Last weekend I was halfway through the best barbeque sandwich I've ever eaten when Juhari's proprietress Mariquita Daniels asked, "How'd we do?"
How could I express my amazement at the wizardry that had turned tofu into soul food? The tofu had been cut into thin rectangles and fried (but not over-fried) to a chewy texture. The tofu slices, swimming in spicy sauce, were served with pickle and onion on whole-wheat toast.
Daniels declined to divulge the secret of her sauce. She also makes her own honey-mustard sauce for the Marcus Garvey burger, which was popular when the deli was inside the Central West End health-food store Golden Grocer. (The RFT named Juhari's Best Vegan Deli in 2001 and Best Vegetarian Deli in 2002.)
Golden Grocer is where I spotted a flier for "Juhari's Breakfast, Brunch & B.B.Q," Sundays from 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The menu was down-home but half-vegetarian. Brunch offerings included veggie bacon and sausage, veggie and soy quiche, grits and oatmeal. All this co-existed with turkey dogs, ribs and potato salad.
I ditched the bar of compressed "food" I'd just bought and dashed to the strip mall on Delmar just east of Union. A teen-age hostess inside the darkened Legacy Bookstore and Café (5249 Delmar Boulevard) greeted me warmly, telling me I could eat all I wanted for $14. I wasn't quite that hungry, so I ordered a single vegetarian favorite.
Daniels has been doing Sunday brunch at Legacy since December. Friends urged her to add meat to the menu. She agreed, hoping the carnivores would sample the vegetarian items and perhaps take a greater interest in their health. (Daniels exudes quite a glow herself.)
Unfortunately, the Sunday gig has been slow to catch on. Daniels says she's thinking about taking Juhari's on the road as a lunch wagon.