When Portland, Oregon-based Voodoo Doughnut decided last year that it was time to go all-in on its national expansion efforts, it looked to Houston as a perfect landing spot.
"I've been to Houston so many times, and it was such a diverse foodie town that I don't think people realize how much of a foodie town this city is," says Chris Schultz, CEO of Voodoo Doughnut. "So when we started to look to grow, I was like, 'Let's go to Houston.'"
So the pink-branded doughnut shop, known for artful treats in bright pink boxes and always injecting a half-hipster, half-salacious attitude in everything it does, has arrived with its grand opening at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
And you can expect lines. Whether it's the original shop in Portland or satellite locations in Hollywood; Orlando; Denver; Austin; Eugene, Oregon; and now Houston, Voodoo draws in the foodies. So, don't head over craving just no-frills chocolate frosted, old-fashioned cake, and apple fritter. Voodoo specializes in what one could say are chef-driven creations: Viscous Hibiscus is dipped in hibiscus frosting and black sprinkles; Ring of Fire is chocolate cake dusted in cinnamon sugar and cayenne pepper, then topped with a chili pepper; Pothole is yeast with Bavarian cream and a topping of Oreos and chocolate frosting. You get the idea.
But it isn't all about the doughnuts, says Schultz.
"The doughnuts are the entry—you have to have great product and great food, but if you don't have great food you're not even in the game," he says. "But once you have the food it's about experience. What I thought what we could do is not only have great doughnuts but have a great building."
You'll find glamorous chandeliers from New Orleans, a hand-painted mural by local artist Wiley Robertson of WileyArt, and the shop's 50-plus doughnut options spinning slowly in jewel cases like they're expensive necklaces and rings.
Plus, the Houston location is the only Voodoo to have a drive-thru. For Voodoo, the shop could be a template for what a standardized Voodoo would look like across the country. For Houston, though, it's another player in a crowded but delicious doughnut game.
We left the shop with a pink box filled with some of Voodoo's top treats and ranked the ones we tried:
9. Tangfastic: This is the special-to-Houston doughnut, a nod to NASA's early adoption of Tang on space travel: a cake donut with tangerine Tang on vanilla frosting, plus three marshmallows. Sugar overload. Way too much to handle.
8. Maple Blazer Blunt: Once you get past the top of this obviously named treat (which has maple frosting and red sprinkles), it's merely a cake with a cinnamon sugar dusting. It's fine.
7. Marshall Mathers: Voodoo's doughnuts seem to trend sweet, and this cake donut with vanilla frosting and M&Ms is no exception. Eats like a dessert.
6. School Daze "PB&J": It's what it sounds like, only it's vegan. Just a little too much peanut on this.
5. Blueberry Cake: Voodoo does make classic, everyday doughnuts. Again, just a bit too sweet, but I love the amount of blueberries you get in it.
4. Viscous Hibiscus: Love the hibiscus frosting; also, I'm keen on the practice of a doughnut half-sprinkled. You can almost choose how much texture you want in a bite.
3. Old Dirty Bastard: This yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, Oreos, and peanut butter drizzles is quintessential Voodoo. A lot going on, but the flavors all shine and the sweetness is just right.
2. Voodoo Doll: This delightful vegan doughnut has chocolate frosting, a funny face, and ample raspberry jelly filling. So fun and delicious.
1. Bacon Maple Bar: There's a reason this treat has become an icon—it's outstanding. The two strips of bacon laid atop the yeast offset the sweetness so perfectly. I could eat multiple at once.