Signs Restaurant (Toronto)

Immerse yourself in deaf culture at Signs Restaurant, a one of a kind restaurant with deaf staff where you use sign language to order from their assortment of high quality dishes.

After hearing about Signs Restaurant at Fan Expo where Cherami Leigh mentioned it during an anime panel I quickly made a reservation through their website.

Upon entering through the front doors of this unique dining establishment you are quickly greeted by the Maitre D’ (who managed to get my name on the first try- a feat which many if not most in the past have failed) and immediate took us to our table.

The restaurant is decorated with various posters of signs- such as how to say “Thank You” and the entire alphabet (one poster each), from “A” to “Z”.

Once you are seated someone will come with your waiter to verbally introduce the concept but afterward you deal exclusively with the deaf waiter.  You order your meal using sign language- the menu has pictures to show how to do the signs and the table has a cheat sheet on it that shows you various signs such as indicating allergies, saying thank you, and asking for a split bill.

After ordering the waiter shows you a picture with the name of the dish on it to double check that they correctly understood you. Since I ordered three dishes the waiter also showed me the order the dishes were to come out in and gave me a chance to make changes.

It is as difficult as you want it to be. If you want to challenge yourself to not making any gestures, keeping your lips sealed, and perfecting the signs in the menu that is your prerogative. I myself let several words slip (like the odd “thanks”, “yes”, and “no”) and made a lot of hand gestures which in hindsight likely had unintended meanings.

The Food

There are cheap but good quality cocktails at $7-8, and beer as low as $5.5 for a 20oz pint. Alcoholic drinks took a while to come but non-alcoholic drinks arrived quickly.

Chili Lime Shrimp: On the expensive side. Three large shrimp for $15, also came with corn and a small pile of greens as garnish. Shrimp tasted excellent, good amount of lime flavour and not spicy at all. Would recommend if you don’t mind dishing out extra cash or to split with one or two other people.

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Duck Confit Poutine: Good quality poutine with a pile of duck confit in the centre. A sizable amount of duck confit, was not disappointed. For $11 it is a great value and very filling. If you want to keep things on the cheaper side this would be an excellent starter dish to share, or even to have as your main course.

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Pork Belly Bahn Mi: Very filling and a good bang for your buck at $15. Comes with fries, soup, or a salad. I got it with a caesar salad. Good medley of flavours and a generous amount of pork belly.

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The Owner

The owner came by and talked to us for several minutes at the end of the meal. He asked us for feedback and explained the idea behind the restaurant. The owner told us 80% of deaf people are unemployed- which makes a restaurant like this an amazing opportunity.

He was very friendly and told us a few funny stories involving signing- in all cases wait staff remains polite and friendly. It truly added to the experience to have this one-on-one with the owner at the end of the meal.

Rating

Price: 4/5: Food is reasonably priced, minus the costly appetizers. Drinks are very cheap.

Atmosphere: 4.5/5: Upscale, unique, and very welcoming. Appropriate decorations. Informative and interesting experience of deaf culture.

Service: 4/5: Servers are very patient and helpful. Service is definitely on the slow side- the owner mentioned that most employees lack former experience and given the inherent complications of the unique restaurant design this is mostly admissible.

Food & Drink: 4.5: Was expecting a drop in quality due to the restaurant’s nature but was pleasantly surprised. Good variety of dishes.

Overall: 4.5/5

To try Signs Restaurant yourself:
558 Yonge St.
https://signsrestaurant.ca/

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