House of Blues’ mission statement includes celebrating diversity through great entertainment and promoting harmony through love, peace, truth and righteousness. Worthy stuff, but they forgot to mention the mind-expanding cheese grits.
That’s because House of Blues is best known as a concert venue, and for good reason. But music is just one of its sensory languages. At Mandalay Bay (among 13 locations nationwide), it also encompasses the exclusive Foundation Room and its stunning 43-stories-up view of the Strip as well as the recently revamped restaurant Crossroads.
Inside, Crossroads looks like a secret lair designed by fictional hero Huckleberry Finn and folk art icon Jean Dubuffet. Soft blue light is punched with rainbow stained glass and lanterns on a massive indoor tree. Bright walls are hung with bottle-cap mosaics, sad-eyed angel murals and framed tributes to everyone from Robert “Barbecue Bob” Hicks to Jesus.
• Click here to check out Crossroads' new menu by chef Aaron Sanchez, a Food Network regular and author. From shrimp and grits with fresh tomato to seared ahi and jalapeño on homemade corn chips, it’s comfort fused with contemporary.
• Click here to visit the International House of Blues Foundation, a charitable arm offering youth education programs that inventively explore American arts, culture and history and provide scholarships and community-building opportunities.
“We have some amazing artists,” says local House of Blues GM Ed Berkle, mentioning the works of Reginald Mitchell, Robert Bach, Mr. Imagination and Glitter Girl as vessels for communicating the venue’s message of “unity and diversity, letting people be themselves.”
Berkle takes the unity part seriously when it comes to music. Crossroads has its own stage, and it’s booked with acts that are mostly Vegas-based. Thursdays are Acoustic Strip, a showcase of talented breakout bands. Fridays and Saturdays feature DJs, and Sundays are reserved for Southern comfort food and the soaring voices and strings of gospel.
The Gospel Brunch is the only Strip show with all-you-can-eat jambalaya on the side. The entire buffet is fresh and flavorful, with standout red beans, buttermilk biscuits and chocolate banana bread pudding almost as rich and haunting as the sound of gospel group The Desert Angels. Members have accompanied such artists as Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Natalie Cole and Paul McCartney, and the concentration of talent can drive a roomful of strangers to clap, dance, birthday hug and “be themselves.”
“It’s all about the energy of the restaurant and offering a dynamic experience,” Berkle says, “where music feeds the soul.”