Review: Crossroads at House of Blues at Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney

So the big news from last week was the opening of a brand new counter service spot at Downtown Disney’s House Of Blues — the Smokehouse!

While we’ll be sure to stop by from time to time, it’s been a while since we reviewed the main house here as well! Let’s check out the dining room at Crossroads at House of Blues at Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney for lunch.

We were surprised by the quality of food on our first visit. While just about everything was good, the classic Buffalo Chicken Wings and the White Chocolate Bread Pudding were the real standouts.

But since our last visit, House of Blues has partnered with celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez to completely overhaul the food offerings. While the emphasis at House of Blues is still on live music, the new Crossroads menu has taken the previously Southern-tinged menu in a slightly different direction.

Atmosphere

As I mentioned, if you haven’t been to House of Blues since the Crossroads menu came to the Walt Disney World location, you won’t find the surroundings to be much different than before. The menu didn’t coincide with a revamp of the restaurant itself.

In Blues We Trust!

Funky, rustic, slightly dark, and whimsical…those are the words that come to mind. You’re supposed to feel as though you happened upon House of Blues on some country road while traveling through the Deep South. And they succeed with transporting you.

Folk Art Outside

Like other Downtown Disney restaurants, House of Blues features multiple bars. The outside bar is a great spot to grab a drink and hang out with friends before or after a performance. It features “hand-lettered” menus and tole painting, as well as brackets and other finishes that appear to have been salvaged and repurposed.

Outdoor Bar

Next to Crossroads Restaurant, you’ll find the Club, which is the main performance venue for House of Blues. The hall holds up to 2,000 guests, and draws top-name talent regularly. It’s a great place to see a show if you haven’t had the chance.

Club — House of Blues Concert Venue

In addition to other performances, House of Blues also offers a regular Gospel Brunch. Held each Sunday at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm, you can read our review of Kirk Franklin’s Gospel Brunch in Disneyland’s Downtown Disney District here.

Gospel Brunch Information

But, snazzy musical performances would have to wait for another day. We were here for lunch, and we were hungry.

We made our way into the restaurant and were greeted with more folk art. At the hostess stand, you get a healthy dose of this interesting fusion. Gothic arches and cherubim call to mind a place of worship.

Entrance

Seating is nothing fancy — just utilitarian wooden chairs and tables.

Seating

Even booths are wooden. Nothing cozy here in the way of seating, but the booths are [Read more…]

Guest Review: Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch BBQ

Let’s give a welcoming “Howdy” to guest author Victoria Kabakian. Today, she is sharing a review of Big Thunder Ranch BBQ in Disneyland. Now, let’s get to the grub!

There’s only one place that can marry an unequivocal love for Disneyland with the perfect bucket of stick-to-your-ribs, you’ll-need-to-floss-afterwards barbecue, and that’s none other than Big Thunder Ranch BBQ.

During a recent visit to the park, we had to take an unplanned detour through Fantasyland to get here, due to the current refurbishment at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Even with the added obstacle, it was worth the frantic pace required to make it in time for our advance dining reservation.

Entrance to Big Thunder Ranch

Atmosphere

Perhaps it’s because nearby Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was closed at the time, but our visit to Big Thunder Ranch BBQ was a quiet escape from the typical crowds at Disneyland.

The moment we saw the wooden archway welcoming us to Big Thunder Mountain Ranch, “Home of the Happiest Horses on Earth,” we felt like we had entered another world.

Rows of Picnic Tables

We had a somewhat late afternoon reservation at 1:30PM, and the space wasn’t overly crowded at that time. When we checked in for our ADR, we were asked if we minded sharing a table with others or if we preferred our own table. Since they had the space to accommodate us, we opted for our own table and were then handed a buzzer to alert us when the table was ready.

Picnic Tables Surrounding the Stage

Wooden picnic tables covered with red-white-and-blue plastic tablecloths and shaded with canopies are lined up in concentric semi-circles around the focal point of an elevated stage featuring live entertainment.

Live Entertainment

With short sets and frequent breaks in between songs, a piano player, acoustic guitarist, and singer take the stage with down-home ranch-style entertainment. This is just a sliver of the fun that is to be had during a meal at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ.

Fun Sign Near the Restrooms

Even a trip to the bathroom feels like an adventure in time and space (especially when you get lost following simple directions) with playful signs for “100% Splinter Free” bath tissue, and Cowboys and Cowgirls entrances for his and hers facilities.

“Cowgirls” Sign for the Ladies Restroom

Once we finished our *ahem* business and headed to our own private picnic table (no sharing required, thank you very much), the laid back country vibe of the space continued with a stack of bright Mickey Mouse-red dishes and a bucket of utensils, napkins, and wet-wipes for inevitably sticky fingers.

Help Yourselves!

Eats

The menu at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ differs only slightly [Read more…]

Review: Flame Tree Barbecue at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Last week, I had the pleasure of heading to Walt Disney World for a super quick jaunt around the parks.

