Big door.  Big sign.
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American Voodoo

4655 Park Boulevard, University Heights

Getting the doors open at American Voodoo (4655 Park Boulevard) in University Heights incurred many delays, chiefly because the owner wanted a full liquor license. Considering the amount of full bars on the block, however, he won’t be getting one any time soon. Once that was resolved, the restaurant decided to go with a beer and wine license. It’s not yet been awarded, but — booze be damned — the place finally opened up!

Despite the huge sign, and even huger Gothic front door, the dining area is downright cozy. With one six-top and just a few real four-tops, Voodoo’s diminutive dining room poses a serious question. How will the restaurant do enough covers every night to make a profit? Ticket prices won’t be astronomical, since the entrees barely creep over $20. Logistically speaking, it will be a tough go for the new restau.

On to tastier things….

Voodoo’s menu is definitely Southern, but very specifically so. The main influences are from Creole cooking, but barbecue and soul food touches sneak in around the edges. The menu has already shifted some from the first iterations, but the dishes that have come out of the kitchen show promise.

The chef’s take on Oysters Rockefeller ($16) has the shellfish shucked, fried, and replaced in their shells atop a bed of spinach. It’s tasty, but calling it Rockefeller seems disingenuous since the resemblance to the real dish is vague at best. Mary’s fried chicken ($16) shows a smart take on soul food, putting the bird through a sous vide cooking process to assure moistness after frying. That’s clever cookery, and hopefully the restaurant develops along those same lines.

Low-brow BBQ appears on the menu as smoked pork short ribs served with roasted Brussels sprouts and some petite carrots. In terms of technique, whomever manned the smoker knows how to leave well enough alone and let the smoky flavors permeate the meat until the bones pull away with ease.

It’s far too early for a binding verdict on American Voodoo, but the restaurant’s style is sufficiently different that, once the kinks get ironed out, it could become a cool place. First glances reveal culinary aptitude at work in the kitchen. Though much of the composition and presentation is awkward at the outset, which is to be expected for a brand new restau, the fundamentals are all in place for American Voodoo to grow into something good.

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