Written by Fr. Stevan Bauman
Hearty portions of simply prepared, good-tasting food.
For 25 years the Brother Juniper’s restaurants fulfilled that motto and offered a warm setting for good fellowship and conversation, for celebrations and everyday business deals. Although the last one in Indianapolis closed seven years ago, it will reappear briefly in association with the 55th annual Talbot Street Art Fair, giving a taste of nostalgia to local arts patrons and the opportunity for one and all to taste a Happy Hermit, an Avocado, Swiss & Sprouts or most of the other traditional “BJ’s” menu items. The booth will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and after church on Sunday if we still have food left.
From a church parking lot near the corner of 16th and Delaware, the Brother Juniper’s booth will offer its signature “Happy Hermit” and other sandwiches, steps away from its original restaurant location, opened in 1978.
That first eatery was a community outreach program, operated by members of the Joy Of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Christian Church. Encouraged by its sales to neighborhood residents and students of the then-nearby Herron School of Art, the church later opened additional locations, including a prominent location on Massachusetts Avenue. Though the restaurants did steady business through the ’80s and ’90s, by 2000 the church no longer had members interested in restaurant management, which ultimately led to the restaurants’ closure. The Mass Ave location was the last to shut its doors, in 2003.
Though the church has operated a Brother Juniper’s booth at the Penrod Art Fair for 30 years, this will be its first appearance at the Talbot Street festival. Staffed by church parishioners, the booth will offer the option of whole or half-sandwiches, as well as iced tea, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and other baked goods.
Named after a monk in the company of St. Francis of Assisi, the first Brother Juniper’s restaurant appeared in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in 1968. The restaurant’s name and recipes would spread in succeeding years to several other cities, including Boston, Atlanta, Portland, Memphis, Amsterdam—and Indianapolis.
Aside from a lone location in Memphis, those Brother Juniper’s restaurants are now little more than a fond memory to their former fans. But for one sunny weekend, their motto—“Hearty portions of simply prepared, good-tasting food”—will once again become a reality for hungry Indianapolis art lovers.
The Talbot Street Art Fair is a free festival held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 12; and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 13.