Loving Hut

As a lifelong carnivore with a weakness for cheese, it is not hard to imagine my hesitation to eat at a vegan restaurant, despite its welcoming name: Loving Hut.

The restaurant is located on a rather unassuming corner in Mira Mesa and is somewhat easy to miss. My party was quickly seated in the restaurant, which was filled with patrons that seemed content and satisfied. However, the eatery could have done with some background music for added ambience.

Yes, Loving Hut is vegan and promotes conscious and cruelty-free eating, however, the menu does not follow a particular theme, other than being 100 percent vegan. This does not necessarily mean crunchy granola or raw food; the menu includes Mexican classics and fresh vegetable salads, and touches on just about every Asian cuisine. With pictures depicting every dish, the menu seemed to dispel any pre-existing notions I had of vegan food, as it all looked appetizing and, well, normal.

We started with steak tacos as an appetizer, priced at $7.50, which consisted of diced vegetables and perfectly cooked soy steak protein served in corn tortillas with sides of homemade guacamole and salsa. While corn tortillas are never my first choice, I could not complain about the well-fitted combination of ingredients and soy steak, and despite my previous prejudice, I would have no trouble substituting it for real steak on a more regular basis. We could have shared a second order, though that is more a reflection of taste than portion size.

For the main course, we decided to split Drunken Noodles, stir fried yellow noodles with soy protein tossed in sweet sauce, and the Spicy Cha Cha, a mock breaded shrimp dish with vegetable protein as a replacement, accompanied by brown rice, fresh vegetables and a tangy vinaigrette dipping sauce, both priced $8.95. The Drunken Noodles, cooked with my new favorite soy steak, were overly sweet and too heavy for my palate. The Spicy Cha Cha, however, made my visit completely worthwhile — I found myself smacking my lips after crunching on the protein shrimp, which were dipped in the biting, yet refreshing vinaigrette.

From the cheap prices and simplistic décor, Loving Hut makes eating guilt free; by the end of the meal, wallets will stay full and animals will probably be saved.