Arts and Entertainment

Joker's Peace | The vegan, the meat-itarian and the average omnivore

For WU Fourth Friday Food and Drink, Joker's Peace treks to Juwapas, an all-vegetarian/vegan eatery in Port Orchard.

I did something kind of strange with my tax return this year.

For months, I've been hearing about this new place in Port Orchard called Juwapas. But for months, I've been strapped for cash and cutting the fat wherever I can.

It's the Kitsap Peninsula's only (current) all vegetarian/vegan restaurant, they'd say (though I know there's at least one all-vegetarian joint on Bainbridge). But this one was going to have a smoothie and juice bar, and art, and music, and a loft, on Bay Street. It was all very exciting. Even before the March grand opening, I had been stoked for the place to open.

It was spearheaded by a guy named Josh Zetzsche, 31, a dude I'd known as a soft-spoken, hard-working line cook, who made a scrumptious pub pizza at the Bay Street Ale House. I remember talking to him about his new restaurant when it was still in the early stages of development. He was so earnest and eager and resolute. I remember admiring his positivity in a time of such economic depression. He didn't seem too worried about all that. He believed in this restaurant.

I was excited but skeptical. A horrible cynic at age 23, lately, I've been unsure whenever a new business comes up. Especially restaurants. It seems like you need an incredible business model just to survive these days. Plus you must have something special to bring people out of their routines.

When my tax return came in last week, I finally had some extra cash to break myself out of my own routine. So I called up Zetszche.

He seemed relieved, on his end, that business had been picking up. He said it'd been up ten-fold since they opened. He'd been working pretty much seven days a week, and was probably in the kitchen when I talked to him.

I told him I wanted to put his place to the test by bringing along my meat-itarian friend as a critic. And he said 'bring it on.'

"Tell them to try the 'Sloppy Jane,'" he said, "gets the meat-itarians all the time."

So I picked up my meat-itarian friend, brought along his vegan girlfriend, and took the drive from Bremerton to Bay Street. As your average everyday eater, I told the meat-itarian and the vegan that I needed their expert opinions on this new all-vegetarian joint.

"Well I don't really know what it's like to be vegetarian," she said, irritated, because she knows I know she's vegan. "But I guess, I can imagine."

I told her, "You're fired."

All I needed was my meat-itarian friend anyhow. I turned up the radio to avoid the lecture on the semantics of eating habits.

When we got to Juwapas and took our menus to the loft, we looked them over with the flat screen and original N.E.S. Nintendo, guitars and a mic set up for open mics, a chess board, turntables and a wealth of local art on the walls, and sure enough, on the cover of the menu it said "all meals can be prepared vegan." So she was back in.

But to my dismay, when it came time to order, the meat-itarian and the vegan ordered a hamburger and a hot dog. Well, technically, a portobella burger and a vegan bratwurst. But, really, a hamburger and hot dog at the county's only vegan/vegetarian restaurant?

How disappointingly blasé, but somehow awesome that they'd even make such a thing.

We also got some fresh-made sweet potato French fries, which were a nice surprise. And I had one of the most filling rice bowls I may have ever had in my life, which I hadn't expected.

Then the meat-itarian critic looked up from his juicy, greasy half-eaten burger, with that longing twinkle for beef in his eye, and said, "it doesn't even taste like mushroom."

Which tells me it must have been good.

Juwapas is located at 834 Bay Street in Port Orchard.

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