Point/Counterpoint: There’s Something For Everyone at the Vegan Loving Hut
Even though the meat lovers on Midtown Lunch outnumber the vegetarians, sometimes we like to shine a light on some of the less offensive meatless options being offered for under $10 (some of you may remember the days of Zen Burger!?) The latest spot is Vegan Hut, a just out of bounds chain that opened a few months ago on 7th btw. 29+30th… and we figured what better to assess it’s awesomeness (or suckiness) then by bringing in Lunch’er “Sarah”, our resident Vegetarian commenter, for a heads up point/counterpoint with me- a bonafied meat eater. In other words, we have something for everyone today. It’s a tale of he said she said. Meat eater vs. vegetarian. Both sides of the story. How will Vegan Hut hold up!
Note*: Sarah and I ate different burgers. She opted for the more vegetarian-like of the two burgers. Her’s was also a special written on a chalk board. I picked the ‘faux meat’ that is on the menu. Part of this is to show that a vegetarian and a meat eater would tackle a vegan place with different strategies. Also, I’ve uploaded a photo of Sarah’s burger.
Meat Lover: The Loving Hut burger was just $5 dollars and came with some tortilla chips. So far, so good! The rabbit food they stack on the burger was also bright and fresh. If McDonald’s would use lettuce and tomatoes like this, then I’m sure there would be a lot more happy people out there. For buns, they used these thick, bread-like buns that were a little stiff. It was a little difficult to eat the burger because the buns weren’t so squishy. As for the taste… I have to give them credit for making the “meat” resemble some meat-like characteristics. What the patty might have lacked in flavor, it made up for in texture. Being a meat eater, I found the texture to be slightly off from real meat. But if you put this patty in a big mac, I’d probably eat it happily.
Vegetarian: I already decided when I saw the specials board outside that I wanted the “Crispy Vegan Burger Special” which claimed to come with “chips salsa and guacamole” for $6.50. Back at my desk I was disappointed at first to discover just a handful of tortilla chips thrown in with my veggie burger. The burger itself was on a huge bun though, and after dissecting it I found a fair amount of guacamole hiding beneath the bread. Despite lackluster appearances: It was DELICIOUS. I was a little wary of the bun because sometimes vegan bread can be dry and gross, but this bun was large, soft, super yummy.
Meat eater: Another thing the burger had going for it was the ‘sauces’ they added. On one of the buns, they smeared some guacamole and what tasted like thousand island dressing. These two key components really made the burger taste better. I’m not going to say this burger reminded me of real beef, or that I’m going to start going all vegan… but if you mix the right sauces then it’s definitely going to be better than you expect it. Just don’t go in expecting this to be a replica of a real beef burger.
Sarah the Vegetarian: The burger patty was not some store-bought veggie burger- you could see flecks of veg throughout and it was nice and crispy (fried???) on the outside. The generous scoop of guac and the not-in-season tomato kind of did blend with the consistency of the burger to be a whole lot of mushiness in a few bites, but the burger was topped with lettuce, cucumbers a red onion, so there was a nice contrast of crunchy texture as I chomped along. The burger was also flavored with some kind of sweet, slightly tangy sauce, that I think could have used a bit of heat (was that supposed to be salsa? I hope not) but overall was a solid, yummy lunch. I (almost) didn’t even miss the cheese.
Meat Eater Side Note: Loving Hut does have a secret weapon up their sleeves for us meat eaters… Dumplings. These probably are some of the best vegetarian dumplings you can get in Midtown. The wrappers are hand-made and as you can see from the pictures, they look like little white pillows. As far as vegetarian dumplings go, my main criticism has always been that I never feel full when there’s no meat in the filling. And with seven dumplings per order, you’re not going to fill up on these puppies. They’re $5 per order so if you’re relying on dumplings for lunch, you might have to push up against the Midtown Lunch limit of $10 just to feel full. I think they’re quite fantastic dumplings for having only mixed Asian vegetables for the filling.
Clearly, vegan food is never going to be a full time genre in the Midtown Lunch canon. Most of us are street meat people (and proud of it). But that doesn’t mean all Vegetarian options should be painted with a broad stroke. Did my burger taste as good as a real burger? Of course not. But for a vegan burger, it was pretty good, and for those who’re interested and intrigued enough to try, I say go for it. I learned that just because a place is vegan, doesn’t mean the food necessarily has to taste like cardboard. I mean, usually it does (!) but it doesn’t have to… and the vegetable dumplings are the perfect example of that. We all started out wanting to find that hole-in-the-wall with kick-ass food that beats out the generic Midtown spots, and I have to say that Loving Hut kind of fits the bill. The dumplings are proof that sometimes you might find that kind of lunch in the most unlikely of places.
- I’m Vegan and there is nothing for me to eat in Midtown!
- I want to eat a fried “burger” thing, topped with guacamole and pretend it’s healthy
- Where’s the beef?!
- I don’t care how good it tastes, I’m ain’t eating anywhere that doesn’t at least kill a few animals to make its menu.
- Seriously dude, where’s the beef?
Loving Hut, 348 7th Ave. (btw. 29+30th), 212-760-1900