Clay D’Altroy says Vancouver’s newest food cart is getting an “amazing” reception from the city’s vegan and vegetarian communities. But, according to the 35-year-old Commercial Drive resident, the food on offer at Loving Hut Express is actually designed for omnivores.
D’Altroy, one of Loving Hut Express’s five co-owners, told the Georgia Straight that the all-vegan food truck’s number-one goal is to “encourage meat eaters to adopt a vegan lifestyle through tasty food”.
“I think it’s going to blow people’s minds—people who aren’t used to the vegan or vegetarian diet, or who think that the vegan or vegetarian diet is just rabbit food or salads,” D’Altroy said in an interview on the seawall at Yaletown. “I think that, when they try this food, it’s going to be filling, it’s going to have all those textures and tastes that they’re used to, and it’s going to blow their minds.”
Loving Hut Express made its debut on October 2 outside the Taste of Health vegetarian fair at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. That corner, at Pacific Boulevard and Davie Street, is the location it was awarded in April as part of the expansion of the city’s street-food program.
From inside their bright yellow truck, D’Altroy and his staff are serving up a "comfort food" menu that features several burgers and sandwiches—such as the Crispy Chick’n Burger and B.C. Reuben Sandwich—as well as sweet-potato fries, zucchini sticks, and onion rings. The burgers and sandwiches run from $7 to $9, including tax.
Loving Hut Express aims to use local and organic ingredients as much as possible, and has gluten-free options available. D’Altroy hopes to offer Sunday brunch items in the future.
This week, Loving Hut Express is open from today to Saturday (October 12 to 15), from noon to around 7 p.m. As it works up to a five-days-a-week schedule, the cart is using Facebook and Twitter to let customers know about its business hours.
D’Altroy said the plan is to eventually operate the cart from Tuesday to Saturday, but they might change that schedule in order to support Meatless Monday, a campaign that encourages people to go meat-free for one day a week.
Vancouver’s Loving Hut Express is a franchise in the international chain of Loving Hut fast-food joints, which are popular with vegans. All of the Loving Hut eateries are run by practitioners of the Quan Yin Method, which was founded by the Supreme Master Ching Hai, a Vietnamese-born spiritual teacher.
D’Altroy was involved in helping start up—though not as an owner—the city’s previous Loving Hut eatery, which shut down in December 2010 after a fire hit the restaurant row on West Broadway at Cambie Street, and the Vegan Pizza House, which opened this past spring.
D’Altroy described the Quan Yin Method as “meditation on the inner light and the inner sound”. The common element shared by all Loving Hut eateries is the promotion of “compassion” and the vegan lifestyle, he noted.
“It is easy to be vegan, and food can taste excellent and even similar to what you’re used to eating,” D’Altroy said. “All you have to do is switch out the chicken or the beef for a soy-based product or a wheat-based product.”
After opening three months behind schedule—their food truck wasn’t manufactured on time—D’Altroy insisted Loving Hut Express will be a success because his team is driven to offer better and faster food and service. And his dreams go far beyond the cart.
“Our plan is vegan Vancouver,” D’Altroy said. “That’s our plan. We want a vegan city, so we’re going to do as much as finances and manpower allow. We’re always going to strive to do more.”