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Review: House of Blues Orlando

Update: As we reported earlier, House of Blues in Orlando is now serving the new Crossroads Menu.

At long last, I finally made it over to the West Side of Disney World’s Downtown Disney to have my FIRST EVER meal at House of Blues! I can’t wait to hear your comments about this place!

Atmosphere

The House of Blues is all about atmosphere. Eating there is like being plunged into the middle of a museum. According to the official House of Blues website, here’s the backstory:

The House of Blues grew out of founder Isaac Tigrett’s love for the unique American art form known as the “the Blues,” Weaned on this music during his early childhood in Tennessee, one of Isaac’s goals was to introduce the world to the music of the rural south, including the Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Jazz and Roots-abed Rock & Roll.

The Blues is translated throughout the restaurant — inside and out — via fascinating, and sometimes extremely powerful, artwork.

The “grounds” of the restaurant surround a huge porch, and are peppered with found-object sculptures, mosaics, and sturdy painted artwork.

Theming

House of Blues Found Object Sculpture

Next to the main restaurant building is the “club,” where House of Blues puts on frequent ticketed music events, including the weekly House of Blues Gospel Brunch.

Concert Venue

Gospel brunch info

The outdoor bar provides a great place to spend an hour or two with friends before or after an event at the concert venue.

outdoor bar

Outdoor bar menu

Inside, hugely colorful mosaics, collages, and paintings take up all available wall space, but don’t think the decor stops there!

Entrance

Seating is offered at tables and wooden booths, and there’s a small stage in the middle of the main dining room for live, (no ticket required) musical acts.

seating

Seating and small live music stage

The indoor B.B. Blues Bar dominates the far end of the main dining room giving it a none-too-subtle “altar” feeling. Bottle caps and painting decorate the full-length bar, and instructions like “no fighting” are drawn into the decor.

The soaring ceiling of the bar area is covered with murals that surround a blown-up re-print of a Blues Brothers Rolling Stone Magazine cover. While the Blues Brothers did not found the House of Blues line of restaurants, Dan Aykroyd is a partner in the company.

Indoor Bar

On the ceiling, guests are treated to almost “Smithsonian”-esque friezes featuring reliefs of Blues musicians.

ceiling detail

ceiling

Even the restroom is covered in free-hand painting. And the metal doors remind me of the found-object sculpture in the courtyard area around the outdoor bar.

Bathroom

One little criticism — the music we heard on our visit was a bit too mainstream to make me really feel that they were trying to share the Blues culture with their guests.

Eats

This is one of those places where I want to try everything on the menu.

The offerings are broad, including fabulously savory sounding things like cajun crab and artichoke dip, crispy catfish fingers, shrimp and crawfish etouffee, cajun meatloaf, creole seafood jambalaya, and white chocolate banana bread pudding. How do you get out of a place like this without being completely stuffed? Check out the menus and you’ll see my point…

click image for larger version

click image for larger version

click image for larger version

Kids Menu

I dove into the drink menu, as I've been known to do from time to time at restaurants that feature something other than the standard Disney drink menu, and quickly decided on a Bluesmobile!

bluesmobile

bluesmobile beverage

Now, I'm pretty sure the sweet and sour was left completely out of this drink when I received it. Seriously, my friends, I know I'm a lightweight when it comes to drinking, but the amount of vodka I ingested in just the first sip probably put my blood alcohol level well over the legal limit! Believe it or not, I asked the server to bring me a double shot of sweet and sour to mix into the drink...just to make it palatable!

My apologies for those of you who may have been reading my tweets that afternoon! Anyway, I clearly needed some food in my stomach at that point, so it we quickly started scanning those menus!

We started with the spicy Buffalo wings, because they're one of my favorite dishes (being from the Buffalo, NY, area), and I always order them anywhere I can find them in Disney World (there aren't all that many spots, I can assure you).

These were fabulous. Maybe it's just been a long time since I had a really good wing (after moving to Texas, I've found that people aren't as inventive with chicken wings everywhere as they are in Buffalo), but these ones were perfect. Crispy and hot, but flavorful in addition to being spicy. Sometimes folks think that something that's spicy doesn't have to actually taste good, but this is not a problem with the House of Blues wings. By the way, they're served on a bed of bleu cheese slaw.

