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HOUSE OF BLUES

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Mandalay Bay

3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-632-7600

website

$20-$40

Daily 8-Midnight

Weekends until 1am

American/BBQ

B

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

The bayou comes to the Las Vegas strip with a mixture of classic Blues music and memorabilia along with Louisiana style cooking.

Where is it?

At Mandalay Bay on the South Strip.

What kind of food is served?

This is one theme restaurant where you don't have to suffer through the typical burgers and grilled chicken Caesar salads. They have both of those but they also have lots of Cajun/Creole influenced fare including Seafood Gumbo, Catfish Nuggets, Cajun Porkchops, Crawfish, and much more. Although it may not be as good as what you'd get if you go to New Orleans, it's all very well prepared, fresh, and quite tasty.

What is the atmosphere like?

The House of Blues is famous for their roadhouse décor - lots of rough wood, corrugated tin, and low lighting. It's a fun environment that goes great with the food.

How is the service?

The wait staff has seemed a little harried, especially at busy meal times, but they are still friendly and get the job done.

What are the prices like?

Burgers, sandwiches, and salads will cost you between $10-20 while the entrees start around $20 and go up from there.

What else do I need to know?

They have a terrific Gospel Brunch every Sunday - check out the full review below.

What's the bottom line?

Theme restaurants are omnipresent in Las Vegas and this is one of the better examples of the breed.

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FULL REVIEW (GOSPEL BRUNCH)

Praise the Lord and Pass the Biscuits. So goes the calling card for this wholly original and highly entertaining alternative to the staid and stodgy Sunday brunches at most Vegas hotels. Heck, this is a highly entertaining alternative to the staid and stodgy Sunday services at most churches.

A fixture at HOB venues around the country, The Sunday Gospel Brunch has gotten quite a following among the faithful, not-so-faithful, and just plain old curious. But mixing some decent down-home food with fantastic foot-stomping Gospel music in a Las Vegas casino (Mandalay Bay) is nothing short of brilliant in my opinion. I mean think of it. You can indulge in all the sin that the city has to offer and then come here to atone and get a pretty decent jambalaya in the process.

As long as we're on the subject, let's talk about the food first since that's what you're going to experience first. They herd everyone into the performance area where tables have been set up and then shepherd (sorry, couldn't resist) everyone through a buffet line packed with scrambled eggs, Cajun style eggs, bacon, potatoes, grits, and other breakfast items plus salad, jambalaya, pasta, and a few other lunch entrees. There's also a small dessert station, a carving station with ham and prime rib, and a juice and beverage bar. Each table comes with a pot of coffee and a pitcher of water.

Although certainly not as inspiring as some of the better buffets in town, the food here is serviceable at worst and tasty at best, with that New Orleans twist that is not easy to find in a town full of macaroni salad and mashed potatoes. But you're not coming here for the food, really. If you are, you'll probably be a bit disappointed and should head to a more traditional buffet.

No, this place is about the music and about 45 minutes after seating for the brunch, the small (in numbers but not in energy or volume) gospel choir took the stage for another 45 minutes or so of "Praise Jesus," "Hallelujah," and "Stomp on the Devil's Head" shouts between the uplifting and inspiring Gospel numbers.

Six women and one man, backed by a small but effective band make joyful noises big and bold enough to make you believe there's an entire Gospel choir on stage. This is traditional, tent-revival, black, Southern Baptist gospel (for lack of a better description) done with a modern flair and so don't expect to hear solemn hymn style gospel like "Shall We Gather At The River." This is that soul stirring stuff that most people only get to see in movies.

The performers and the food are not the same week in and week out but if my visit was a fair representation you should be in for a treat on both fronts.

Now it's important to note that these are obviously deeply religious people and they will encourage you to stand up and wave your hands and praise Jesus and the whole nine yards so if you feel like you can't get past that for 45 minutes of really fantastic music, don't go. But if you are a true believer, or like me someone who just loves pure Gospel music and will worry about the whole heaven and hell thing later, this absolutely has to be on your list of things to do on your next trip to Vegas.

And don't forget, it'll make you feel better for gambling and drinking and going to strip clubs and topless shows the night before.

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