As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto has evolved into a destination for diners in search of unfamiliar worldly cuisine. However, with such a huge canvas of diverse food options to be found at every turn, restaurants have begun to emerge that offer not only unique fare, but an unforgettable and innovative dining experience that offer diners just a little something more than solely great eats.
Treat your taste buds – along with your sense of adventure – to a night on the town; here are a few of the one-of-a-kind dining locations discovered throughout downtown Toronto that you simple cannot pass up.
558 Yonge Street | signsrestaurant.ca
A relatively new member in Toronto’s destination restaurants market is encouraging diners to order with their hands.
Among the first of its kind in North America, the contemporary upper casual dining restaurant and bar Signs asks customers to order their food and drinks using American Sign Language. By supplying cheat sheets on the table, a vibrant menu with illustrated guides to ordering with ASL and an introduction to your deaf server by the hearing hostess, it is fairly easy for diners to interact with their servers and immerse themselves in the Signs experience.
Following years of work in the serving industry, founder Anjan Manikumar says he realized there was a need for both a restaurant to better accommodate deaf patrons as well as employment opportunities to benefit the deaf community. Formal studies in 2014/15 by the Canadian Association of the Deaf showed annual unemployment rates of over 40 per cent and increasing – with many of the employed deaf Canadians being self-employed or part-time workers.
“Deaf people have a hard time finding employment,” says Manikumar. “Whether you are deaf or have a disability you should have the same job opportunities as everyone else. 27 of our 35 current employees are deaf; including our servers, our manager, a few of our kitchen staff and our dishwasher.”
But this one-of-a-kind experience does not overshadow the food; featuring a contemporary blend of Canadian and International food with a twist, Signs specializes in uncomplicated, fresh dishes; including favourites like their panko crusted ravioli with roasted red pepper sauce, sesame crusted Saku tuna and blackened Mahi Mahi with pineapple coconut sauce.
“We are more a restaurant than an experience,” said Manikumar. “This is what makes us different. Some restaurants hide their average food behind a great experience; we want people to come back because the food is so good. [At Signs] you are not fully emerged in a deaf experience; it is not quiet, there is music playing and conversation happening like at any restaurant, but when it comes time to order, you have to interact and try a new language while communicating with your server.”
Manikumar said Signs will continue to grow and is currently working on incorporating a brail menu to their restaurant’s repertoire.
Chill Ice House
82 Bathurst Street | chillicehouse.com
A refreshing escape during Toronto’s stifling summer months and a cool getaway even when temperatures drop below freezing, CHILL Ice House is a frozen oasis where imagination has run wild.
As the lounge name dictates, CHILL Ice House owner Gresham Bayley did not simply chill the room to a brisk -5C; in this 1200 square foot ice lounge, nearly everything is frozen. Thousands of pounds of ice have been used not only to craft the walls, bar, furniture and many of the room’s other structural components, but as well the art work and an evolving collection of themed sculptures that rotate according to current Toronto events. And the beauty of the malleable environment? Anything and everything can be altered; almost guaranteeing that each time you visit, the room will be a little bit different.
The family-run lounge is an all-ages attraction by day and an ice lounge by night, serving cocktails in handcrafted ice glassware and spinning current music on the ice sculpture DJ table.
Sculpting is not new to the Bayley family; Gresham was raised by a long line of ice sculptors and founders of Iceculture Inc. – one of the world’s leading ice sculpture companies famous across the globe for creating crystal-clear sculptures and ice structures. Gresham is said to have become immersed in the family business at a young age; travelling the world to create permanent ice lounges in Dubai, Greece and across the United States as well as getting involved in a number of large scale projects globally.
Each guest is given a digital wristband upon entry that tracks purchases made within the lounge; eliminating the need to remove your gloves in order to handle money. For those who need a break from the cold, a warmed 1,500-square-foot addition to the lounge is tucked in the back.
Admission into CHILL is 15 dollars a head and includes the use of Canadian-made hats and gloves for those unprepared to literally chill out. Local clientele are offered the option of purchasing a 50 dollar annual membership, which bypasses the single use admission fee and provides access to bottle service if you so choose.
The Addisons Residences
456 Wellington Street | theaddisonsto.com
We have all wished to have the ability to step into a luxe Great Gatsby parties. Exclusive, lavish house parties thrown by mysterious strangers whom no one can really find or figure out. Well the Addisons Residence is a modern day answer to our champagne riddled Gatsby fantasies. The best parties, the most talked about over brunch, but who are these Addisons? All everyone knows is that they throw the best parties.
Inspired by and designed to replicate an extravagant home in Beverly Hills, the chic modern lounge is divided into a kitchen area, living room and rec room for a unique club meets lavish house party experience. A much needed twist on the typical aggressively loud and crowded night club, the Addisons Residence offers a little bit of everything to each individual and caters to each desired style of evening on the town. The house features a full service bar boasting signature cocktails, a late night menu, a game room featuring air hockey, foosball and televisions and live music in an off to the side corner for those who wish to dance.
The lounge as well hosts a number of revolving themed nights throughout the week. Current themed nights include Musical Bingo Wednesdays, a twisted Afternoon Tea on Thursdays with happy hour inspired four dollar cocktails and board games and Thursday evenings filled with live music during Live at the Addisons. And if this was not enough, every Saturday the lounge offers free pizza, no cover and DJs spinning every genre of music. Special events are also hosted frequently within the Addison’s rooms and have been known to cultivate celebrity guests and reality television stars.
Be forewarned – there is a strict age requirement for entry of 21-years-old for women and 25-years-old for men.
Written By: Gabrielle Tieman