A signature Voodoo Doll nestled amid goodies including the Grape Ape, the Tangfastic and the Buttermilk Bar — Photo courtesy of Amy Drew Thompson
Ears around the web may have perked up when the word “voodoo” began buzzing in Universal Orlando fan circles. Is the Bayou of Blood returning to Halloween Horror Nights? Will the Voodoo Queen be resuming her live human sacrifices?
Not quite. But there’s a little bit of bayou black magic – and more than a little cholesterol – clogging the walkways at Universal CityWalk these days, as Voodoo Doughnut, the Portland-based entity with a cult following, makes its East Coast debut in Orlando.
Voodoo Doughnut was the brainchild of two quirky and creative Portlanders with backgrounds in hospitality and entertainment. They had zero doughnut skills (they learned), but they’ve been threading fun voodoo imagery, funky local art and their love of music into the product and experience – and drawing crowds – from the moment they opened their first tiny shop.
The new outpost’s official open sign hangs on May 1, but they’ve been operating in preview mode since the end of March. And the buzz? It’s positively Stingworthy. Looking to grab a Voodoo Doll, an ODB or a Diablos Rex? In the spirit of this quirky company’s musical roots, here’s what to expect:
The doughnut throne is but one of a zillion post-worthy photo ops — Photo courtesy of Amy Drew Thompson
It doesn’t have to be the hardest part. The “preview” opening day brought hours-long lines, but since then, things have calmed. Expect between 10 and 90 minutes with an average of 30.
“Visitors can expect to have a good time here, because it’s not just about the great doughnuts, it’s about the experience,” says Thomas Kelly, manager of talent development for Universal Orlando Resort.
Pinpoint: The company occasionally does “Tribute” doughnuts for celebrities who have passed. Florida’s own Tom Petty was a recent honoree.
Art adorns the soaring space from duct tape murals to black velvet paintings to custom stained glass — Photo courtesy of Amy Drew Thompson
Once inside the soaring space, art is everywhere you look. Prominent is the mural over the doughnut creation station – an alluring genie whose riveting eyes penetrate above a doughnut crystal ball. It’s the work of Portland artist Mona Superhero, whose pieces – made entirely of duct tape – appear at each Voodoo location. This one is called “Your Wish is my Command.”
Bright against the streaming Orlando sun, stained glass portrait windows by Portland’s Chuck Franklin Glass Studio depict Voodoo’s founders, Tres Shannon & Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson, along with the company’s first CEO, the late Rob Ludwig (affectionately known as Rob Lobster).
High above the shop’s patrons, the Spirit Channeler keeps watch from a black velvet painting. Each Voodoo location boasts an original by Portland artist Jen “Juanita” Kenworth and in Orlando, the honor belongs to native son Carrot Top.
Pinpoint: Other Voodoo Spirit Channelers, each relevant to the shop’s location, include Isaac Hayes (Portland), Conan O’Brien (Eugene) and Pam Grier (Denver).
Tempting wait: visitors can examine the selection up close while in the queue — Photo courtesy of Amy Drew Thompson
In this case, pound is a verb – and every visitor’s main objective.
Doughnuts have a roughly 10-hour shelf life says Haim Asher, executive sous chef, research and development for Universal Orlando Resort, but one look at the line – or staffers diligently dipping, topping and drizzling fryer-fresh doughnuts – and it’s clear none sit more than an hour. If that.
“The cake doughnuts are smaller, dense and super-rich, really charged with flavor,” he says. “The yeast ones are huge, but they are light as a cloud. Same with the fritters – which are massive!”
It’s the toppings that pile weight on crowd favorites like the Memphis Mafia, a peanut butter/banana/chocolate chip fritter inspired by Elvis’ favorite sandwich and named for his posse. Weighty, too, is the adorable Voodoo Doll (that face conjures memories of SNL’s Mr. Bill!). He’s the hands down bestseller.
“Folks love him for Instagram,” says Asher. “They love tearing his arms off and playing with the pretzel stick. He’s so much fun – and delicious!”
More than 50 varieties await (13 vegan options, too). They range from $1.65 to $5.25 per – most are under $2 – but few patrons walk out with just one, instead opting for one of three pre-selected baker’s dozens. The hungriest can opt for a coffin, which includes all three baker’s dozens in a cool wooden casket you can keep.
Pinpoint: Voodoo fans looking for classics will find many, but not all. And those with cheekier names in the indie shops have been recast to gel with Universal’s family-friendly vibe. “Not all the shops serve the same doughnuts,” Asher points out, “but every location so far has had a signature doughnut and Orlando will be no different. It’s quite likely there will be doughnuts here that you won’t be able to get at the others.”