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Review Wed Apr 28 2010

Loving Hut Serves Seitan with a Side of Spirituality

lovinghutsalad.jpgMost often when looking for vegetarian food on the Far North Side, I've opted for one of the Ethiopian options on Broadway. This propensity at least somewhat explains why I never ate at Alice & Friends, the cozy-seeming vegetarian cafe just a few blocks south of my usual stops.

Last summer, Alice & Friends came under new management and got a major face-lift. The Edgwater eatery joined Loving Hut, the international chain of not-for-profit pan-Asian vegan restaurants founded by Vietnamese-born spiritual guru and entrepreneur Supreme Master Ching Hai.

Loving Hut restaurants can be found in 19 countries, with 25 locations in the US alone, but each location maintains its own menu. The Chicago location, roughly triple the size of Alice & Friends, much brighter and with Supreme Master Ching Hai's teachings scripted on the walls, continues to serve the former restaurant's menu with a few additions.

Steamed dumplings filled with tofu, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini and onion had a chewy, reheated texture and forgettable flavor. In contrast, the Love Letter from Earth salad with romaine lettuce, apple, beets, avocado, walnuts, alfalfa sprouts, black sesame seeds and cucumber-tofu dressing was very fresh and filling.

Mama's Love--sweet potato noodles with broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, black sesame seeds and rice in a generic brown broth--was a soppy disappointment. Kung Pao soy protein was more chewy than crispy as the menu described, conservatively spiced and overall inoffensive. Much more memorable was the Spicy B.B.Q.--soy protein, broccoli and cabbage--for its unabashed heat and crispness of the vegetables.

Fans of Alice & Friends have told me that the new space is colder and less comfortable, but I found it well-lit and perfectly inviting despite the spiritual decor. Unfortunately, there is nothing special about the food. Loving Hut is located at 5812 N. Broadway, 773-275-8797.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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