SIGNS – An Adventurous Dining Experience
As Taste Buds, we often speak about the full experience of a restaurant. The average patron expects good service, ambiance and ultimately extraordinary cuisine. The truth is that there is still so much more. Dining out should be a full sensory adventure.
SIGNS restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Toronto on Yonge Street at Wellesley. It is the amazing brainchild of Anjan Manikumar , who during his early years as a server struggled communicating with a deaf patron. He set out to learn ASL or American Sign Language to better serve this customer, and from this an amazing idea was born from his kindness.
SIGNS Restaurant and Bar is the first of its kind and the only such experience in the world. It is completely staffed with deaf servers, bartenders, kitchen staff and hosts. Clearly, Anjan did not take this concept lightly. He fully committed both to his expectations and the experience for staff and customers alike. Perfecting the concept, including the process for hiring from the deaf community, not to mention focus groups to discuss menus and the overall experience, took two years right up to the day of opening in August of 2014. “We received approximately 300 applications over the course of 1 month.” he shared with us, humbly. A record that any new restauranteur would love to brag about. We should also mention that 60% of this staff is from the LGBT community as well. Equal and diverse employment practices abound at this establishment.
So what is the outcome of this well thought out, planned and unique concept you ask? A full experience that transcends the cuisine itself!
The restaurant has a seating capacity of 150. Every detail, including the menus, are well thought out to not only to serve the non-hearing community but also turns SIGNS into a teaching restaurant for the hearing.We could not take pictures of the menus, since they are proprietary, however every item is to be ordered in sign language, and the menu teaches its patrons how to do so through pictures next to each item. Its no wonder that many schools actually have field trips here as part of their curriculum.
We also assure you that the food has not been lost in the teaching concept. To the contrary, we found the menu to be simple, healthy and delicious choices. The detail of the menu beyond the signing explanation is as you can imagine, well defined. It includes simple symbols for vegan, vegetarian, dairy free and gluten free.
The Taste Buds tried a variety of items on the menu. The Mediterranean salad is beautiful and a creative expansion of the standard Caprese salad. We also enjoyed the Mixed Greens and Jicama salad, as well as an amazing Caesar Salad. The Maple and Soy Salmon with Mango Risotto is to die for! %he desserts are delicious healthy choices, that seem decadent, but are really not. The Chef was working on a sugar-free alternative at the time of our visit.
GREAT NEWS! Signs is open for New Years Eve this week. They have two seating times and are serving a six-course pre-fixe menu. Call to make reservations for either 6:30pm or 9:00pm. As you would imagine with such a considerate and kind establishment, SIGNS is also fully wheelchair accessible.
Most restaurants are various degrees of places to eat, however Mr. Manikumar has created such a wonderful experience. We would venture to say that both the non-hearing and hearing community can hear the sound of his kind heart beating here.
SIGNS Restaurant and Bar . 558 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4Y 1Z1 . 647-349-7446 .
About the Author
Joie Lamar recently released her first novel 'Mambo Lips' to rave reviews, and is working on volume two of the series titled 'Salsa Hips' which will be out in November 2015. Natalie is famous for her ‘Dessert Diva’ cheesecakes and especially busy during the spring season baking for numerous long term clients and new celebrations. They both enjoy travel, writing, food and the arts.