Laissez les bons temps rouler!
That phrase (“Let the good times roll!”) is nearly synonymous with “New Orleans.” And while that city is geographically a ways away from us in Metro Phoenix, restaurateur Ron Lynch strove to give us a taste of its atmosphere through Voodoo Daddy’s Steam Kitchen’s décor and menu.
A mural dominates the dining room, depicting vividly garbed jazz musicians performing along the undulating swath of a piano keyboard. The theme is carried further with display cases of vintage brasses: trombones, saxophones and trumpets. Background music is blues and jazz, with a monitor conveniently informing us of what we are listening to and what’s on deck to play next. And, on Saturday nights, jazz is performed live.
Voodoo Daddy’s fast-serve style fills a niche Lynch had observed as missing from the restaurant market. At Voodoo Daddy’s, guests have no longer than a 15-minute wait from the time they order at the counter to the time their food is delivered to their table.
Lynch continues to tweak the menu. Jambalaya is still the most popular item, but Lynch says he’s noticed that, as people become more familiar with the Cajun-Creole-Caribbean cuisine, other choices are catching up. Grits are a stand-out, blended with mascarpone cheese before being covered with a sauce of shrimp and Tasso ham. Cajun/Creole staple red beans and rice — “My dad’s favorite dish to prepare,” Lynch shares — is another filling entrée. Shrimp bisque may sound like a side dish, but adding a mound of rice — white or dirty — to the rich, shrimp-filled potage makes it a meal unto itself. Tasty and colorful Voodoo pasta mixes shrimp, chicken, tomatoes, green onions and mushrooms in just enough shrimp-lobster bisque to keep everything moist enough to hold a swirl of pasta together for a forkful bite.
Cayenne heat level of the dishes is completely customized to order, from Trinity (level 0) to Hot Mama (level 5) to the extreme Bites Like a Gator (level 10). But guests should consider carefully their choice, as every level fully lives up to its name.
Authentic Cajun experience can include starting with an order of beignets served with the de rigueur mounds of powdered sugar. Or Gator Puppies, balls of deep-fried crunchiness and a very soft center.
Voodoo Daddy’s also offers New Orleans’ signature drink, the Hurricane – here served as a blended drink with a ribbon of red (the Hurricane) between bands of purple (sangria). In fact, Voodoo Daddy’s is arguably better than the original as the sangria cuts some of the standard ultra-sweetness. Other drink choices include craft beers and cane sugar-based sodas.
Voodoo Daddy’s Steam Kitchen
1325 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe
[Did You Know: From the glossary at Voodoo Daddy’s Steam Kitchen: Cajun is bayou country cooking. Creole is New Orleans fancy cooking, from the aristocratic descendants of mainly French and Spanish colonial settlers. It’s fancier because they had money, kitchen help … and tomatoes.]