It starts with sweet tea, the saccharine lubricant to any good Southern meal. Prepare it wrong, and you'll be revealed as a damn Yankee packing Celestial Seasonings. Do it right, and Southern hospitality is just a few sips away. Jezebel's Southern Bistro & Bar is an oft-overlooked juke joint on 33rd Avenue that passes the tea test with flying colors — and packs a happy hour that's sure to send you waddling home like any good family meal.
Sweet tea is the main ingredient in the eponymous Jezebel cocktail ($9), along with Evan Williams whiskey and OJ, served in a classy silver goblet. To a French Quarter-appropriate soundtrack of Credence Clearwater Revival, The Doors and Ray Charles, sipping on this nectar got me in the mood to sample Jezebel's soul kitchen. Opened in late 2012 by Wanda James and Scott Durrah, formerly of 8 Rivers, Jezebel's promotes a New Orleans vibe but serves Gulf Coast cuisine from shrimp n' grits to smoked ribs. "Voodoo Hour" is a-bubbling from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays and 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with $10 buckets of beer and discounts on appetizers, wells,and drafts like a refreshing Tivoli Brewing lager ($3). The happy-hour food is mainly discounted versions of starters from the dinner menu, so I picked a few, settled back on Jezebel's patio and wondered what I was in for: deep-fried corniness or voodoo magic.
Concerns about flavor balances and kitchen technique became almost secondary when I was presented with pounds and pounds of food — a spread that could satisfy a small family — too much for any one man. First on my agenda was the basket of dry rubbed rib tips ($8), hickory smoked and dusted with bright, sweet seasoning in great big heaps. Russell's Smokehouse is still the king of happy-hour barbecue for now, but the smoke is evident in these little morsels, and the mass amount of tasty rub makes the accompanying barbecue sauce unnecessary.
Then there are the smoked jerk wings ($5), a reminder of the Caribbean fare at the owners' former eatery 8 Rivers. No paltry poultry are these — just four big ass flappers that look like they could fly right off the plate if they weren't rubbed with thick spices. It doesn't appear that they've been fried, just smoked and roasted until the skin is stringy and the muscle is tender and dripping with juice. Just when I thought it was safe to take a sip of water, the accumulated burn from the jerk and the rib rub had me slowly panting through the rest of the meal. I got my hands on some fried pickles ($3) as well, which were unexpectedly pedestrian. I don't know how to jazz up fried pickles, but Jezebel's didn't even try, except to throw in a ramekin of spicy ranch. Still, between these three baskets, permanently greasy digits will be a deterrent for any serial texters you know.
It's hard to beat Voodoo Hour for sheer protein-to-dollar value, especially in the lower-to-mid Highland area, but I do wish that a little more of the creativity apparent at brunch and dinner (bouillabaisse! Chicken and waffles!) was evident at happy hour. It's more hoodoo than voodoo, a fun evening but not an intoxicating experience.
Perfect For: Brunch looks like a real hoot, with sandwiches stuffed with fried chicken and pimento cheese; po-boys with cornmeal-crusted catfish; and sausage & grits. Yeah, that's right — take a hike, pancakes and granola.
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Don't Miss: The whiskey selection at Jezebel's is pretty impressive, and you can work your way through it with one of the restaurant's whiskey flights. The "Colorado's Best" ($20) flight takes you through some of the state's finest firewaters, from Stranahan's to Leopold Bros. Tuesdays are Top-shelf Tuesdays, which take half off the price.