The Voodoo Queen Begins Her Reign in the Second Ward
Voodoo Queen is quite literally everything Moon Tower Inn is not, despite being run by the same duo of East End visionaries: Evan Shannon and Brandon Young.
There is no indoor seating at Moon Tower Inn, which is essentially a modern version of a classic Texas icehouse; there is no outdoor seating at Voodoo Queen save a small smoking patio. There are no cocktails served at Moon Tower Inn, only beer; you can get a few beers at Voodoo Queen—"The Broke Hipster," for example, gets you a Schlitz and a shot of whisky for $6—but the main draw here is cocktails. Frozen cocktails, even, which you'd certainly never find amidst the rows of taps at Moon Tower. And where Moon Tower Inn serves primarily burgers and hot dogs, Voodoo Queen—in keeping with its part-New Orleans, part-Tiki theme—serves po' boys.
At Moon Tower, the spread of acreage that's half backyard, half icehouse hosts a firepit and a few games of horseshoes. At Voodoo Queen, you can pick between Galaga, a pool table, and a couple of electronic darts setups. At Moon Tower Inn, they control the music. At Voodoo Queen, a well-stocked jukebox features everything from Merle Haggard to Black Sabbath and lets you set the tone. The only place the two watering holes converge is in their clientele, which is a scruffy blend of Second Ward residents and the aforementioned broke hipsters.
On my first visit to Voodoo Queen last week, when the bar had just barely opened its doors, I felt like I was watching Stefon—Bill Hader's bizarre nightlife authority character from SNL—describe the ultimate hipster bar. "This place has it all," I heard Stefon slur in my head. "Broken pinball machines; Penus Coladas, which is this thing where you put shots of Fireball whisky in piña coladas; popcorn makers; black lights; aquariums; Beetlejuice murals; mermaids hanging from glasses; homeless bike messengers dancing in a corner; and a red neon light on the ceiling of the women's restroom that flashes GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS until you have a seizure."
I ran into nearly every character I've ever interacted with that night: a guy who I once got into an argument with on Twitter because I thought he'd given his cat a stupid name (Noam Chompsky...c'mon); a guy I once had a drunken discussion with about the intersection of metaphysics and beer cheese queso; the crust-punk who used to live next door and had a half-pipe in his living room; my landlord, whom I once found in our parking lot cutting a piece of crown molding with a circular saw on his lap; a friend who had moderate success in an early 2000s pop-punk band, the T-shirt of which my boyfriend had fortuitiously changed out of right before we hit Voodoo Queen (too close to the Gutter rule for comfort); my old cubiclemate at the Houston Press; my replacement at the Houston Press; and a close call with an ex who still hates me.
In short, I loved it.
Voodoo Queen isn't for everyone. Hell, it's not even necessarily for its own clientele, one of whom already managed to destroy the flashing GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS sign in the ladies' room. A depressed-sounding Young took to Facebook to lament the destruction, writing: "Just cause you are ugly and no one will take you to 'pound town,' doesn't mean you should bust our neon girl." Needless to say, the crowd can be a little rough. But therein lies the charm. No one could ever accuse Young and Shannon of attempting to gentrify their Second Ward surrounds.
Yet Voodoo Queen manages to appeal to a diverse crowd: area residents who once knew the spot as a casual beer joint attached to a laundromat, hipsters in search of cheap PBRs and a hint of sleaze, and humps like me who can't resist the allure of a massive frozen daiquiri made with Bacardi 151 for only $10 because we're usually close to broke but still want to drink like kings and queens. (As the drink menu states, be careful—these jet-fueled cocktails aren't for amateurs.)
And in keeping with the grand Moon Tower tradition of gleeful antagonism, Young and Shannon are perfectly content to let the public know their bar isn't for everyone—including regulars at competing bars. The day of its grand opening last week, Young posted on Voodoo Queen's Facebook page: "We will be open tonight at 10 p.m., serving everything Anvil and Pastry War do not."
Voodoo Queen, 322 Milby St., facebook.com/liquorandladies