House of Blues
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!
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.
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.
The outdoor bar provides a great place to spend an hour or two with friends before or after an event at the concert venue.
Inside, hugely colorful mosaics, collages, and paintings take up all available wall space, but don’t think the decor stops there!
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.
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.
On the ceiling, guests are treated to almost “Smithsonian”-esque friezes featuring reliefs of Blues musicians.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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?