Loving Hut, a large vegan restaurant chain, opened its first Central Ohio location in Reynoldsburg today. The menu is being finalized, and a grand opening is scheduled sometime in the next month.
Upon first examination, Loving Hut's affiliation with spirituality made me a bit apprehensive. It is part of the Ching Hai empire, and she is called the Supreme Master.
When I think of the master, I was somewhat certain that "Bruce" Leroy Green was the master, and he proved this by taking down Sho'nuff, the Shogun of Harlem near the end of Last Dragon.
Luckily enough, the Loving Hut Supreme Master was not obtrusive (unlike Sho'nuff in the video link in the last paragraph). Sure, Supreme Master TV was playing on the flat screen (it is channel 8067 on DirecTV, I would imagine). From the parts of the programming I caught, the Supreme Master is a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber-style love ballads, many of which she wrote herself. When the barely noticeable proselytizing was combined with my not-so-secret devotion to show tunes, it all made the experience interesting yet inoffensive.
The decor at Loving Hut highlights vegetarians in history and pop culture. Vegetarian cookbooks fill the dining rooms. The restaurant is much bigger than it appears from the parking lot with two rooms folded into an L-shaped portion of Blacklick Plaza in Reynoldsburg.
While the menu is still rounding into shape, it will feature Pan-Asian dishes as well as American comfort food classics like the veggie burger and a BBQ sandwich. Many items on the menu are made with TVP or other kinds of faux meat products. There are salads and other items made without these ingredients for diners filled with veggie meat trepidation. I possess little fear of TVP.
Prices at Loving Hut are fairly inexpensive. $10 is probably an average order. $15 means you're taking food home.
What I ate: The spring rolls were stuffed with cabbage, carrots and mushrooms, fried crispy and served with sweet and sour sauce. Cilantro adds a fresh touch to this take-out staple.
The pho was a great veggie approximation of the Vietnamese wintertime staple. A mushroom broth is flecked with green onions, cilantro and basil as well as a heaping helping of textured protein, noodles and bean sprouts. The citrus garnish is textbook, and the vegan pho should be a great relief for cold weather as long as it lasts this year.
The BBQ sandwich was awesome. The creamy coleslaw was a great foil to the sweet sauce-covered TVP. The fries were thick and of passable quality.
The smoothies are thick. The blueberry banana smoothie was redolent of both fruits. Loving Hut serves smoothies, teas, coffee, water and no alcoholic beverages.
Loving Hut adds an interesting option to East and Southeast side residents that don't have a go-to vegan or vegetarian restaurant that comes to mind. Residents of other parts of the city will have to visit the international vegan fast casual restaurant on a destination trip or while passing through town.