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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