There's something very alluring about the aroma of slow-cooking meats. And when mixed with the smells of other dishes and the melodic strains of the Caribbean, it can create an atmosphere that's downright enchanting. Such has been the case at Voodoo BBQ & Grill (8850 Pontchartrain Blvd., 283-8301; 1501 St. Charles Ave., 522-4647; 100 E. St. James Blvd., St. Rose, 464-1880) since the company renovated its counter-service-only eatery at the Lakefront two months ago into a charming full-service restaurant with an expanded menu.
The renovation included adding seating for 110 people and a full-service bar. The restaurant follows a Caribbean theme, with bright folk and island art as well as reggae and calypso music, every day but Sunday, when New Orleans jazz is featured.
The St. Charles location is sticking to its counter-service offerings of standard beef, pork and chicken barbecue items, but the Lakefront and St. Rose outlets are sit-down restaurants with expanded menus that include fish, seafood, steaks and salads, says Lakefront general manager Adam Strait. The new menu was developed by Strait, who previously worked for Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Semolina; company president J.D. Pierce, who came to Voodoo after stints at a steakhouse in Florida and Semolina; and Executive Chef Archange "Angel" Lombrage, who hails from Haiti. All their influences can be seen in dishes such as the Tchoupi2las Pork Chops marinated in a tropical sauce, the 12-oz. grain-fed St. Charles Sirloin Steak and the tropical-island marinated 12-oz. Caribbean Sirloin, and the Catch of the Day, currently mahi mahi. Entrees are served with toasted garlic French bread, a loaded baked potato and hand-cut herbed vegetables. Salads include a classic Caesar to which diners can add char-grilled chicken or shrimp, a chipotle fried chicken salad, or a citrus-seared tuna salad. In addition, there's a bountiful range of side items, po-boys, burgers, sandwiches, appetizers and platters.
Barbecue, however, is still the biggest seller. "When we first reopened, it was almost all barbecue that customers ordered," Strait says. "But when they started coming back (for repeat visits), they would try the new menu more. It's now about 60/40 barbecue over the other stuff.
Part of the reason, he says, is the slow-cooking process. "We smoke all the meat in house. The brisket is cooked for about 14 hours, the ribs eight hours and pork 12 to 14 hours," says Strait, who adds that it's not always easy to keep the meat moist under those conditions. "That's a challenge. We throw away a lot of meat. If it comes out dry, we don't serve it."
That dedication to quality is the key to Voodoo's success and its continuing expansion. The company currently is looking for places to open new outlets, possibly on the West Bank, the Northshore and the French Quarter. It also is considering franchises in Lafayette and Baton Rouge.
All the Extras
Cameron Jones for Your Home (2127 Magazine St., 524-3119) focuses on the most fun part of home decorating, fun accessories that can make rooms stand out.
"We sell what we consider accent furniture, and that's the things you accessorize your home with, whether it's an accent table, a bar stool or fine accent lighting," says Cameron Trenor, who owns the store with business partner Joan Beaulieu. "We look for great things to help you accessorize what you already have." In addition to accent furniture, Cameron Jones also sells original artwork, pottery, glassware, clocks, lamps, room dividers and other decorative accessories.
Although the business doesn't focus on large furniture, it does sell modular furniture that can be easily broken down and reassembled in order to be moved into tight spaces or up unaccommodating stairs, situations that are common in New Orleans' old structures. The modular pieces and sectional sofa sets are available in a choice of about 70 fabrics and different configurations, making them extremely versatile.
The store also offers affordable custom area rugs. "You can sit down and draw your own rug, pick your own colors and shape, and in three weeks or so you'll have a rug made to your specifications," Trenor says. Customers can take yarn samples home to match with the fabrics and colors already in their homes, and the Cameron Jones staff will help with design details.
The store's focus is on style and quality at a good price. "We look for things that are well manufactured, very stylish and affordable, that's our criteria," Trenor says. "We also look for new things because we get bored of the same stuff, too. We look for companies that not only have a really good product, but give us the service we need so we can take care of our customers." Cameron Jones also likes to provide customers with locally produced art, including oil paintings by Ruth Marie Wright and watercolors by Doris Cohen, both of Metairie, as well as pottery, glass, raku and other decorative artworks. Those are mixed with offerings of one-of-a-kind metal animals made in Zimbabwe to sand-cast aluminum items and more.
- General manager Adam Strait (left standing) and Executive Chef Angel Lombrage chat with the Ball family: (clockwise left to right) Darren, Mikayla, Jeanette, and Payton, at Voodoo BBQ & Grill on the Lakefront.