House of Blues
Gospel Brunch

By Debra Martin Koma

I'd been wanting to try the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues over on Disney's West Side for some time. I hadn't heard too much about it, and it sounded like something different, possibly fun.

Well, having gone a few weeks ago, I can safely say that it's not for everyone. I know this because it was not for me.

I happen to like gospel music, so that wasn't the problem. And I didn't mind the religious overtones at all. But it wasn't what I expected. At all.

First of all, it's a 90-minute brunch, 45 minutes to eat, 45 minutes of show. The problem is, the doors for the 10:30 brunch don't open until... 10:30. So unless you're in the front of the line, you don't get seated (it's reserved seating) for maybe 10-15 minutes. Which means that you have a ton of people in front of you in the food line. Which means you don't get to *start* eating until nearly a half-hour has passed. Which means you get about 15 minutes *maybe* to eat your brunch. And that doesn't count the time you have to wait if you want made-to-order omelets or if you want to go up for seconds.

Now, this probably would not matter so much if the gospel group (in our case, it was Reverend Chambers and the New Inspiration, a family group) didn't make you stand up and start clapping your hands at the very first song. But they did. And since we were seated right in front up closest to the stage, we were rather conspicuous if we didn't stand and clap. So I stood and clapped while my eggs and coffee got ice cold. <sigh> And when I finally sat down (at least 10 minutes later), and wolfed the rest of my breakfast down, I was entreated to "wave my arms" to wave away my troubles. I was getting cranky, because I WAS TRYING TO EAT!!! It was aggravating. I paid to be entertained, not *be* the entertainment. Anyway, once I was done eating, I tried to get into the spirit of the thing, but I just didn't find The New Inspiration very inspirational.

That said, many of the other guests seemed to really enjoy the show. By the last song, when one of the singers went looking for 20 folks to come on stage, he easily rounded up an enthusiastic 50, of all ages. The group finished up shortly before noon, and the place cleared out fairly quickly, most guests with smiles on their faces. But not on mine.

There were other aspects about the brunch experience that left me cold, too. For example, we were seated right in front up against the stage. Seating in this area is at long communal tables and on hard, narrow wooden folding chairs. There wasn't much room to move while you were attempting to eat, and once the show began, with folks getting up and sitting down, it was fairly awkward. Seating around the sides of the restaurant and up in the balcony were at tables or booths, although we saw some folks sitting at high tables on bar stools.

In addition, the food was, in my opinion, just your average brunch fare. There was a mix of breakfast and lunch foods, from scrambled eggs, bacon, grits and home fries, to roast beef, shrimp jambalaya, bbq chicken and ribs. On the plus side, the made-to-order omelets were a very generous size, and the bread pudding with vanilla sauce was mighty tasty. But it's clear, from the brunch I attended at least, that the focus here is not on dining. Of course, I might have enjoyed it more if I could have eaten while it was still hot.

So... would I go again? Probably not. Well, maybe if it was a different group performing. And someone else was paying. But it was worth going at least once.

I guess.

February 2001

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