I've driven by this place called The Loving Hut several times and wondered if it was a pet care facility, a house of ill repute, or some really really strange side venture of Pizza Hut®. I finally worked up the courage to go in (gotta satisfy the curiosity...at all costs), and it turns out to be a restaurant (but not connected to Pizza Hut® in any way.)
The place is vegan, which is cool because I've stopped eating any meat except for fish (I don't claim to be a vegetarian, so don't start railing on me about fish being meat, I know it's meat...tasty, yummy meat. Mmmmm...fish.) They've got a variety of items on the menu covering cuisines from China, Japan, India, Malaysia, the U.S., and a few things I wouldn't begin to know how to categorize. All of it is made without meat, even the fish, which is made out of something that is not fish.
The food is nice, if a little bit...what's the word I'm looking for here...ummm...safe. The spicy shrimp wasn't any more spicy that a baked potato with black pepper on it, but it tasted like shrimp, and the more surprising thing is that it felt like shrimp when I bit into it. The vegetarian burger would never pass for a hamburger, since the patty is obviously made with a mixture of grains, but it was hefty and the bun was fresh and soft, and the whole sandwich was satisfying in a beefy way without being made from a cow. The French fries were perfect steak-cut style potatoes, crispy outside and soft inside (mmmm...French fries).
You might wonder why I've put "surreal" in the title of this post.
Well, I'll tell you anyway.
First, there are the TVs on the wall. Not strange to see TVs in a restaurant in the 21st century, but they were all tuned to a station called Supreme Master TV, and they're running this nonstop broadcast that's a cross between CNN and the Lawrence Welk show. The newscasters all smile and speak softly and the stories are 90 percent positive and none of the video shows anything exploding or bleeding or filing a lawsuit. Then there are these interludes called A Journey Through Aesthetic Realms with music and singing and poetry set to video that looks like it comes from sometime in 1982, but is somehow delightfully pleasant. Then there is Supreme Master Ching Hai herself, a blonde Vietnamese woman who tells this joke in broken (but endearing) English:
A woman walks into the doctor's office. She says, "Doctor, I woke up and looked in the mirror and nearly frightened myself to death! My hair was all gray and standing straight up, my face was spotty, my skin was saggy, my eyes were red and had dark circles under them." The doctor gives her a thorough examination and after looking her over he finally says, "I can safely tell you that there is nothing wrong with your eyesight."
And everything happening on-screen is subtitled in twenty-six languages. Even the joke.
(No kidding, I couldn't make this up.)
And there's a mantra. Are you ready for this?
"Be veg. Go green. 2 save the planet."
It crops up in everything from the songs to the poems to the newscasts. Even the talking kangaroo says it.
Yes, there's a talking kangaroo. (I swear I'm not making this up.)
The dreamlike atmosphere wasn't confined to the television. Most of the other people eating at The Loving Hut seemed normal (but who can tell, really?), however the restaurant was only a quarter full at lunch time, which makes me wonder how they stay in business. I hope they get more traffic for dinner, because I did enjoy the food and despite what you might think I want them to stay open.
Then there are the employees. I'm really at a loss for words to describe what's odd about the restaurant staff...the closest I can come to it is...soft. Their voices are soft. Their footsteps are soft. Their eyes are soft. I imagined if I poked one in the tummy with my finger, he'd giggle like the Pillsbury Dough Boy®. But, I didn't because I also imagined my finger stuck in there and the soft flesh of the Loving Hutter inexorably enveloping me until I became one with the Supreme Master host organism.
I'm not saying the Loving Hut is a cult, but if it is their ultimate goal seems to be a planet full of peaceful vegans who use resources responsibly and eat some nice food.
I could live with that.
I know you'll think I'm making this up, unless you see it yourself, so go find a Loving Hut and give it a try. Be veg. Go green. 2 save the planet.
Just don't make me poke one of them in the tummy.