Sunday Gospel Brunch
at the House of Blues

By Michelle Scribner-MacLean
July 2009


Even though I've been lucky enough to take frequent trips to Walt Disney World, I often still find myself walking by restaurants and attractions that I have yet to try. This is the case with the Sunday Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues at Downtown Disney. I've lost count of the number of times that I've ushered my two boys into DisneyQuest and looked longingly across the way at the House of Blues and at the sign advertising the Sunday Gospel Brunch. Given a choice of Cyber Space Mountain and Gospel music, my kids always chose the thrill rides (and I can't blame them), but when I found myself traveling with a friend recently, I knew that this brunch had to be on my agenda.

I have to admit, I'm not a particularly religious person, but I do enjoy the the energy of Gospel music. At the end of the 2009 Half Marathon, one of the highlights for me was to see the group of gospel singers, clad in gold, who were helping to deliver runners to the finish line with their beautiful harmonies. I knew that great music plus brunch was a recipe for a lovely morning and I wasn't disappointed.

To be certain that I had a ticket, I booked about a month in advance by calling (407) 934-BLUE The box office is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Tickets are $34.25 for adults (age 10 and up) and $18.25 for children 3-9, plus tax (these prices are a bit higher than those listed on the website, but I checked with the box office for the most up-to-date prices). If you order by phone, there is an additional $1.75 per ticket surcharge.

I was able to receive a 20% Disney Vacation Club Discount, but learned that there was no discount for annual pass holders. There are two performances each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The box office staff told me that these shows, especially the 10:30 performance, often sell out, so it's good to buy in advance.

We arrived 30 minutes ahead of our 10:30 a.m. show to find the line already forming. I was happy that we got there early for a few reasons. First, we were able to take advantage of the pre-show $3 Mimosas that were being offered as we waited in line and second, we were able to settle at our table and be among the first to get into the queue for brunch.

Your time in the House of Blues is actually divided into two parts. The first 30-45 minutes are allotted to eating and the second 45-minutes are devoted to watching the show (you could, in theory, continue to eat during the show, but I found myself up and moving a lot, so I was glad I took time to eat beforehand).

There are three audience levels at the House of Blues. Groups of about six or more can sit on the lower level near the stage, we were at the middle level, and there is also a balcony level. The lower and middle levels share a buffet, while the upper level has its own food service station. Many of the tables sit larger parties, but we sat at tall table with high barstools, which was fine, but would probably be tricky for kids to navigate without a bit of help.

Without exception, we found the servers to be very helpful and friendly. They seemed to be having almost as much fun being there as we were.

I'm a vegetarian and was a little nervous about the choices that would be available but there was plenty for me to eat….and there was even more for my non-vegetarian buddy to eat. The menu included: Caesar salad, mixed field greens, Catfish with spicy tartar sauce, jumbo shrimp, chicken jambalya, BBQ chicken, rice and beans with andouille sausage, turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, roast beef, "down home" broccoli salad, eggs, bacon, sausage, grits, and Creole potatoes.

Dessert included a variety of fruits, key lime pie, brownies, fruit cobbler with granola, banana bread, and a variety of pastries. There was also a beverage bar with juices, coffees, and teas, and the bar was open and available for drinks.

Arriving early helped us to get through the buffet quickly so that we could have lots of time to enjoy our food. My friend also decided to get his entire meal at once, so he didn't have to go back and wait in line. The lines weren't very long, but this is a great way to no make sure that don't have to keep getting up to get food.

In general, I'm not a huge fan of buffet-style restaurants. I find that I get a bit overwhelmed with all of the choices and usually find the food to be sub-standard. However, I really enjoyed the different flavors and choices available at this buffet. Many of the entrees had a Cajun sort of spiciness that was not overwhelming, but made the food a bit different from what you'd normally find. My companion raved about the meat entrees, as well. We were very happy with the food and, before the music even started, we were already making plans to return.

As I mentioned, the staff were very friendly and this was even more evident when the show began, as many of them were singing and dancing off to the side of the stage for the first number. As an audience member I sort of felt if THEY were having fun, we should be having fun, too.

In my mind, I had envisioned 50 performers in robes singing Gospel music, so I was surprised when the act began and it was about eight performers, who took turns singing different songs. When they first started, I thought, "Hmmm, this wasn't exactly what I was hoping for," but after a few minutes I was up clapping and dancing with most of the rest of the audience. The group we saw was called the Sons of Solomon from Daytona, and they were a group of dynamic and energetic entertainers. Within ten minutes they had the entire place moving and rocking and forgetting about the idea of going back to the buffet for seconds!

I later found out that the bands change from month to month. I liked the idea that next time we go, it would most likely be a different group and a different experience. The show schedule comes out a month in advance and is available on the Orlando House of Blues website (http://www.houseofblues.com/venues/clubvenues/orlando/gospelbrunch.php).

For the finale, the group asked for everyone who had a recent birthday or anniversary to come up on stage to do something called the Daytona Lean. About 50 audience members got their moment on the stage, as they got to dance and groove to their hearts' content! Again, I want to underscore that you don't have to be particularly religious to enjoy this experience. This experience is accessible to people from diverse backgrounds.

As a measure of how much fun we had, we were already making plans to come back before we even left the building. The food was great, the entertainment was fun, and it was an experience unlike any I've had at Walt Disney World so far. In fact, next time we're in WDW, I'll be bringing my boys there before we venture into Disney Quest. It's one of those Downtown Disney experiences that is definitely worth checking out.