House of Blues opened in New Orleans as a music venue and restaurant in 1994 and quickly became one of the city's major music clubs. After nearly 20 years in business, House of Blues' corporate office decided to rebrand and revamp its restaurants nationwide. Food Network's celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez — who began his culinary training in New Orleans working with chef Paul Prudhomme — was brought on to create a new menu. The result is Crossroads (225 Decatur St., 310-4999; www.houseofblues.com), described on its website as the place "where food, music and art intersect." Last October, Crossroads premiered in New Orleans.
"Chef Aaron took the great foundation and well of personality that our House of Blues restaurant was built on and gave it a new contemporary, Americana feel," says marketing director Mark Roberts. While soul food and Creole classics remain part of the menu, diners can expect "a combination of flavors from multiple cultures as diverse as the music that is performed at our venue," Roberts says. "All items are made in-house and are not pre-packaged. The produce we use is purchased locally, as is our poultry, beef and seafood."
Standout menu items include jambalaya with sausage, chicken and peppers, shrimp and grits (made with chipotle cream sauce, a flash-fried grit cake and local jumbo shrimp) and short-rib meatball sliders. There's also the very popular lobster macaroni and cheese. "(It's) baked to deliciousness just like your mom or grandma use to do, but with huge pieces of delicate lobster," Roberts says. The menu is still being tweaked. "We're lucky enough to have chef Aaron back on our team to develop permanent dishes that will be unique to the New Orleans Crossroads menu," Roberts says.
The food is only one part of Crossroads' appeal. "We want our guests to experience the House of Blues with all of their senses and be moved by the amazing music," says director of restaurant operations Abby Jones. "We also have one of the largest folk art collections in the nation." The restaurant staff is always working hard to find new ways to make the venue one of the best in New Orleans, Jones says, and concertgoers and tourists are not the only people they seek to impress. "We also have a frequent lunch program for our local clientele where they receive lunch on us after five visits," Roberts says. "We want them to know that we appreciate their loyalty. Our patrons are a huge part of our culture.
"(While) House of Blues is known for being a great place to see live music, we want people to recognize Crossroads as a great place to have a fun, enjoyable dining experience and to view some amazing folk art."