And while there, I decided it was high time to stop by one of my (and yours!!) favorite spots in Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree Barbecue.

Flame Tree Barbecue consistently gets rave reviews from Disney food fans as one of the top — if not the top — counter service spots in all of Walt Disney World. I was anxious to see if it still lived up to my fond memories…

Atmosphere

Located in the Discovery Island section of Animal Kingdom, you’ll find this colorful restaurant adjacent to the entrance to Dinoland (which is awesome, and you should totally go there). And as the name clues you in — they specialize in barbecue, with meats that are smoked right in the “Flame Tree Barbecue Smokehouse.”

Flame Tree Barbecue Sign

Normally, you see lines snaking back from the ordering area — note the cow-line ropes in the picture. But it was shockingly not busy when I got there late in the afternoon (around 4:30pm). See? I told you those Disney Dining Tips are for real! ;-)

Flame Tree Barbecue -- Outside View

The set up is your standard Disney counter service situation, with multiple ordering stations and pick up lines. You won’t find any automated kiosks here…yet!

Ordering Kiosk

For guests who aren’t familiar with smoked meats and the pink color that the meat takes on due to the process, you’ll find these signs. You can be sure that your meat is thoroughly cooked, even though it may appear pink inside.

Sign Regarding Smoking Process

Once you’ve chosen your food, be sure to [Read more…]

First Look: Flo’s V8 Cafe Revs Up for Business in Disney California Adventure!

A few weeks ago, I was able to get a media sneak peek and food preview of Cars Land.

While we were there, every single attendee was in awe of its landscape, then we were blown away even more when we were led into Flo’s V8 Cafe for a tasting!

Flo's V8 Cafe Signage

At that time, no photos were allowed. But, guess what? After 5 years, the time has come, the walls are down, and Flo’s is open for business!

Flo's Entrance

Flo’s V8 Cafe was modeled after a Route 66 stop called Midpoint Cafe in Midpoint, Texas.

And the backstory in Cars Land is that Flo’s caters to the growing number of Route 66 visitors and race fans coming to Radiator Springs, with a “showroom” dining area that overlooks the Radiator Springs Racers attraction. This is one of the amazing views…

Watch the Radiator Springs Racers and enjoy the view while you dine at Flo's!

Atmosphere

The minute you walk into Flo’s, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. To me, it felt like the scene in Back to the Future when Marty enters the soda fountain to find his dad, George McFly sitting there.

You’re in complete awe of the music, the colors, the decor; everything. Flo’s is, in fact, so gorgeous that they have a Photo Pass photographer set up with a tripod out front to take pictures of people in front of the restaurant!

Here’s some of the fun outside “decor” that makes Flo’s so much fun to [Read more…]

First Look! Food Photos and Tasting Review From Flo’s V-8 Cafe in Cars Land

Today I had the pleasure of walking behind the closed off walls of Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. This brand new land in the Disneyland Resort has been under construction for years, and I couldn’t believe I was actually going to get a sneak peek…and even get to sample some of the brand new menu items that will be served there and on Buena Vista Street when they open next month! 

Standing under the mountains of Ornament Valley with the Radiator Springs Racers whizzing by, I had to take a deep breath.  Goosebumps on my arms, tears in my eyes. What in the world was happening to me? I’ve watched the progress of Cars Land from day one, and now, it’s nearly done.

Flo's V-8 Cafe Under Construction in Cars Land

Just weeks away from the June 15th grand opening and there I stood, inside getting a sneak peek!  The only way for me to describe Cars Land is simple and true. You are IN Radiator Springs. You have stepped into Cars. 

After telling myself to get it together and wishing I could take a photo, I followed the other attendees into Flo’s V8 Cafe for a sampling of the menu!

Menu and Backstory of Flo's V-8 Cafe

Because Flo’s is not 100% complete, photos were not allowed, the pictures you see here were from a “preview” room that we were taken to beforehand. 

Atmosphere

I’ll do my best to describe to you in detail the atmosphere of Flo’s. Flo’s is a counter service restaurant serving up breakfast, lunch & dinner.  Upon entering, be sure to look up. There is a giant light fixture made of shiny tail pipes

Flo’s caters to the growing number of Route 66 visitors and race fans coming to Radiator Springs, with a “showroom” dining area that overlooks the Radiator Springs Racers attraction. The cafe also is home to Flo’s personal memorabilia, collected during her glamorous career as a singer with the Motorama Girls.

The service area includes several walk-up kiosks (or food pods) divided by road barrier type blockades to keep you in your line. The main color of the cafe is turquoise. There is a giant juke box fixture at the counter.  Two main dining rooms make up the cafe, and there is both indoor (booths & tables) and outdoor seating.

Best of all? You can’t beat the view from the dining rooms. One side features a perfect view of Sally’s Cozy Cones and the other — a breathtaking view of [Read more…]