Monday, June 18, 2007
Restaurant Review: House of Blues Dallas
House of Blues Dallas ain’t quite in tune.
DALLAS Chain restaurants. Like strip malls, Palm Beach Tans, and Paris Hilton, they’re an omnipresent fixture on the American cultural landscape. But their older brother, the destination chain restaurant, hasn’t had as much of an impact since back when Planet Hollywood was liquidated to pay for Sylvester Stallone’s supply of human growth hormone. So, when The House of Blues Dallas Restaurant opened, we knew we would have to check this place out.
First off, let’s get one thing straight: We’re not reviewing the House of Blues as a concert venue. We’ll leave that to the guy in the Black Crowes T-shirt with the soul patch. Coincidentally, while rummaging through the garbage dumpsters behind Victory Plaza (for our future review of the N9NE restaurants), we found this secret memo from the House of Blues corporate headquarters. We’ll share it with you here, but please keep it a secret:
TOP SECRET AND CONFIDENTIAL
To: New HOB Dallas employees
From: HOB-HQ controversy
Re: Welcome Note
Welcome, valued employee! You are fired. We are replacing you with a Waiterbot 4000. Please report to the Vapid Dehumanizer located at the Platinum Club in the American Airlines Center so that we can scan your image onto the Waiterbot that will bear your image. Why are you being fired the day before opening, you ask? Silence! Waiterbots do not ask questions. Waiterbots smile endlessly and fill awkward silences with soliloquies about how great our "signature" items are. Waiterbots are programmed so that at least seven separate Waiterbots will visit each table in an hour to keep diners off balance. Waiterbots don't forget to ask diners if they would like dessert even if a diner's wallet is already on the table. Waiterbots will fill empty glasses with tea whether there was tea in the glass or not. Waiterbot resistance is futile. If you wish, you may report to our re-training seminar at the burnt-out remains of The Hard Rock Café on McKinney. Have a nice day!
That memo was totally real and we really do dumpster dive (we are attorneys, after all). Back in restaurant reviewer training, our Sensei used to tell us three very important things: 1) don’t review chains; 2) don’t review a place the first week it's open for business; and 3) your check for next semester's instruction bounced. We ignored all of that advice in order to bring you this review. You’re welcome.
The Law Reviewers
Two local attorneys applying their trained legal minds to the world of culinary arts (or at least it's sorta like that).
Anthony Lowenberg with Hermes Sargent Bates.
Michael Anderson with Bracewell & Giuliani
Starting off with the atmosphere, the restaurant and club are located in the White Swan Building, which is an old warehouse next to Woodall Rogers; you gain instant street cred from the fact that you’ll be looking over your shoulder while walking from your car. The outdoor porch area is reminiscent of a funkified Cracker Barrel, and the interior decoration of the restaurant is best described as Southern-Gothic-meets-Beetlejuice. Dark wood floors, tables and chairs mix with ornate carvings, brass fixtures and exposed brick in an enormous open dining room. It’s all over the place and a little trippy, but it's also fun and inviting. Several flat screens on the walls run music feeds from the other locations as well as vintage music clips to heighten the funky mood. Live music is apparently the norm for dinner but no such luck for us poor lunchgoers. The place's vibe definitely prepares you for a funky good time.
Too bad the menu doesn't deliver. It has more personalities than Sybil: there’s some Soul Food, Cajun, Southern and even Italian all thrown together. And no chain would be complete without the one thing that makes capitalism work: sponsorship opportunities! Both Dixie Beer and Jim Beam make special guest appearances on the menu.
For our 'starter' we tried the parmesan-breaded fried artichoke hearts ($9). They came with two dipping sauces: horseradish-sour cream and chipotle marinara. Unfortunately, the breading just dulled the artichokes’ natural tanginess and also didn’t meld well with the horseradish sauce. The chipotle marinara sauce lacked any discernible smokiness or spiciness but was still a better fit. Overall, the dish was a disappointing afterthought (particularly because of when it was served – after the entrees).
Pan-seared voodoo shrimp with rosemary cornbread and Dixie beer reduction ($14) worked better. The cornbread had a nice earthy texture (although the rosemary was undetectable) that mixed well with the reduction and the shrimp, but the dish lacked any overall pizzazz. Also, repeated poking of the shrimp produced none of the expected voodoo-like effects on our enemies. The half order of baby back ribs ($14?) didn’t have the smokey flavor we expect from Texas barbeque, but a side of spicy sauce livened them up. Each rib in the half rack was different: ranging from chewy and fatty to moist and meaty (luckily, the last one was a big winner). Sides included serviceable but forgettable mashed sweet potatoes and collard greens. All told, the lunch totaled over $40 and didn't measure up to the price or the atmosphere.
The service portion of our review will be short, because, frankly, it was well-intentioned sloppiness. BUT, given that we dined there on only HOB’s second day of operations we’ll cut them some slack. The 37 people who waited on us were very friendly, with the exception of the silent, beady-eyed dude who tried to take away the appetizer before we were finished. Other service flaws were glaring: no wet-naps included with the ribs… an order of Dr Pepper was re-filled with Coke in the same glass and then refilled again with tea… the appetizer came after the entrees; and four different people asked us how our meal was, one right after another in creepily efficient succession. Again, we’ll let it slide this time, but listen up HOB, the Morning News is on its way! Get yourself into shape! You risk being demoted a whole star!
So, the food and service at the house that Jake and Elwood built left us a little bit too blue. On our mixed beverage gavel rating scale, where five gavels is a Maker’s Mark and Coke, and one gavel is Gatorade and el Presidente Vodka, we give House of Blues two and a half gavels, or a black-and-tan made with Budweiser.*
* All reviews subject to change without notice. Reviews void where prohibited by law and in Tennessee. Please enjoy reviewing responsibly. Do not use reviews if you are pregnant, nursing, thinking of getting pregnant, know someone who is pregnant, saw a pregnant lady on TV, or have ever said the word "pregnant" out loud and giggled. If laughter from these reviews lasts more than four hours, please consult a physician. Side effects may include death, dying, not living any more, stopping of the heart (permanently), the big sleep, and heartburn. Ask your doctor if reviews are for you.
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