A meal at Govinda’s
Just off Schermerhorn Street, in the basement below the Sri Radha Govinda Mandir Hare Krishna Temple, a sizable crowd of diners has lined up for lunch at Govinda’s. Against walls covered in multi-colored panels and large paintings, a hot food buffet is attended by two servers, and cooks ferry food in and out of the kitchen. On the menu today: an aromatic and hearty dhal, roasted zucchini and baked acorn squash, samosas, a soup and two salads, and freshly baked cranberry bread. All of the exceptional food here is vegetarian, and most is vegan.
“I come maybe about once a week,” said Elys, a teacher in the area. “The food is delicious, the people are really nice and helpful. It’s just a nice relaxing atmosphere.”
Govinda’s, titled after one of the Hare Krishna deity’s many names, was opened with the New York Hare Krishna temple in 1976 – one of the first two Govinda’s restaurants in the U.S., with the other establishment opening that year in Hawaii. At the time, the Temple was based in Manhattan, shortly after a move from Henry St. in Brooklyn. In 1982, the Temple acquired its current space in Downtown Brooklyn, bringing Govinda’s with it.
“There have been minor changes, but the greatest service to our clientele is the quality of the food,” said Temple President, Rama Bhadradama. “We try to create a very peaceful, serene atmosphere – it’s not luxury like a restaurant, but it’s quiet and peaceful.”
Govinda’s and other restaurants similarly named after other of the Krishna’s names are open in temples across the globe, including dozens in North America.
Behind the counter today is Hari Priya, who appeared at the request of her friend Satya Dasi, who typically runs the restaurant, and was out of town. She traveled from her home in Florida simply to help her friend, in exchange for nothing. “When our spiritual teacher [A. C. Bhuktivadanta Suami] started the movement, he said you have to do a lot dancing, chanting, and feasting. Food is a big part of our daily lifestyle and existence.”
At the Temple, devotees gather for the Arti ceremony every day at 4:30 a.m. and attend prayers seven or eight times per day. For each communal event, food is prepared and is integral to the Krishna community. Their attitude has created a very welcoming environment for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, Hare Krishna and non-Hare Krishna alike.
“I love working here, and meeting all these nice people. It gives me pleasure to see people eating healthy,” said Priya.
Govinda’s is open during the weekdays, everyday from noon to 3:30 pm, and also offers catering services in addition to their lunches.