This under the radar Mexican restaurant is a hidden gem for live music
Discover a hidden gem in the Junction when you first enter La Rev, a warm and cozy Mexican restaurant that’s also one of the last live music venues to own and tune an acoustic piano.
Owner-operator Indira Nanavati is a classically trained pianist who initially opened the venue ten years ago with her high school friend, a cook, though the partnership didn’t last long. Nanavati explains:
One day my friend broke down and said he couldn’t do this – so he left me there, on a stressful Saturday night, and I had this moment where I wondered if I could do it myself?
It was scary but I got on Craigslist and found a new chef, and 10 days later I was open. It’s been like that ever since.
For me, the cooking part has always been a partnership – I always needed that support in the kitchen to be able to focus on what I wanted to do i.e. live music, whatever I wanted to do. reserve, whether I play or listen to it while I work.
While live music is at the heart of La Rev, their Mexican “comida casera” – home cooking – is popular both in the Junction and beyond thanks to the delivery apps.
“Our kitchen staff come from different parts of Mexico, so it’s nice to get different flavors this way,” says Nanvati. “Although the menu changes you can always count on freshness, a mix of street food and since I’m from Acapulco we do a lot of seafood as well.”
Prior to opening La Rev, Nanavati was a waitress at the nearby Axis Gallery & Grill, where she first met blues musician Julian Fauth, a JUNO award-winning Toronto gem known for his soulful pipes, his haunting songs and old-fashioned piano styles. Nanavati tells:
Julian used to play Axis on Saturdays and Sundays – he was my connection to all the jazz and blues artists that I love now. Before that I was all about classical music… I guess because I’m from the classical world I always make sure the piano is tuned and sounds great.
Julian, being a honky tonk blues player, performed in a few dives and didn’t always play the best pianos, especially before his JUNO victory. Some of his fans said to me ‘Wow Julian has improved so much’ and I said ‘No he just has a nice space now, a good piano to play in.’
It’s a pleasure to give him this space to play, and others form our community.
For a few years now we also have a resident jazz pianist in Peter Hill, he works with so many singers in town, but in this duet series he plays instrumental with special guests like Bill McBirnie, Reg Schwager , Alison Young and the list goes on.
In the true spirit of inclusion, there is usually no cover charge at the door – but musicians are paid by the house and a tip pot invites the audience to show appreciation.
A new event that is hugely successful is a Monday night jazz jam led by trumpet Brownman Ali featuring an impressive array of Gen Z jazz talent. For Nanavati as a booker, it has always been important to nurture young talents.
“When I started out, I didn’t have a lot of connections with musicians in Toronto, so I contacted a lot of Humber students,” says Nanavati. “This [has been] really nice to watch them grow and evolve, and to be able to provide a space for people to be creative without any judgment. “