SAN DIEGO -- If you want to get a little spirituality with your next Sunday meal, may I suggest you make your way downtown to the House of Blues?
Not only will you get stuffed to the gills with great food, your soul will be filled to the brim with gospel music!
House of Blues
1055 Fifth Ave
San Diego, Ca (619) 299-Blue (2583)
Website: HOB Gospel Brunch
The HOB World Famous Gospel Brunch is every 2nd and 4th Sunday, and reservations are recommended.
"Whether you’re an avid church-goer looking to spice up the weekly routine, or have never stepped foot in a chapel, House of Blues invites people from all walks of life to join together as one loving whole and embrace the presence of spirituality through music." -- House of Blues
The San Diego House of Blues is located downtown on Fifth Ave, between C Street and Broadway.
You can enter from either side of the building; however, the Box Office where you purchase tickets or find will call, is located on Sixth.
Although the main restaurant is at street level, the Gospel Brunch is served down in the "belly" of the building, where all the top notch entertainment can be found, every night of the week.
As we shuffled down into the brightly lit and otherwise empty music venue with our reservations and hunger pangs, I realized how different it was seeing the familiar space -- where blues magic is often made -- during daytime hours.
Before we had a chance to sit down at our assigned table, we were directed through two, large double-doors off to the side (stage right) of the venue, to the buffet room, just as a large carafe of fresh orange juice and an ice-cold bottle of "champagne" was delivered to our table.
Brunch seating is family style; so be advised, you will be sharing your table with others.
Also important to note, the menu items identified below are subject to change, which upon close review of the printed menu, we apparently experienced ourselves. No matter, the food choices on any given day are excellent.
An all-you-can-eat "Down South" buffet
Since blues and jazz are best known for their Southern roots, HOB offers up standard breakfast fare along with a little taste of the South for their Gospel Brunch, with additional accents and side dishes straight from the Bayou, itself.
Come hungry, because this buffet has everything you need, and then some.
The Pastries and Breads table was filled with fresh pastries, croissants, assorted fresh fruit, and covered with mini danishes and muffins.
Both a classic Caesar salad and the HOB green salad were offered at the Salad Table, with a choice of dressings. Also available were cooked, chilled prawns with cocktail sauce.
Next, diners will find an assortment of breakfast meats (sausage links, bacon), scrambled eggs fixed with cheddar cheese and onions, biscuits and gravy, New Orleans beans and rice, pulled pork with house made BBQ sauce, jambala, macaroni and cheese, cornbread stuffing and plenty of fried chicken.
Just a few steps away at the Meat Carving Station, you can also feast on mouth-watering turkey breast, maple glazed ham and house smoked tri-tip. Those who like their eggs made to order can proceed to the Omelet Station, and add a personalized omelet to top of their plate.
Back inside the venue, the Dessert Station awaits, filled with different offerings depending upon the day, such as Key Lime pie squares and bourbon pecan squares. Assorted cookies are always available and the day we were dining, we had delicious apple cobbler and caramel bread pudding. There is a mini-waffle station here, too,
Back at your table don't forget you get unlimited mimosas. The Roget champagne was very tasty and easily enjoyed alone without the OJ. There is a full bar behind you, so anything else -- like Bloody Marys, for instance -- is also available, for an additional a fee, but coffee is also complimentary.
The wait staff was fantastic, our server was on it and we never had to wait for our plates to be cleared, or for our bottomless champagne and orange juice to be filled.
Gospel music to cheer for
We were seated on the first level overlooking the floor seats in front of the stage (but below the mezzanine) and had a great view of the entire venue. The floor tables in front of the stage are long and fit about 30 people total. Attendees on the floor received more attention from the entertainers, so keep this in mind if you want a more interactive experience.
Promptly at noon we were treated to a real Gospel Choir, The Fulfillment, led by the exceptionally talented and charismatic Eddie Baltrip. The choir is supported by a full band and the day's host was Mr. Earl Dean.
The first 15 minutes were akin to attending a gospel exercise class, where Eddie and the choir led the room through a series of breathing and stretching exercises, assumedly to get us ready for what was in store.
The rich vocal instruments of this choir, along with Baltrip on lead vocal and also acting as director and vocal conductor, was splendid. Baltrip engaged the entire audience, both directly and indirectly with his voice and acrobatics, getting everyone to their feet, bringing many up on the stage, sharing solos with other members of the choir, and acknowledging all those in attendance who were celebrating special occasions.
One minor drawback was the sole focus on a newer, more modern style of Gospel, leaving all traditional standards aside. However, the songs chosen were sung divinely and served their purpose: to get people up, dancing and excited about "the day the Lord hath made."
According to their Facebook page, "Fulfillment's animated aggressive style brings forth music that speaks life and tells a story."
The next House of Blues World Famous Gospel Brunch is Sunday, March 25th, so reserve your seats now!
More 2012 dates are as follows:
04/08 - 10 am and 1 pm
04/15 - 11 am
04/22 - 11 am
05/13 - 10 am and 1 pm
05/27 - 11 am
06/10 - 11 am
06/17 - 11 am
06/24 - 11 am
Aside from a fun and enjoyable brunch, the environment was the perfect setting for birthdays, anniversaries, and corporate functions.
You can check out Eddie B. and The Fulfilment here at their MySpace page.
You can also follow them on their Facebook page.
Gospel CDs were available at the end of the show for just $5.
A big negative was parking. After driving in circles a couple of times, I made the mistake of parking directly across the street (on the Fifth Ave side) in a designated indoor public parking lot. Rates were not publicly posted.
House of Blues does not validate, but this garage requires that you take your ticket with you so you may prepay inside the parking garage lobby before getting back in your car.
At and at the end of our meal we were in for a big surprise when the parking fee was $20., for less than 2 hours rent on the parking space. The attendant blamed the high price on the fact it was Sunday, which was even more surprising.
I'm glad we didn't decide to stick around for another drink or go walking around the neighborhood!
Your best bet is to either find parking on the street, watch for other open lots that publicly advertise a flat fee, share a quick taxi ride from Hillcrest, or even take the trolley!
The House of much much more than Blues
Aside from the Gospel Brunch, the House of Blues is best known as a traditional concert venue. For a list of their upcoming concerts, click HERE.
Crossroads at the House of Blues
The main restaurant of the House of Blues is called Crossroads. Here you will find a brand new "bold and classy, yet contemporary" lunch and dinner menu, hand selected and orchestrated by Food Network star himself, Chef Aaron Sanchez.
Be sure to stop in before a show or any day of the week for a classic meal.
Note: Crossroads will be closed March 30.