House of Blues
Anaheim Garden Walk
400 Disney Way #337
Anaheim, CA 92802
Okay, let's get this out of the way right now. Yes, the Anaheim Garden Walk has been one of the most disappointing shopping centers that Orange County has ever seen. Probably even more than the Kaleidoscope in Mission Viejo, which also definitely has its share of problems getting people into that freeway close, but desolate shopping and entertainment complex. Garden Walk has the same problems, with lots of empty storefronts, little to no foot traffic, (especially towards the back area of the center), and no big draws to get tourists to maybe skip eating or visiting a nearby Disney restaurant or property. There does appear to be a ray of hope for the Garden Walk though.
That ray of hope comes in the form of the House of Blues, which opened here in early March, after leaving the family friendly, overly touristy Downtown Disney District. We've heard some grumblings that Disney was pretty conservative about what events and artists could play at HOB, but those, of course, have never been confirmed by either side. We were at Garden Walk earlier this month for another event and saw a huge line for a concert going on at HOB. So, House of Blues appears to be doing their part by getting foot traffic into this sparsely populated shopping plaza.
The same was true on the recent Wednesday evening we were visiting HOB. We were here to try some barbecue items off their menu, but there were tons of young girls, with parents in tow, snaked around the upper level of Garden Walk many times over. The band was Catfish and the Bottlemen, which I hear is an upcoming British band. We did not get a chance to listen to them because us old people had to get home before they even started to play. With us there, it would have doubled the average age of the audience easily.
When we waltzed by the waiting teenagers into the restaurant, we were ushered into one of the many private rooms that are available for parties at the new House of Blues. What I noticed most about this new space, as compared to the old one at Downtown Disney was the openness of it, and it seemed to be brighter. Even though we were separated from the main dining room by a couple of roll-up doors, we could still hear the music in the dining room clearly. Checking out their event calendar, you can find out not only who is performing in their concert hall, but you can also check out who is performing in the dining room and lively bar area of the restaurant. After some mingling among the food media, we were all pretty excited to see what Chef Kelvin Crisostomo had in store for us with this barbecue showcase.
Up first was not something I was expecting and was definitely an Asian twist on the barbecue theme of the evening. These Korean Riblets are available every evening in the exclusive Foundation Room every night of the week. I'm not really big on riblets, but these had plenty of meat on them and went well with the very well done kimchi. In fact, this could have been some of the best fermented veggies I have had. I also enjoyed the tinge of spice from the provided sliced jalapenos topping each riblet.
Our barbecue march continued on at the House of Blues with this Pulled Pork Sandwich ($11). Chef Kelvin told us that they smoke this pork for 12 to 14 hours before it's hand pulled and mixed with barbecue sauce and placed between a structurally sound bun. The pork was tender, but I wished that they would have allowed me to apply the barbecue sauce, instead of it already coming out dressed. The coleslaw was very solid and had an excellent crunch to it. I added it to my sandwich, which provided a nice textural element. The fries were hot and crisp.
Best dish of the evening belongs to these Smokehouse St. Louis Ribs ($17). This is the half rack size, but you might as well splurge and upgrade to the full rack for an extra seven dollars, you'll thank me later. These ribs are rubbed with their special House of Blues Cajun seasoning, then smoked, and lightly brushed with barbecue sauce. The result was a very tender, fall off the bone rib, which had nearly everyone at our table very excited about this slab. These were served with a little extra sauce, the same excellent coleslaw that we came with the pork sandwich, and BBQ Baked Beans. A very satisfying plate, and one we will come back for very soon.
Last but not least, the Bourbon Bread Pudding ($7) gets a lot of love here, and rightfully so. This sturdy bread pudding was not as damp as others we have had, which is a plus in my book. It was still moist and came with a very nice caramel pool surrounding it, which added just the right amount of sweetness.
I think it's safe to say that the House of Blues has made a very graceful transition to their new home at the Garden Walk. Starting from the ground up, they have seemed to fix some of the minor glitches of their old venue and created a much more inviting and open space. Based on our two visits to this center, the House of Blues is definitely doing their part by bringing some much-needed foot traffic into this very quiet shopping center. Time will tell if it's enough to save the Garden Walk, but with the great concert lineup and the food we had on this evening, we are guessing that this is definitely the shot in the arm this shopping and entertainment complex needed.
For more information about the House of Blues, head to their website here: http://www.houseofblues.com/anaheim