I had been wanting to try DaJen Eats for a while and now seemed like the appropriate time.
DaJen is a Jamaican tinged vegan cafe in Eatonville, owned and operated by Jenn Ross, an ebullient and enthusiastic proponent of a vegan lifestyle and an irie outlook.
Irie, pronounced EYE-ree, is a word in Rastafarian and Jamaican dialect that means nice or pleasant. With that being the case, everything at DaJen Eats is perfectly irie.
The restaurant’s website features a user-friendly ordering form with clear descriptions and the ability for customers to modify a dish, request curbside pickup, and pay for the order, including tip, all in advance.
There are two sandwiches, or Sammiches, on the menu, the Buffalo Chickn and the Jerk Chickn. (The missing e is apparently meant to signify that it isn’t real chicken, because then it wouldn’t be vegan, and that wouldn’t be irie.) The Buffalo has a spicy sauce, a la Buffalo wings, and the Jerk features a sweet and spicy sauce and grilled pineapple.
If you don’t want to choose between the two, you can order the Identity Crisis, though a more accurate name would be the Split Personality because it gives you both varieties in one sandwich.
Of course, that’s the route I took. The “meats” –actually seitan, a wheat gluten that mimics the texture of meat – were splayed next to each other between the enormously thick slices of toasted bread. (What’s bigger than Texas toast?) The Buffalo portion a patty and garnished with rainbow broccoli slaw; the Jerk in strips atop a slice of pineapple. The thickness of the bread would have been intimidating if it wasn’t so fresh – Ross bakes it at the cafe.
My companion chose one of the Build a Bowl options, which features Jamaican rice with peas as a base topped with one or more proteins, Buffalo cauliflower in this case. A side of the same broccoli slaw accompanied. I liked the cauliflower nuggets, and the rice was nicely spiced.
When I placed my order online, I was given a pickup time. I arrived several minutes before the designated hour and called inside for curbside pickup. The man who answered the phone apologized and said the order wasn’t quite ready, which was fine considering I was early. Still, my food was safely in my trunk – delivered by a staff member wearing a mask and gloves – five minutes earlier than promised.
I keep telling myself that if I weren’t a professional restaurant critic I’d probably eat more like a vegan, or at least a vegetarian. Nice to know that if I ever retire I’ll have a place like DaJen Eats to go to.
DaJen Eats is at 323 E. Kennedy Blvd., Eatonville. It is open for lunch and early dinner pickup (current closing times are 6 p.m. except Sunday at 4 p.m.) Tuesday through Sunday. The phone number is 407-775-5791