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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Seating is nothing fancy — just utilitarian wooden chairs and tables.
Even booths are wooden. Nothing cozy here in the way of seating, but the booths are generous. Even with four adults, you aren’t likely to feel cramped or crowded.
Beyond the seating area, there’s a small stage in the dining area, which plays host to free live musical performances nightly.
Meanwhile, the B. B. Blues Bar takes center stage at the far end of the room. More gothic arches and whimsical paintings decorate the front of the bar, while ceiling murals echo sacred works of art.
After our little tour, I was ready to sample the new menu. We were anxious to see if our favorites had made the cut.
As before, the menu at House of Blues continues to be extensive. Most will surely find something appealing to order.
But there is a subtle shift in the food’s context. Previously, the emphasis on the Mississippi Delta and Cajun flavors was unmistakable, although the menu revolved around mainstream favorites, like spinach dip and pastas. Still, there were several nods to Louisiana cooking, with dishes like Gumbo, Etouffee, and the like.
Chef Aarón Sánchez has taken the menu in a decidedly different direction. While there are still some of the original, Cajun-inspired dishes, there are also many ingredients commonly found in Mexican cuisine. Guests will find chipotle peppers and Cotija cheese, in addition to other traditional Mexican ingredients.
The menu was hard to photograph with the layout, but I wanted you to see the whole thing. I’ve got some close ups of it below.
The menu is arranged vertically, but in three columns. You’ll see that it’s roughly divided into appetizers and starters on the left, main dishes in the middle, and sandwiches on the right.
On the flip side, you’ll find everything else, including sides, desserts, the kids’ menu, and beverages of all types.
Whew!! That’s a LOT of menu!
We knew that one thing was for certain — we had to start with the Cornbread! It’s not the same Rosemary Cornbread that everyone loved from the old menu. But with jalapeno peppers and cheese in the mix, and served with a side of maple butter, this new iteration had a lot of promise.
The presentation, served in an iron skillet, was very nice, and consistent with that down-home feel of the food.
A cross-section of the bread shows the fresh jalapenos and the fine, almost cake-like crumb. This is definitely not a dry version of cornbread.
You know how much I love good cornbread! But nobody at the table that day was a big fan of jalapeno cornbread, including me. We took a few bites for research purposes, though, of course! Golden on the outside and moist on the inside, with good flavor and a rich texture from the jalapenos and cheese, it’s worth the price if jalapeno cornbread is your thing.
A selection of “Hand Stretched Flatbreads” replace the previous flatbread and pizza that were part of the appetizer menu. We went for the BBQ Chicken Flatbread, and it was quite good. Savory cheese and flavorful toppings made it a memorable version of the dish.
My husband often prefers to start his meal with a salad, and today was no exception! So he opted to add a Caesar Salad to his entree. The version here looked really great as salads go — creamy Caesar dressing liberally coated the romaine lettuce, and it’s served with crostini, which features a bit of cheese on top.
We started our entrees with the French Dip. The interpretation here is fairly traditional, but with some attention to detail. The slow-roasted roast beef is thinly shaved and topped with onions sauteed in bourbon.
The whole thing is smothered in a good amount of provolone. Which is awesome. The ample serving of creamy horseradish sauce was served on the side, along with enough au jus to give the sandwich a good soak! Which is the right way to eat it, of course.
Unfortunately, the flavor just wasn’t there for me on this one. It looks awesome, but the roast beef fell flat.
The Fries have that handcut, peels-on, fancy look that’s all the rage these days. And they were served hot, fresh, and well-seasoned.
I decided to give the Buttermilk Fried Chicken a try, because you should always order fried chicken when it’s available ;-D. The generous portion of chicken was gorgeous! All golden brown and crunchy! Not dry at all, and the breading was flavorful, with black pepper and other spices.
The chicken was served with two sides — Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Cole Slaw. While I’m not a big slaw fan, this looked really fresh. And the garlic mashed potatoes were rich with lots of good flavor.
But I had to save a little room for a side dish that I couldn’t pass up. Make way for the Mac and Cheese!!!
This is a dish that can go so wrong, so fast, though. I hoped this one, with a rather hefty pricetag as side dishes go, would be worth it. And it was! Served in (yet another) cast iron skillet, the pasta had a crunchy breadcrumb topping that was a promising start.
But once I dove beneath the surface, I found a wonderfully creamy white cheese sauce that didn’t disappoint. Big enough to share, I really didn’t want to.
With our main meal wrapped up, it was time for something sweet. During my last meal at House of Blues, dessert was one of my favorite parts! So I was kinda bummed to see that the White Chocolate Bread Pudding was no longer part of the lineup.
But I pulled it together, and decided to try the new version, Bourbon Bread Pudding. A closer look at the menu description indicated that there was still a little white chocolate and banana involved here, and the bourbon was in the caramel sauce. Could it be that it just underwent a makeover, a sauce revamp, and a name change?
Welp, not really. While this was OK; I missed the white chocolate sauce and ice cream that came with the last version. This definitely fell flat for me.
My husband went for the Triple Chocolate Cheesecake. It’s kind of an ordinary dessert, as such things go, but it was creamy and not overly sweet.
And all of those fresh raspberries were a nice little bonus, too!
I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic when I heard about the new Crossroads menu at House of Blues. I have nothing against Aarón Sánchez, but I was worried that his style would be out of place in a restaurant that was suppose to be Deep South with Cajun and Creole influences.
So we were pleasantly surprised when we truly enjoyed our meal! Not getting too worked up over the changes helped, since the dishes that we sampled were pretty delicious.
I continue to think that House of Blues offers good, solid food if you’re looking for a table service meal at Downtown Disney. Head over for happy hour and stay for a meal!
Now I’d really like to hear from you. Have you dined at House of Blues recently? Leave a comment and tell us your impressions of the new menu!