6227 Montgomery Road
UPDATE: 12 NOVEMBER 2010:
The Loving Cafe has renamed itself "The Loving Hut." It's new look matches the 100 or so other Loving Huts around the country, all of which serve plant-based vegan dishes. New web address is:
The Loving Café’s mission statement is to offer affordable, healthy, vegan cuisine in an earth-friendly dining environment that contributes to a higher standard of personal, community and planetary health. They use organic, locally grown and fair trade ingredients whenever possible. It may sound idealistic, but the restaurant manages to pull it off.
The limited menu relies heavily on fake meats, of which I'm not a fan. Sure they have their place, but personally I can do without them. I’ll admit to being somewhat dismayed that the restaurant’s only menu item sans mock meat was a raw veggie salad. Since my appetite called for something more substantial than a salad, I bit the bullet and chose the Loving Café Sandwich. Consisting of veggie ham and bologna, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, pickled carrots, vegenaise and vegan pate on a crusty baguette, it was a hearty and flavorsome sandwich. The tart crunch of pickled carrots and smooth pate worked really well together and along with the addition of some other veggies would make a nice wrap without resorting to an analogue. I could have done without the generous slathering of veganaise too, since for me a little mayo goes a long way. I ended up scraping most of it off.
So you are probably wondering how the mock meats stack up to the real thing - and I can't answer that. It's been far too long since I had a piece of ham, bologna or chicken. I will say that I don't think the mock meats added anything to the Loving Cafe sandwich, and I'd have been perfectly happy without them. Those making the transition from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian or vegan diet may find this restaurant the perfect starting point, but I don't think that the sandwich I had is going to convert anyone who doesn't already want to make the change.
Other menu options include sloppy-joes, chik’n fillets with fried rice or greens, or baked spring rolls with fried rice. Kids meals include chik'n strips and salad, fried rice and spring roll, or almond butter & jelly on sprouted whole grain bread.
Steve got the spring roll and fried rice dinner. He was not impressed, saying there was no moisture to the rice - as though it had been sitting around awhile - and he didn’t think the rolls had much taste, even though they were filled with finely sliced vegetables and veggie ham. Maybe non-meat eaters would enjoy this dish moreso than someone who is used to pork spring rolls. The entrée came with a side salad of organic baby greens, but there wasn't a choice of dressings. What arrived was a ginger paste so thick that it stuck to the sides of the plastic container. The only way to eat it was by dipping in the fork tines first, then picking up the lettuce. I'm guessing they do not offer vinaigrette dressings because they don't want any oil going into the compost bin.
Ah, the compost bins. Food is served on paper plates which are added to the recycling bin after any leftovers have been scraped into a compost bin. Bins are prominently displayed and labeled with easy to understand instructions. Kudos to the Loving Café for offering this simple, earth-friendly option.
The restaurant offers a thoughtful choice of gourmet teas, natural sodas, and organic juices, as well as vegan smoothies made with chocolate Silk (soy milk) or white almond milk. If you’d rather just have water, there is a small station in the dining room with complimentary pitchers.
Mock meats aside, there are a few ambience-related issues that the restaurant should address. The florescent lighting in the back dining room is quite harsh and negates the soothing vibe being broadcast by Supreme Master TV, and the smoothie machine is JARRINGLY LOUD. We had to yell our order to the cashier at the front counter and she still couldn't hear us until the smoothie machine was switched off. Steve and I ran into Cincinnati Enquirer food critic Polly Campbell in the back dining room, and the three of us had trouble hearing each other whenever there was a smoothie being prepared. The roar of that machine was overwhelming.
I want to love the Loving Café and want to champion their cause, but this visit just didn’t do it for me. I’m pleased to see a vegan establishment in town, I think their ideals and ethics are sound, and I love the forward-thinking of the recycle and compost bins, yet their heavy reliance on mock meats leaves me feeling a bit let down. Hopefully the restaurant is still finding its way and will offer a wider selection of items in the future.