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Gospel and Grits

At the House of Blues' Sunday brunch, the music is more than inspiring, the food less so.

May 08, 1997|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

Hallelujah, and pass the bacon!

When my sister picked me up for the first seating of the Sunday gospel brunch at House of Blues, she was sleepy but excited. "The music is supposed to be fabulous!" she enthused. And the food? She pretended she didn't hear and pulled out into the street, fast.

At 9:15, we joined the long line of festive brunch-goers baking in the sun, and finally, on the dot of 9:30, filed into the Sunset Strip club. It had been set up for the occasion like a church hall with long tables in parallel rows bearing thermoses of coffee and silverware. The brunch was laid out in the middle of the room, flanked by two omelet stations, a dessert station and a single carving station offering just one item, rubbery pink ham.

Surely they could do better than this poor brunch that features greasy, overcooked smoked chicken, stale home fries, mealy shrimp and mushy pasta. Scrambled eggs and grits are decent, if you manage to get some fresh from the kitchen. Baking powder biscuits are warm and good. If you stick with the made-to-order omelets, bacon and take a large helping from the groaning fruit platter, you'll do OK.

Fortunately, the music is just as billed: great, rousing gospel that jolts you right out of your seat when, 45 minutes later, the velvet and satin patchwork curtain opens on this week's gospel group, the Braun Hampton Band. The House of Blues' state-of-the-art sound system is cranked up to the max. It's exuberant, joyful music. And by the end, the musicians had everybody on their feet, shouting, clapping and for the grand finale, waving red napkins overhead.

The music came to a halt at 11 a.m. sharp--in order to get the room ready for the next onslaught of brunch and gospel fans. Outside, the sun beat down, frying everyone waiting to pick up a car from the valets. (That's why the wise wear hats.)

It seemed like time for a nap.

BE THERE

House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (213) 650-5686 or (213) 650-2964. Sundays, two seatings at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. $26 per person (paid by credit card in advance) includes brunch, tax, gratuity and music; valet parking is $5. Make reservations well in advance, especially for the later seating.

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