Monday, August 16, 2010

LovingHut for Extreemly Creepy Vegan Dining

I was excited to learn about a new vegan restaurant a couple weeks back from a blogger (Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well) who shares my frustration about the sad state of vegetarian-friendly dining in Tampa.  I had the chance to check it out today with my husband and kids....I think it's safe to say that it was the weirdest dining experience I've ever had.  Let me explain....

My first introduction to LovingHut came from their website. I was genuinely impressed. It's an international chain with a slick website. The food looks promising. I was expecting something on par with Evos.

Boy was I ever wrong. The first clue was the location. The restaurant is smack in the middle of "suitcase city". It's a seedy little neighborhood, to say the least, but its proximity to the university makes for an eclectic mix of businesses. So, we reluctantly gave it the benefit of the doubt as we pulled in to the nearly empty parking lot.

The atmosphere was actually quite pleasant at first glance - it was clean, bright, open - but something just seemed off. On the way to our table we passed a shelf full of pamphlets and reading material covered in pictures of an Asian woman with long blond hair - the same woman on the rather strange sign out front positioned above the more familiar, professional-looking logo I saw on the website.

Okay, that's weird, but it gets even weirder. Right above our table was one of several large television screens playing a strange news channel at an exceptionally loud volume. The screen was covered in subtitles from a dozen or so languages and the narrator was speaking in this hallow, soothing tone. It certainly wasn't CNN. After closer look, we saw that this channel was called Supreme Master TV.

As I confirmed from a quick Wikipedia search, LovingHut is affiliated with a spiritual organization headed by a lady who calls herself Supreme Master.

Now, I don't know anything about this Supreme Master. Maybe she's the next Ghandi or something. But from where we were sitting, being inundated by the telescreen, it was just plain creepy. It was more funny creepy than scary creepy, so we went ahead and ordered.

I will say the food was okay, but certainly not great. There were very few options on the menu that weren't made from processed soy meat substitutes. Frankly, I was so weirded-out, that I had a hard time being objective about it.

So, do I recommend it? Not unless your looking for some entertainment and can't afford dinner theater. The experience has left me with two lingering thoughts:

1) The best veg cuisine consists of whole-foods - not processed meat substitutes.

2) I hate those moments when trying to adhere to a vegan diet feels like being in a cult.
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  1. Wow. That does sound entertaining, to say I was thinking about you just today, actually, because we went out to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner and it occured to me that aside from a bean burrito, there wasn't much there that you could eat. Major kudos to you for making it work, though.

    Maybe the meat substitutes are for beginners? I still try to eat at least a few days a week veg only, and I know sometimes the "quasi-chicken" is just easier, because I'm still very much in a meat eater mindset when I'm planning meals. Still, it seems that there would be more selection at a vegan place...

    And I'm not sure what to think about the Supreme Master. All I can think of is pizza when I hear the word "supreme", and I don't even like supreme pizza...

  2. Aw no pictures to share? As for meat substitute, it's totally no meat for me (even if they are just substitutes).

  3. Thanks for the heads up...really appreciate it, as if we would have somehow gone there in an attempt to show my hubby that "look, dear, a new vegetarian restaurant in the area...why don't we give it a try?" sort of thing, he would have been so weird-ed out that he would be even more about his typical meat and potatoes sort of diet.
    Crazy that a restaurant can exist like that and kinda scary that it is by a university, as some young college kids are very sure that is exactly why they picked that location, too...
    Well, thanks for sharing. Think we will stick to just tying out vegetarian cuisine when we go shopping at Whole Foods.

  4. Thanks for the warning and the word pictures! Too funny, unfortunately it's at your expense.

  5. Sorry you had a bad experience, at least there was some entertainment though.

  6. I have heard (after posting on my blog) about Loving Hut being associated with the quack religion. I think I read a review on Yelp or something. Totally creepy, weird, funny, creepy. I probably won't be making it to Loving Hut anytime soon. Like you, I prefer whole foods than to anything processed!

    I wonder how an organization like that has so much money to produce a channel aired 24/7. I know it isn't on cable, but still.

    My curiosity does have the best of me though. I wonder what the Asian with blond (seriously?) hair is preaching. To google I go.

    For now, I'll just enjoy my salad from whole foods :)

    BTW - Have you been to Village Market? I really enjoy their deli. I picked up some wraps for my husband and I recently there and they were delicious and well priced. I had the California and it was very good! Worth a try for something really casual.

    Enjoy your day!!!