The Loving Hut is an anomaly. It’s Dayton’s first and only entirely vegan restaurant, and it’s in the Dayton Mall food court. I’ve eaten there about ten times, and I keep coming back. As a vegan foodie, I love to support this place simply because I can eat ANYTHING on their menu! I don’t have to order like Sally (When Harry Met Sally) to get vegan food. You may remember that in 2010, they won the prize for Best Vegan Fastfood in Dayton (by a landslide!!) and I think they are pretty much a shoe-in for 2011 as well.
As you can see, the sandwich is mostly bread, but it’s a really great bread. It’s crispy on the outside, but not greasy, and tastes more like a European bread instead of the overprocessed breads found virtually everywhere else. It’s my favorite meal there. At $6.50, it’s in my price range. I pretty much always get this panini because it’s so good. I had a bite of the the Portabello Panini (with carmelized onions) and it was great, but my husband complained to me that there were not enough mushrooms. Next, I want to try the Chicken Salad panini. I hear it’s awesome.
Sandwiches come with sweet potato fries, which are FABULOUS! You probably know that I LOVE these because sweet potatoes are on the Clean 15, and regular potatoes are on the Dirty Dozen. Sweet potato fries are still pretty obscure, too, which makes them a treat. The fries are dusted with a mysterious substance that tastes like pepper and powdered sugar.
Most of the meals at the Loving Hut come with a tiny cup of slaw, shown in the picture above. It’s usually fruit mixed with cabbage in a fruity dressing. I’ve always been told to eat fruits and vegetables separately, unless you don’t mind a lot of gas. However, this is such a small portion, and it’s packed with antioxidants, that I ignore the advice. And, no, I haven’t had a problem with gas.
My first exploration there was the vegan shrimp. I haven’t eaten shrimp since I was about 8, but the vegan shrimp was about how I remember it: flavorless, globby, and not terribly interesting. However, I’m really into food with lots of flavor, so people who prefer milder tastes might like this more. The sweet chili sauce but was a bit unremarkable. As an appetizer, they were expensive (3 for $5.90). I must say that I don’t really heart this.
The “Lasagne of the day” is either layered lasagne with Daiya cheese and veggies or ravioli with cheese on top. While it was good, my own lasagne is better (with mock ricotta made from pureeing tofu, olive oil, parsley, and salt), and one of the reasons I like eating out is to try new things, get new ideas for recipes, and to eat food that I can’t make. The portion size was also a little small for the cost ($8.50). I haven’t ordered it again, but I would if I was in the mood. It was still delicious.
One of my favorite things to get there is dessert. How often can you get vegan dessert somewhere?! There are little truffles and cookies that are really great. I don’t know who bakes for them, but I am pretty sure it’s off site because I remember seeing business cards for them. They’re reasonably priced and very good. The chocolate truffles especially are so rich and decadent, and a great $1 pick-me-up. Cookies have also been decadent without being overly sugary or overly biscuit-y.
I’ve spoken with a few people who expressed concern over the seemingly religious / cultish aspects of the Loving Hut. You can see this as you wait for your food: there is a television broadcasting people meditating, people talking, and such. As far as I can tell, the “Supreme Master Ching Hai” started the Loving Hut concept to spread compassion. Reviews are mixed about the her: including positive, albeit lackadaisical, and fearful people who have family caught up in the religion / group. However, until I hear that the group is terribly wrong, I’ll continue to support them by buying their food. Also, because they are available as an alternative to McDonald’s (whom I believe are a wider-reaching, more harmful group), I will continue to get food there. It’s my opinion that the Loving Hut helps people who want to try veganism and don’t know where to begin. I’m sure a lot of them may have sampled something from the Loving Hut, and that’s a great thing.
There are rumors that they might move eventually, but until then, enjoy the mall atmosphere. Just don’t be surprised if a train blows past you while you’re tucking into your panini and fries.
P.S. Keep an eye out for their specials, including the Cheesesteak. It blew my mind! SERIOUSLY! They should have it all the time. It’s my favorite meal there, but it’s pretty random, so watch their facebook page for updates, or call and ask or beg them to have it again. And let me know so I can order a couple. 🙂
What’s your favorite meal at the Loving Hut? Leave a comment!
(The Loving Hut is located in the food court at The Dayton Mall and owned and operated by husband and wife team
Jody and Jay Picagli.)
This article originally appeared in dayton. vegan. food., a blog written by Astrea Taylor, who describes herself as ” a vegan with classy taste buds. I love to eat and like to support local restaurants. I have successfully lobbied restaurants for vegan food. I’m a great chef in my own regard but I don’t always feel like cooking. I honestly wish there as a place that made food the way I like it, but since there isn’t, I’ve discovered a bunch of restaurants that are also great at what they do. Veganism is my passion, and I want to share the local experience.” We hope to share more of her vegan experiences with you here on DaytonDining.