Wings

And of course we had to try the rosemary cornbread with honey butter. I'd put out the call on twitter for suggestions about what to have for dessert, and more than a few folks mentioned that as long as I had that cornbread with honey butter I wouldn't need dessert! (Don't worry -- of COURSE I had dessert, too!)

rosemary cornbread with honey butter

And we simply had to sample the creamy spinach dip with house-made chips. We're suckers for a good spinach dip (sometimes it's the only way I'll get my vegetables!), so we often try it when we find it on a menu.

This version was very cheesy, as you can see from the photo. Yep -- that's bubbly cheese on top! We dove in with gusto and thoroughly enjoyed the chips and the dip. It doesn't have that certain "zing" -- that cream cheese-like flavor -- to it that you'll often find in a great spinach dip, but it will definitely do the trick if creamy and cheesy is what you're craving.

Creamy Spinach Dip with housemade chips

For entrees, we finally made up our minds to order the BBQ Basted Baby Back Ribs and the Smokehouse Blues Burger. First up -- the ribs! They were quite good. The meat was moist and flavorful, and the sauce was delicious. I loved that slight char on the outside of the ribs, and the slight fattiness to the meat made them all the more delectable.

While I liked the sides, what I was really excited about was the corn on the cob. I love corn on the cob. Who doesn't love corn on the cob? But this wasn't up to snuff. To do C-O-T-C well, the ear needs to come out of the boiling water, be slathered with butter and salt, and eaten right away. Corn does NOT do well under a heat lamp. It gets wrinkly and soggy and altogether unappetizing. Plus, the taste was a bit gritty. Serves me right for ordering corn out-of-season, though, I guess.

ribs

The Smokehouse Blues Burger featured barbecue sauce, choice of cheese (I picked cheddar of course), and bacon. The burger was great, and while it's not on my top 5 list of burgers EVER (the seasonings and overall flavor didn't blow me away), I'd certainly order it again. And I would count it as one of the better burgers in Disney World, to be sure.

The shoestring fries served with the burger were fantastic. I love when crispy, salty french fries get all tangled up with one another so you have to eat a whole mess of 'em at once. HOB fries = winners.

barbecue burger

And, luckily, the server got my order wrong and brought out a regular burger before the Smokehouse Burger, so I grabbed a shot of that for you, too!

Burger

But now, my friends, it's time to move on to the truly incredible part of the meal. While the apps and entrees were definitely above-par, the desserts are where it's AT at HOB Orlando.

We took the advice of Disney Food Blog readers and ordered both the Key Lime Pie and the White Chocolate Bread Pudding.

The bread pudding was some of the best I've ever tried. The white chocolate is present as a rich, creamy sauce surrounding the bread pudding -- I recommend ordering extra! The vanilla ice cream contrasting with warm bread pudding and rich sauce makes this dessert stunning. It has moved into my list of favorites in all of Disney World!

white chocolate bread pudding

And one of my favorite desserts is key lime pie, so I was eager to see how this version stacked up. It was delicious -- a thick, creamy filling versus the thin, whipped kind you occasionally find out there. Definitely worth trying, though I'd order the bread pudding if I could only choose one!

key lime pie

Overall

House of Blues Orlando was a great time (how much of that is attributable to my over-vodka'd drink, I'm not certain).

While the service wasn't stellar, the menu was definitely something I plan to revisit over and over again. There's so much to try, and we certainly didn't dig into everything we wanted to taste on this trip. But those chicken wings and that dessert are definitely on my list of favorites.

While we were there for an early lunch on this visit, I think this place would be a blast on a warm Orlando evening as well. Who wants to meet me there for a show sometime?

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16 Comments

  1. Nicola says:

    Key Lime Pie!!!!! Its yummy!!
    Fred always has ‘The Elwood’

  2. Dana says:

    Back in ’99, our marching band went to Disney for Magic Music Days, and on our last day before we departed back home, we went to the House of Blues for a Gospel Brunch, and I have fond memories of it being SO much fun! I haven’t been back since, but your review (especailly of the wings- yum!) makes me want to head back there next month!

