Loving Hut in Arlington

I was thrilled when I heard that a Loving Hut opened in Arlington, Texas. I grew up in Arlington. It’s full of chain restaurants, and at times there wasn’t even a single independent coffee shop. So a completely vegan restaurant (albeit a chain) opening was a huge deal.

Last time I visited my parents we stopped by. Loving Hut has an interesting business model. It’s a chain of restaurants created by Supreme Master Ching Hai. According to their U.S. website:

Loving Hut is created with a vision that all beings could live in peace, love and harmony with each other and the planet. Loving Hut chain restaurants are newly opening around the world. It is an invitation to gourmet cuisine made with wholesome vegan ingredients, offering an accessible starting point for those making the noble transition to a plant-based diet.

Every restaurant is individually run, so you’ll find a different menu at each one. And every restaurant also has Supreme Master TV playing at all times.

Loving Hut on Matlock in Arlington, TX.  Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

The Arlington location is in a strip mall. Everything in Arlington is in a strip mall. It’s very slick-looking inside. The atmosphere is like a Starbucks or Apple store. The sound on the TV was off, and with your back to it, you’d never be able to guess what sort of restaurant you were in. In other words, it doesn’t look at all alternative or crunchy. 

Gardener’s Wrap with slaw. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

I got the Gardener’s Wrap with a side of slaw. The wrap has soy protein, lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado. The soy protein wasn’t remarkable or offensive. Like many soy products, it’s a flavor chameleon. Which is why I think it would be better suited to stronger flavors like barbecue sauce. I also would have liked more mayo on my slaw.

Pho at Loving Hut in Arlington, TX. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

My mom got the pho. She really liked it, though was surprised that the zucchini was noodle-shaped and raw. That was exactly what I expected. I think zucchini noodles are pretty common in vegan circles, but haven’t yet gone mainstream. She was happy to find “normal” food on the menu. (More on this later.)

Baguette Charm at Loving Hut in Arlington, TX. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons
My father got the Baguette Charm, which seemed like a take on a Philly cheesesteak. Again, this was made with soy protein, and it could have used some stronger flavors. But props to my dad for being adventurous. That’s potato salad on the side, and it was everyone’s favorite part of the meal. Definitely get the potato salad if you come. I believe “wonderful” was thrown around a lot.
Sloppy Jenny with corn. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons
My husband got the Sloppy Jenny, which is a veggie dog with chili, onions, relish, cole slaw, mustard, and homemade mayo. Matt really enjoyed it and will probably get again next time.
In general, my mother really liked the restaurant. She said the food on the menu looked more normal than the food at Spiral Diner, her only other experience with a vegan restaurant. The thing is, I don’t think that’s true. The menus are pretty similar in their use of things like soy, seitan, and vegan cheese. Both menus have familiar dishes like pasta marinara and beans and rice.

I think either my mother has had several years to get used to me and my vegan food since our last visit to Spiral Diner, or, more likely, the crowd and atmosphere at Loving Hut was less intimidating. You’re fairly likely to run into someone with tattoos, piercings, and/or unnaturally colored hair at Spiral Diner. And while someone in my generation wouldn’t blink at any of those, I think for my parents those are still signifiers of counterculture. The crowd at Loving Hut wasn’t any different than the crowd at a Starbucks. A bit young, but otherwise unremarkable. 

Another difference, and a really positive one, is that Loving Hut prints photos of all their menu items. This is really great for people who have never eaten seitan or other vegan specialty foods, and I think this probably helped my mother’s comfort level as well.

So overall, the food was pretty good, but not exceptional. I’m still very pleased to be able to find so many vegan choices in Arlington. And I’m looking forward to going back to check out their desserts and baked goods.

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