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.
OF GLITCHES AND MACHINES features contemporary works for solo piano, electronics and multi-media, performed by Stephanie Chua and Adam Sherkin. Taking inspiration from the hum of vacuum cleaners to the malfunction of video tape, this programme showcases virtuosic piano writing against the backdrop of 21st Century life.
Mason Bates’ White Lies for Lomax uses blues and stride-piano fragments i...
Circles: In Concert is an open mic set in Hell inspired by Dante’s Inferno. It follows the three piece alternative rock band. The music of Circles varies from classical instrumentals to Tom Waits inspired growlers and singer/songwriter intimacy. It also rocks, swings and grooves with jazz, funk, latin and pop influences.
Sid Ryan, one of Canada’s most courageous and progressive union leaders, draws on the experience of his varied and colourful life to show what is right with the labour movement, what is wrong, and what has to change if it is to avoid becoming irrelevant. Hosted by Another Story Bookshop at Lula Lounge; doors open at 6pm. Dinner Reservations Guarantee Seating: 416.588.0307 / lula.ca.
Ray Montford and his group of stellar musicians return to Toronto for a rare show, at the Lula Lounge, Thursday April 25th, 6-9 pm (dinner optional) They will be celebrating the vinyl release of his eight album, ‘Share My Sky’.
On this night, the band will perform a 90-min concert set of carefully chosen ’all-electric’ songs. Playing key tunes from the new album, they will also perform old f...
We each have our own individual and unique journey towards loving our bodies. Our Body Beautiful event celebrates our imperfect perfection. 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.
Our 10 powerful speakers will go head to head a...
Henry Ford said “whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right’. The highest levels of performance are empowered by the deepest levels of belief. Performing with belief is a critical factor for achieving success at anything.
Join us on May 28th when our 10 powerful speakers will go head to head and heart to heart to compete for $1000 cash and a prize package valued up to $5000,...