Yesterday, I finally had lunch at that well-known vegan restaurant, Loving Hut. With outposts the world over, I was expecting something grand, something earthy, something crunchy cool, something that would feed that inner holier-than-thou mindset we vegetarians secretly nurture but deny publicly.

Instead I was greeted by silence. No one came to help me. So I walked around the restaurant looking for a table where I could spread out, a Sogo bag filled with brand new bath towels needing a chair of their own.

After several minutes, a mentally imbalanced middle-age woman in a Loving Hut uniform came storming out to help me. At first, I loved her unbridled enthusiasm. “We vegetarians,” I thought, “a wacky bunch.”

But I quickly realized that this woman needed to be medicated. She wildly pointed at things on the colorful wall menu near the cash register repeating things like “so good”, “very good” and “all good”. The pictures of the food looked “all bad” to me but I took one of her suggestions and ordered this tofu/noodle/curry concoction with mock meat. I hate mock meat but it’s all the rage in Hong Kong vegetarian restaurants.

When I finally went to the counter to pick up my order, I realized that those pictures had been doctored. The food looked worse in real life. Mock meat turds floating in a veggie, shit-colored broth, stringy noodles clumped in a corner. Yum!

I sat down to eat and briefly thought of skipping out. I had already paid so it would be easy to make for the door. But then I thought of that poor mentally imbalanced woman. Would she take it personally? Would she start to dislike all gweilo after I walked out on her food? Would she reconsider her own vegetarianism?

My food was bland–ugly and bland. So I decided not to read my book and instead focus on eating just enough so as not to be rude. Silly, I know. In a regular establishment I would I have walked out. Here, I felt a certain kinship.

Mentally Imbalanced must have thought I was bored so she came over and gave me some vegan pamphlets and flyers with pictures of smiling piglets and a creepy looking Asian woman with dyed blonde hair and a crooked face.

Mentally Imbalanced said, “Be vegetarian, so good, so bad our planet environment meat, the ice melting, so bad, look Japan, so sad.”

I looked up at the television and saw more propaganda. That crooked face, Asian dye job was speaking in a monotone, her words translated into ten different languages after each announcement. I’m guessing she’s some type of local guru, a sage with an ax to grind.

My eyes wandered over to the wall of “Vegan and Vegetarian Elite”. A black-and-white picture of Albert Einstein next to glossies of Paul McCartney and Anne Hathaway. There, a sliver of confirmation. I’m in good company.

But then my eyes made their way across the wall. For every Natalie Portman, there was an Ashley Judd. For every Paul McCartney, a Joaquin Phoenix. For every cool celeb, a weird one.

My eyes wandered again, this time to my fellow vegetarians. A hunched over, prematurely graying woman with a growth above the part in her hair huddled over her pumpkin soup. An elderly man dressed like a Native American stood in line to use the restroom. The man who ran the cash register staring out the window blankly, a big smile on his face, his eyes shining. These are my people? The crazies of the world?

I feel more at home in steakhouses. A lot of vegetarians don’t understand that nice steakhouses not only have an amazing selection of salads and sides, they know how to make a mean martini. And you always feel so wonderful sinking into those comfy booths, surrounded by wood paneling, and the hum of conversation peppered with occasional laughter.

Vegetarian restaurants? They often look like they were designed by blind sadists from former Eastern Bloc countries. Utilitarian and unloved, these interiors remind me of that creepy surgery scene in Jacob’s Ladder. Even my favorite vegetarian restaurant in town, Life Cafe, could use some help. Those wooden chairs will give your ass splinters.

And who says just because you choose not to eat meat you have to abstain from alcohol? How about serving at least some beer? Hell, make it some hippy, organic mirco-brew. I could get into that.

Sanctimonious vegetarians annoy me. Creepy ones scare me, make me reconsider my choice. I’ve been a vegetarian and occasional vegan for eight years now, and plan to be veg my entire life. I just wish there were a green restaurant that resembled a swank steakhouse. Is that asking too much?

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