In the shadow of east Houston's massive coffee plant sits Voodoo Queen, a new bar from the guys behind Moon Tower Inn. Where Moon Tower is known for craft beer and creative applications of meat in tube form, Voodoo Queen is, in the words of RDG + Bar Annie beverage director Chris Frankel, a cocktail lounge that blends "Frank's Tiki Room in Vegas with a New Orleans twist."
Inside, black lights illuminate a room that features both a pool table and a couple of dart boards. Wheeled chairs and bar stools are scattered around a series of tables. Behind the bar, a large fish tank contains a few small specimens. Sitting next to the liquor bottles is an alligator skull. The hodgepodge hangs together in its own way, and, after Goro & Gun's taxidermy lion, feels like part of some new design trend.
Maybe it was the presence of familiar faces both in front of and behind the bar, but Voodoo Queen has a lived-in, relaxed vibe that should be enhanced as more people find it.
The jukebox is a particular highlight. No Internet-download-of-whatever-songs-pops-into-your-head monstrosity here. It's obviously been carefully curated. Among the discs, Queens of the Stone Age sits next to George Strait, followed by the Pixies and Merle Haggard. It makes for an eclectic listening experience with a lot of reaching for Shazam to figure out what's playing.
As for the drinks, the menu is divided into three sections. Voodoo Queen Holy Water includes a Singapore Sling, $5 house margarita, The Broke Hipster ($6 beer and shot combo of either Tecate and tequila or Schlitz and whiskey) and Big Ass Jello Syringes.
The second section, labeled Boat Drinks, is billed as "Houston made. Nola strong." They're served in tiki mugs. Purchase one for $15, keep the mug and get it refilled for $8.
Finally, there are seven, $10 "151 Daiquiris and Supreme Coladas" that come from a blender and are served tall glasses with comically oversized straws. The Penus Coladus, a blend of pineapple juice, coconut cream, light rum, 151 and Fireball, looked pretty popular. The East Side Witch Doctor (dark rum, light rum, mango, pineapple and chamoy) had an addictive sweet and sour flavor.
There's beer, too, of course. It mixes several craft options with Schlitz and Tecate. Starting Wednesday, there will be food in the form of three po'boys (roast beef debris, grilled ham and fried oyster) and two savory "desserts" that includes chicken and waffles.
Bartender Alex Garcia told me Voodoo Queen wasn't originally planned to have such a tiki-style cocktail menu, but he and co-owner Brandon Young moved in that direction after Garcia spent some time in the Caribbean. The drinks I sampled last night were strong, flavorful and doing a good job of helping the assembled patrons hold on to the last few hours of a three day weekend.
Maybe it was the presence of familiar faces both in front of and behind the bar, but Voodoo Queen didn't feel three days old Sunday night. It has a lived-in, relaxed vibe that should be enhanced as more people find it. Parking's a little easier than at Moon Tower, and it's only a few steps from the upcoming East End MetroRail line.
Given Moon Tower's track record, I expect the food to be pretty good. It could become a fun after-work spot for a couple cocktails and a bite after a long day. Or a final stop on a long night for food and a nightcap. Either way, it's fun, affordable and a welcome addition to the growing East End scene.