Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Voodoo Brewing Co. opens in Jacksonville, Florida

By meerna Jul11,2024
Voodoo Brewing Co. opens in Jacksonville, Florida

A much-anticipated, two-story gastropub offering at least 24 craft beers on tap, plus gourmet pub food and craft cocktails, is set to open this weekend in the historic San Marco neighborhood.

Voodoo Brewing Co. debuts Saturday at 1974 San Marco Blvd. in the 99-year-old San Marco building owned by Jacksonville-based Sleiman Enterprises that has housed Café on the Square, Square One, Thai Bistro, Indochine and, most recently, Bohemian Lounge.

The brewery restaurant is adjacent to the original Taverna, the neighboring Oceana Taverna, and the historic San Marco Theater, which is currently being renovated, restored, and revitalized to become the home of Electric Dough Pizza Co.

Friends became business partners, and now franchise co-owners Chris Rudin and Ryan Locke of Ponte Vedra Beach have brought the popular Pennsylvania craft brewery to Jacksonville, the first in Northeast Florida.

Voodoo Brewing was designed as a place for families, dates, celebrations, and meetings with friends and co-workers.

“Good food. Good drinks. Good vibes. That’s what we like,” Rodin said of the brewery.

Voodoo in barrels, cans and on tap

Founded in 2005 in Meadville, Pennsylvania, Voodoo Brewing opened its first taproom in 2012. In addition to the San Marco location, two others — Fort Myers and St. Petersburg — are listed in Florida, according to the company’s website and state filings.

Voodoo brews its beer in Meadville and distributes it nationwide.

“We’ll have 24 beers on tap on the first floor and eight on tap on the second floor. And 90 percent of the beer will be ours,” Locke told the Times-Union.

He added that the restaurant’s signature beers include Good Vibes, a West Coast-style IPA; Lacto-Kooler, a Berlin-style white sour ale; Empty Calories, an American lager; and Voodoo Love Child, a Belgian fruit-infused tripel.

The craft brewery is also known for Oh Mama, a traditional golden American lager; and Where Our Secrets Go, an imperial stout. In addition, its seasonal offerings include Beach Gear, an American pale ale; Key Lime Kolsch, a traditional Koln Kolsch; and Schnitzengiggle, a traditional Oktoberfest beer, according to its website.

Most draft beers cost about $7 each. Wine costs $7 to $10 a glass, and craft cocktails start at $12, they said.

Increased prices at the pub

“It’s going to be elevated pub food, so it’s not just your average pub food,” Rudin told the Times-Union. “We’re going to have our fun and our own twist on pizza, burgers, salads … pasta bowls, seafood, beef. So we’re going to experiment with a lot of different things.”

He noticed that only about 5% of their menu is frozen foods.

“We’re not a 100 percent scratch kitchen, but we do serve fresh, made-to-order meals every day,” Rudin said.

The San Marco menu will also feature some regional touches, he and Locke said.

“One thing we’re going to have here that others aren’t is fresh seafood. So we’re going to do a Mayport shrimp po’boy, which is specific to this place,” Locke said.

“We have a double smoker, so we’ll be smoking beef and doing beef tacos, beef sliders, beef grilled cheese, beef dip. So we’ll be experimenting with the beef world,” Locke said, noting they’ll also be offering Mayport peel-and-eat shrimp, as well as salmon bowls and ahi tuna bowls.

The special offers, which premiered on San Marco Restaurant Brewery’s social media pages, include:

  • Bayou Po’ Boy: Fried chicken, fried Mayport shrimp, charred tomato compote, field greens, Bang Bang drizzle and Cajun seasoning on a golden-toasted hoagie bun
  • Pizza Caprese: Ripe tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, spring mix, balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic pesto
  • Foodoo Burger: Smash burger with homemade Cajun ranch cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. Served with pub chips
  • Spicy Salmon Quinoa Bowl: Spicy salmon with quinoa, grated carrots, fresh cucumbers, fresh jalapeno, field greens, nori, avocado aioli and Bang Bang sauce
  • Black Pepper Garlic Clams: A pound of clams sautéed in Voodoo’s Oh Mama Golden American Lager, then topped with citrus, black pepper, and garlic. Served with warm bread for dipping
  • Caesar Salad with Sliced ​​Brussels Sprouts: Sliced ​​Brussels Sprouts, Crumbled Bacon, Homemade Croutons, Homemade Caesar Dressing, Parmesan Cheese, and Cajun Seasoning
  • Chilled Pad Thai Noodle Bowl: Choice of chicken, shrimp or kimchi over Pad Thai noodles, pickled radish, grated carrot, fresh cucumber, fresh jalapeno, agave vinaigrette, basil and cilantro

Rudin said they also plan to add specialty dishes to the menu, such as flounder, sheepshead or mahi-mahi tacos, to focus on seafood unique to Northeast Florida.

Prices for entrees are expected to range from $12 to $15, with burgers ranging from $10 to $13 and appetizers ranging from $9 to $11.

Friends and co-owners of the franchise

Rudin and Locke describe themselves as “yin and yang.”

Locke is from Jacksonville, and Rudin has lived here for 13 years. They are friends and neighbors, as well as business partners.

Rudin has been in the hospitality industry for nearly 20 years, rising through the ranks primarily in the restaurant industry. Locke has worked “through mergers and acquisitions in all kinds of companies,” but has always loved the hospitality industry.

“Chris is a restaurant guru, and I have a background in building businesses. What he’s bad at, I’m good at, and vice versa,” Locke said.

Needs renovation

In March 2023, Rudin and Locke signed a lease for the 814-square-foot Mediterranean-style building, designed by acclaimed architects Marsh & Saxelbye and built in the mid-1920s.

Time has not been kind to the building, which has sat empty for five years. The restaurant’s owners said they have faced significant construction challenges — from the floor to the roof and everything in between — which they detailed in video updates posted to the brewpub’s Facebook page.

Among the challenges: tearing out and replacing the entire floor and replacing a leaking roof, according to their May 11 video post. The building also needed new plumbing, electrical and air conditioning.

“You would expect that when you walk into a historic building, you’re going to encounter obstacles and bumps. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Locke said, acknowledging that it’s frustrating that repairs and renovations have been slower than expected.

All told, the cost was approximately one million dollars.

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But what’s most important, they said, is that the restaurant brewery respects and preserves the history of the building, as well as San Marco.

The walls retain their original brickwork dating back to the 1920s, and are decorated with historical photos of the community.

“San Marco has a great vibe, a great atmosphere, right? We’re built for community. We’re built for people, a family atmosphere. A community atmosphere where everyone feels welcome,” Rodin said in the May 8 video.

Gary T. Mills of the Times-Union contributed to this article.

Teresa Stepzinski is a food reporter for the Times-Union. Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, @TeresaStepz or contact her by email at [email protected].

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By meerna

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