Budget Beat

Loving Hut: Lunch $10 & Under

Asian fast food you can feel good about? Check out Loving Hut's new CenPho location, dishing up vegan wontons, stir-fries and soups without the Omnivore's Dilemma guilt - aside from the guilt-tripping "Be Veg. Go Green. Save the Planet!" mantra plastered everywhere: the sign, logo, menu, wall art, you get the idea.

While it's far from a hut, located in an old concrete building off East Indian School Road, we're glad: Clean, bright, welcoming, and air conditioned, it meets our lunch-spot requirements. Grab any open seat in the house, and brace yourself for auspicious attendance from every hand on deck.

First up: a complimentary soup of the day. A little underwhelming, lukewarm lentil and veggie mix in a thick, clear broth, but a decent start to a meal on an empty stomach.

Heaven Rice Rolls come out next and live up to their name. Think sushi roll, sans raw fish, seaweed and rice. A thin rice paper wraps up jicama, lettuce, tofu, leeks and peanuts. The combination is both warm and fresh with a minty flavor and a licorice finish.

Lucky for us, Loving Hut is heavy handed on the peanuts; however, if you're allergic, just let them know up front (but we'd keep an epi pen handy, just in case).

Our "small" rainbow salad looks huge - a towering mass of red and white cabbage and carrots, topped in slivered soy protein, finely chopped peanuts and bright red pepper. In all honesty, we got a large by accident and couldn't even finish it

For a light lunch, we were stuffed. Eight pieces of the rice roll and half a rainbow salad, and we couldn't eat another bite.

The heavier dishes on the menu - Indian-style Guru Curry, stir-fried Sage Lemongrass, and an eye-catching vegan riff on the cheese steak called the "Philly Dream" - piqued our interest and our palettes.

While a chain, Loving Hut's a welcome addition to the often forgotten non-meat-eating sect of the Valley. With everything on the menu under $10 and a wide variety of flavors, it makes being veg and going green to save the planet, pretty damn easy.

Loving Hut
3239 E. Indian School Rd.