Of the million-and-one places to eat in San Francisco the one I’ve frequented the most in the month and a half that I’ve been here is—wait for it… waaait for it—a vegan restaurant. Yup, that’s right. Me. Vegan. No cheese. No bacon. Absolutely no trace of pork belly. None of it.
I should probably clarify, though, that the main reason I’ve been there more than any other restaurant is because it’s just around the corner and a 15-second walk from where I live, and they take credit cards (which always wins major brownie points from me.)
Loving Hut is a national chain of vegan restaurants, and while they all have a decidedly asian slant, each one has a different menu to reflect the culture and ingredients of the city it’s in. The one I go to is in Chinatown so most of the menu, with the exception of the somewhat awkwardly named “western” page (featuring the likes of spaghetti and vegan hot dogs), is Chinese, with other asian countries represented as well (shout out to Vietnamese pho).
This particular Loving Hut has a lunch special I always see advertised, but since I’m never around during lunch time, I never get it. (I’m usually there on weeknights when I don’t have anything to eat at home and am feeling lazy.) On Thursday, though, I had the day off so I decided to take advantage.
For just about six bucks i got a full plate of white rice with two entree choices, and a bowl of vegetable soup. To keep my rice company I went with the eggplant and tofu, and at the suggestion of my waiter, the mushroom and green bean combo. The eggplant and tofu was pretty good, even though I’ll admit I still haven’t fully come around to tofu. It’s just kinda bizarre, all squishy and soft. It’s not bad, I’m just still warming up to it. (The carnivore inside me is yelling profanities, but I’m ignoring them for the time being.) Both were sauteed to a nice consistency so that neither the eggplant nor the tofu was rubbery but just perfectly tender and soft. The basil-infused house sauce made for a great complement to the plain white rice.
Like the eggplant-tofu, the mushrooms and green beans were delicious and cooked to a near perfect tenderness. The green beans weren’t mushy or tough and the mushrooms (of which there were three kinds!) were smooth and soft, just how I love them. Truth be told, I could probably eat a whole plate of just this and be happy.
But then, after the yummy first part of my meal, I came to the soup. To call it soup is actually somewhat of a stretch. What came in the small bowl I was given was luke warm water with some veggies floating around in it. After the first couple of spoonfuls, I did something I very rarely do, I slid the still-full bowl to the edge of the table. Thanks, but no thanks.
I forgave Loving Hut for the soup because the rest of the meal was not only enjoyable but generous in its portions. However, I did feel I needed something to make up for the soup. So I ordered dessert: banana fritters with vanilla ice cream. Six pieces of banana wrapped in a thin, crispy dough, like filo dough but less flakey came circled around a scoop of vanilla ice cream (vegan of course). The banana fritters were good, delicately crunchy on the outside and oozing with warm banana. The ice cream wasn’t bad either, I mean for not having dairy in it. My only complaint was that the whole plate was drizzled in a fruity red syrup, which tasted like artificial strawberry syrup and didn’t add anything to the banana fritters. Honey would’ve been a much better touch, but then again, honey is a no-go for vegans.
When I leave San Francisco in a few weeks I’ll think back to all the great food I had here. Loving Hut won’t be my favorite but for missing so many things I love (uhm hello, dairy???) it’ll still have been pretty good. (Minus the soup, of course.)