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.
Led by piano player Jorge Betancourt, Cafe Cubano is one of Toronto's most popular salsa bands!
The complimentary dance lesson with Adriana Marichales leads beginners through the salsa basics while more experienced dancers warm up for the best salsa party in town!
DJ Suave will be spinning a dancefloor-friendly mix of salsa, merengue, bachata and top 40 between sets and until closing time...
The dance party starts early at Lula every Friday with live music from Cuba, Brazil and New Orleans. Tio Chorinho is Canada’a only ensemble dedicated to performing Brazilian choro music, a musical form originating in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro in the late-19th century.
Doors Open: 6:30 pm / Show Starts: 7:30 pm
Free admission before 8:00 pm. $15 after 8:00 pm. Admission includes salsa ...
Join us for a free and family-friendly demonstration and participatory workshop on Cuban dance styles such as son, trova, cha cha chá, changuí, pilón, guaracha and rumba. Learn to dance while practicing your Spanish
12 pm - 2 pm
Free admission. All ages and levels of Spanish are welcome!
Space is limited. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sessions will be led by award-winning dancer ...
Rooted in the Cuban sonora tradition, this group couples a dynamic three-trumpet horn section with a rhythm section featuring Afro-Cuban hand percussion, piano, bass, and tres.
Don't know how to salsa? Take the complimentary dance lesson with Santos Lee at 9:15pm! It's a perfect party starter, all levels of dance experience welcome, no partner required.
DJ Santiago Valasquez will be spinn...
The dance party starts early at Lula every Friday with live music from Cuba, Brazil and New Orleans. Having been featured at festivals in New Orleans, Switzerland and Italy, pianist Roberta Hunt and saxophonist Toby Hughes have been performing together for nearly two decades. Gram Whitty joins them on bass to get the Friday dance party going.
Free admission before 8:00 pm. $15 after. $45 thr...
Dubbed "the golden voice,” Cuban singer-songwriter Jorge Luis Rojas, AKA “Rojitas” served as vocalist for Adalberto Alvarez y Su Son before founding his own Rojitas Y Su Orquesta for which he composed more than 300 songs and recorded 20 albums.
Don't know how to salsa? Take the complimentary salsa lesson with Dailyn Martinez. at 9:15pm and try your new steps with the live band & DJ!
Led by Wilver Pedrozo, Toronto-based Charangón del Norte fuses classic changüí with merengé, calypso, soca and Latin jazz.
Don't know how to salsa? Take the complimentary dance lesson with Dance to Live at 9:15pm and try your new steps with the live band & DJ. Everyone is welcome, no previous dance experience or partner required. Perfect party starter!
DJ Suave will be spinning a dance fl...
In every person's life there is a moment that defines them. So powerful and transformative, it can shift the entire trajectory of their life.
Join us on January 29th, 2019 and witness 10 passionate competitors share their stories of the moment that defined their lives.
5:30-7:00pm: Drinks, Food and Networking
7:00 - 9:00pm: Speech Competition
9:00 - 9:15pm: Passion Speed ...
A sophisticated evening of music and magic
Direct from Germany, Introducing Richard Herfeld and Sascha Kommer
This talented duo are ready to take you back to the golden age of the American songbook with their vintage melodies and authentic look. Richard and Sascha are major players in the Frankfurt nightlife and a choice act for the most exclusive events in their home country.
MASSEY HALL PRESENTS:
IMPRINTS with Hannah Georgas + Special Guests
Rae Spoon, Donovan Woods, Terra Lightfoot & The Weather Station
Thursday, March 7 @
8:00 PM | 19+ General Admission Show
Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas St. W) | Toronto, ON
Massey Hall Presents, in partnership with Women In Music Canada: IMPRINTS with Hannah Georgas + Special Guests at The Lula Lounge on March 7th. This...