Another Story Bookshop and Harper Collins Canada present the Toronto Book Launch for:
That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung
Featuring a reading by Carrianne Leung and conversation with Jael Richardson
Wednesday, March 28th
Lula Lounge - 1585 Dundas St W
Doors open @ 7pm/Event begins @7:30pm
Free - all welcome
Entrance and bathroom are wheelchair accessibl...
Join The Heavyweights Brass Band celebrating the launch of This City featuring Jackie Richardson, Kevin Breit & Street Brass.
Doors Open: 6:00 pm / Show Starts: 7:00 pm.
Admission: $20 in advance / $25 at the door includes a CD or download code.
Dinner reservations guarantee seating, make yours by calling Lula Lounge at 416 588 0307.
This City won't wash away. This City won't ever d...
Yasgurs Farm presents the 4th annual Good Thursday event. The night brings brand new original material and timeless classics of classic rock, funk, soul, and jazz fusion. Expect a dance party.
Doors Open: 9:00pm / Show Starts: 10:00pm.
Admission: $15 in advance / $12 each in advance for tickets purchased in groups of five or more / $20 at the door
Reservations guarantee seating, make y...
Direct from Montreal trombonist, composer and arranger Yordan Martinez is joined by Toronto players to celebrate the recent launch of his CD De Cienfuegos a Montreal. Take the complimentary beginners dance lesson with Dailyn Martinez at 9:15!
Doors Open: 6:30 pm / World Jazz Set: 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm / Dance Lesson: 9:15 pm / Show Starts: 10:30 pm.
Admission: $15 includes dance lesson. Wome...
2017 JUNO Award-winner Tich Maredza creates music that while rooted in Zimbabwean traditional styles, has a contemporary flair. Tich Maredza's compositions have rhythmic drive, melodic intelligence, and lyrical messages of challenge, and hope. The band features also Tich Gombiro (bass), Gordin Mapika (drum) and Larry Lewis (lead guitar).
Doors Open: 6:30 pm / Show Starts: 7:30 pm.
Tropical, fresh, funky and with attitude! Salseros with Attitude (SWA) led by Jairo Acuña, Alex Naar, and Andres Magno bring to the stage a blend of "salsa-fied" chart toppers along with salsa classics.
With decades of collective experience on Toronto’s thriving salsa scene, the members of this exciting new ensemble are reaching out beyond their native Latin musical culture to explore their ...
Another Story Bookshop and House of Anansi Present the Toronto launch for:
Heroes in My Head by Judy Rebick
Tuesday, April 3rd
Doors open @ 6pm/ Event Starts @ 7pm
Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St West
$5 PWYC (Pay what you can at the door)*
Featuring a reading by Judy Rebick and conversation with Farrah Khan
ASL Interpretation will be provided
Wheelchair accessible -for more...
A night of music and bidding on diverse deluxe items all in support of Romero House. $65 ticket covers admission and food and is 50% tax receiptable. (You can also buy a ticket for a refugee that is 100% tax receiptable). Music by Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble; food by Lula Lounge.
Romero House was founded and is led by Mary Jo Leddy, and has aided 1000s and housed 100s of refugees over the years ...
SymphRONica features its great individual soloists- some of Canadas and the worlds finest musicians, including Kevin Barrett guitar, Aline Homzy violin and Mike Downes bass. Original compositions by Ron Davis and other Canadian composers and arrangers. It will be an unforgettable evening of dazzling talent and incredible sounds!