Ken Leighton 5 p.m., May 24
Barbecue 81 and American Voodoo set to open
July should be a good month for University Heights, with two restaurants coming after prolonged construction periods.
I don’t always cover restaurant openings, mostly because the hype machine doesn’t need my help to keep on rolling. For two places under construction in University Heights, however, I am genuinely excited. July should be a tasty month in UH! They’ve both dawdled in the papered-window phase for extra time, it seems, which only serves to heighten my curiosity. Why the long building periods?
For Barbecue 81 (2302 El Cajon Boulevard), right next to Gilly’s, I think it’s because the business has a sort of backwards model. They’ve done plenty of catering first, and opening up the restaurant is the next step in BBQ81’s plan. I like that step. I live nearby and the idea of having access to tri-tip and pulled pork at a moment’s notice appeals to me. Maybe they do great ‘cue, maybe not. Rest assured, I’ll let you know when it opens.
One weird thing about Barbecue 81: I’m pretty sure I saw an altercation between the guys who are building the place out. At one point, two, enormous barbecue-chef-looking dudes were chasing a third guy down an alleyway, hollering at him to the tone of, “Get back here so we can kick your ass!”
The other place that’s set to open next month is American Voodoo. Now, I’m frankly surprised that we haven’t all been hitched to the hype wagon over this place. They don’t even have a website yet, although there is a Facebook page. I tried calling the phone number listed there, but got no answer. It looks like Voodoo is going to be draped in vintage Americana and employ liberal use of the word “craft” whenever possible. Usually, when places like that open up, we’re greeted with a salvo off prefabricated news briefs about how awesome the hip new restau will be.
This time? Nada. A little blurb appeared on Eater, but that was months ago.
Weirdly, little has been done to finish of the restaurant since March. I cruised by just the other day and they still have construction equipment and piles of trash all over the place inside. Apparently, permitting was a hassle (they want to serve liquor!), but American Voodoo is supposed to open in July. My guess would be late in the month, considering the disarray, but maybe with permits in place the work will fly by?
No matter what, I appreciate the lack of hype. All I can surmise is that the menu will have inflections of the American South and there will be a few good whiskey drinks.
For now, we wait to be surprised.