There's a new, all-vegan restaurant on South street called Loving Hut, an international vegan fast food chain founded by the animal, planet, and veg-loving, cultish leader Supreme Master Ching Hai.
Like most Loving Huts in the United States and around the world, the South Street Philly outpost of Loving Hut has a television dialed to Supreme Master TV at all times, but don't worry, you'd never notice Supreme Master Ching Hai on the boob tube in the back of the restaurant willing your money into her bank account unless you speak Taiwanese (I believe?), or someone told you about the woman behind Loving Hut.Please don't let this stop you from eating at Loving Hut. Your all-American neighbor two doors down undoubtedly has crazier notions than anyone who follows the Supreme Master, plus the food at Loving Hut is not bad — it's a known fact that cults and religious groups make some of the best vegan and vegetarian food around; if you ever have a chance to eat at a Krishna temple, I highly recommend it — and the Philly Loving Hut owners are super sweet.
Loving Hut serves bubble tea and food with a pan-Asian bent, but also offers up Western items like burgers and chicken nuggets. Each location has a similar, but different menu, letting the owners decide what to sell in their market. Unfortunately, the Philly location is working with a severely limited menu, whereas other US locations have menus two to four times larger. Yes, Philly vegans, you are missing out on vegan corn dogs, vegan pho, vegan teriyaki kabobs, and vegan wonton soup.Summer rolls filled with tofu, vegan ham, rice noodles, jicama, carrot, cucumber and lettuce are just as good as any summer roll you can find at any restaurant, although I'd love to see some aromatic herbs like basil, mint, or cilantro thrown in the mix. The thick, sweet peanut sauce comes pre-made out of a container. The Fluffly Quinoa salad is more of a greens and vegetable salad than a quinoa salad, with only a small portion of quinoa tossed with mixed greens, shredded carrots, cucumber, bell peppers, cilantro, and a light peanut and lime dressing. Thin slices of soy chicken top the salad adding a bit of protein that I so often miss when eating salads out. All ingredients were extremely fresh, and the salad was made to order.Golden Cheesy Bread will certainly fulfill any vegan's cheesy, greasy, salty, carby cravings. Seeded baguette slices are topped with a vegan mayonnaise spread studded with vegan ham, vegan cheese, and scallions, then popped into a toaster oven. A little too yummy, actually. Glad there were only four pieces to the order.Guru Curry Rice is a mild Indian curry studded with potatoes, onions, carrots, tofu, and soy protein serves with an attractive, purplish 5-grain rice and side of broccoli. Since this is a fast food chain in theory (many Loving Huts are in mall food courts), the curry is pre-made and gets a go in the microwave, and the side of broccoli comes from the refrigerator. Rice comes out of a steamer like at any restaurant, sit-down or fast food. Even with the microwaving, this dish still tasted fresh. You'd only be so lucky to find such a dish in a mall food court.
The vegan carrot cake was the only disappointing item I tried. Tasting like lemon cake rather than a spicy carrot cake, the cake was moist, but not in a good way — like it could have been baked longer. The sprinkled sugar topping also tasted a little off. A sugar substitute, perhaps?
Dining in at Loving Hut can be uncomfortable since it's often empty and the owners keep the back room in the dark, and the front room only lit by a few of the available lights. There is no music, just the sound of Supreme Master TV coming from the back room. The only customers I saw on multiple visits were South Street slackers taking advantage of the two computers at the front of the restaurant.
With a limited menu, a dining room that feels dead, and a South Street location that sees mostly tourists and Hot Topic teenagers, I'm just not sure about the longevity of Loving Hut. I'm most definitely pro cult vegan dining, but wish Loving Hut had opened in Center City were there are thousands of office workers who would certainly fill the seats at lunch for healthy, affordable, vegan eats.
742 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147