Best friend deli

Farewell, friend, and can I have a bite of your vegan brownie?

Owner Anthony DeMasi serves up sandwiches and vegan treats at the Dandelion Deli.

Owner Anthony DeMasi serves up sandwiches and vegan treats at the Dandelion Deli.

Photo By David Robert

My cohort in crime, the meanest person I know, the most genuine human I’ve ever met, my best friend, is moving away. Although she will only be a four-hour drive away, we know that intentions to visit each other will only turn into guilty apologies as our lives become hectic.

Since I’ve known her, my friend has been thrifty and wise beyond her years, but that has never stopped me from thinking that she seems younger than me. It’s probably her unwavering honesty. And now as she is about to leave, I picture her as her favorite author J.D. Salinger might—she is a little kid playing in this big field of rye, and she doesn’t look, or even know, exactly where she’s going. I feel protective, wanting to keep her from running away. I want to be her “catcher in the rye.” I want her to stay here with me.

This idea comes to me as I eat a hummus and artichoke sandwich on rye bread at Anthony’s Dandelion Deli. My friend and I are sharing lunch, and I start to get choked up when it occurs to me that this might be one of the last lunches we share for a while. But I quickly push my reflections aside and remember that we are there to have a delicious meal and enjoy each other’s company. And that we do.

I have cream of zucchini soup with my palate-invigorating sandwich, while my friend enjoys avocado and cheese on wheat bread. Though you can get meat if you want, the deli caters to vegetarians and vegans more than any other we’ve found in Reno. They serve breakfast and lunch, and the owner, Anthony DeMasi, plans to start hosting a monthly dinner.

As we eat our sandwiches, we try to put a label on the décor. The environment seems endearingly haphazard with old couches, French posters, stuffed animals, lots of plants and ‘70s country-style tables and chairs. Since our mothers were both flower children, my friend says, “It seems like a mother’s kitchen, very happy and friendly, but big—like if your mom’s kitchen was a cafeteria.”

We talk for a while about the new place she will be moving into. It’s bizarre to feel completely sad and eager for a person at the same time. Then I ask if she is ready for dessert.

With an array of I-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan cookies and treats, it is hard to leave without indulging the nagging sweet tooth. I ask my friend if she wants to share a piece of raspberry friendship cake in the spirit of our relationship.

“Ohh,” she says in the way that sitcom audiences do when someone brings a puppy on stage. “That’s so stupid and sappy. You want to share a friendship cake with me. I think I’ll have a brownie.”

That’s my friend.

I come back with a slice of cake and the brownie and, despite her previous rejection of the saccharine idea of splitting the cake, we share our desserts. The cake is dense and subtly sweet, and the brownie is as rich in flavor as the girl who requested it. You would never guess that it’s vegan, made without dairy products. Its moistness comes from tofu.

None of the vegan cookies are labeled as such. I mean, who would buy a tofu brownie or tofu chocolate chip cookie? But it’s the best brownie I’ve ever tasted.

As we wrap up our meal, or rather as our meal wraps us up in healthy and fulfilling food contentment, I tell my friend that I have already started writing letters that I will send her when she is gone. She makes me stop speaking.

As we walk out the door, we hear a friendly voice extend farewells, and I think, "This is undoubtedly the most pleasant and cordial place I could have taken my best friend who will leave me in Reno as she runs off into the rye."