  3. We had dinner at HOB before a concert last year, and I was surprised at the quality of the food. A great spot indeed…

  4. Kelly says:

    My biggest problem with the HOB is how much of the menu has Cajun spices on it. My stomach doesn’t particularly like cajun spices…so I haven’t been back to HOB is quite a while.

  5. Sarah says:

    I love HOB! For a tourist trap-esque chain, it is consistently good. I like the catfish nuggets. Service can be hit or miss at the tables, but I’ve experienced consistently good service at the bar. Unfortunately, they don’t have draft beer – only bottles. I’ve been over on the weekend where a musician sings and plays guitar at the outside bar. It’s a nice change of pace!

    Restaurant.com has gift certificates too, and with a coupon code you can often get a $25 GC to HOB for $2.

  6. Patty says:

    I’ve always avoided the HOB at Disney because the food at the Chicago one is beyond horrible. After your review I might give it a try :)

  7. Kim says:

    Buffalo wings, those fries and the bread pudding dessert have me considering HoB for my family’s October vacation. Yum!

  8. AJ says:

    Nicola — Will have to try the Elwood!

    Dana — Definitely worth a trip! I’d love to go to the Gospel Brunch someday :-)

    Deej — I was surprised as well. I honestly didn’t expect much, so I was very pleased!

    Kelly — Ah! Great point. That’s like me and cilantro!

    Sarah — GREAT note on the coupons at Restaurant.com!! I always forget about ‘em!

    Patty — Ha ha! I’m going to try the Dallas one at some point to see if there’s a similarity in quality. Seems that the menus are very similar.

    Kim — Lemme know if you go!! (Maybe I’ll meet you there!)

  9. Adhi says:

    I’m so pleased to see this review! I often find myself wandering around downtown disney thinking about where I’d like to eat, and somehow I never think of HOB (Fulton’s, Raglan Road, Portobello and Wolfgang Puck’s always come to mind). I haven’t been to the store/restaurant in ages, but I’ll be sure to head over there sometime in the near future. In all seriousness, the menu looks wonderful, and a nice deviation from the less-exotic fare I seem to find everywhere else in the area.

  10. Sara says:

    My family and I went to the Gospel Brunch a few years back, it was really a fun experience! The food there is buffet-style, so I haven’t gotten to try the items you described yet. I always try to add this one to our ADR list though (one of these days we’ll keep it on there!)

  11. Liz says:

    We ate at HOB this past February and thought the food was delicious. We had dinner there and noticed the happy hour specials, so a few days later we went for happy hour and it was just as good. They had $3 margaritas and long island iced teas as part of the special. The food and drinks are consistently good. Their cornbread and the voodoo shrimp is so yummy!

  12. Gabriella says:

    We used a $25 coupon from restaurant.com during our Spring Break trip and loved HOB! Our server was wonderful and helped us choose some customer favorites from the menu since it was our first time. The Voodoo shrimp was fantastic but we weren’t too fond of the Mediterranean calamari. Like AJ, we loved the fries. We also had the sautéed salmon with eggplant stuffing and the shrimp po’ boy and both were delicious, especially the salmon, which I’d definitely order again. We didn’t save room for dessert though so now we’ll have to go back for the white chocolate bread pudding. It sounds yummy! Thanks for the great review!

  13. Alan says:

    This is another place I haven’t been to in years, due to the DDP. AJ’s review is better than I remember it – worth another try. Another reason to dump the dining plan for the next trip, and try some of the places not on the plan.

  14. Sharmin says:

    Hey! My brother went to HOB a month ago and has not been able to stop talking about the White Chocolate Bread Pudding! I wanna recreate it but am wondering if the bread used was banana bread? If not then where do the actual bananas come in? Appreciate any feedback :)

  15. AJ says:

    Wow, Sharmin, I’m not really sure! From what I experienced, if there WERE bananas, they were somewhere in the cake. Check HoB’s website to see if there’s a recipe! :-)

  16. katie standifer says:

    This corn bread is to die for!!! I love corn bread and this is the best I’ve had ever! Great service. Only 5 min wait. Getting ready to try the meat loaf and mashed potatoes

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