On weekdays when UF classes are in session, campus-goers can count on the vegetarian Indian fare known as Krishna Lunch to fill their bellies. Over four decades ago, Hare Krishna devotees established themselves in the Plaza of the Americas, where Krishna Lunch is served, by teaching chants and serving food to students. Today, Krishna Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on campus and is available for delivery from the Krishna House until 3 p.m.
But for those off-hours or weekends, Govinda’s Bakery & Café, which opened in March, is a dream come true for Krishna Lunch regulars and novices alike. Govinda’s was born from the high demand for Krishna Lunch and a desire to have a permanent location. Its menu is different from the rotating cafeteria-style selection on campus, and it’s open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Even still, the vegetarian foods at the café are just as tasty as the dishes from Krishna Lunch.
The food practices of the Hare Krishnas are not unique to Gainesville; there are restaurants all over the world that share the moniker Govinda’s. Amy Hollis, the assistant manager of Govinda’s and a member of its board of directors, said Govinda is the form of the god Krishna when he is herding cows. Govinda is also another name for the god Vishnu and means “one who gives pleasure to the senses.” This is something Govinda’s restaurants tackle through the food they serve. Recently, Gainesville became home to the first Govinda’s restaurant that also includes a bakery, Hollis said.
The restaurant is located close to both UF and the Krishna house, just six blocks north of University Avenue and 13th Street. Hollis said the restaurant has been well-received in Gainesville.
“I didn’t expect there to be an immediate community feeling,” said Hollis.
Unlike many restaurants, Govinda’s is a nonprofit. Rather than having an owner, it operates from its board of directors, and Hollis described the staff as team-oriented. Govinda’s operates as a bakery and restaurant, with a kitchen and front-of-house staff alongside pastry chefs and a baker.
Govinda’s caters to the hungry and the very hungry. The entirely vegetarian and mostly vegan menu features one free refill on all soups. These include an Indian-spiced yellow mung bean dhal, a creamy broccoli cheddar and a rotating vegetarian option. The sandwiches are consistently rich in vegetables and incorporate various flavors such as pesto and barbecue sauce. Customers can also look forward to the classic Krishna Lunch salad, complete with optional Krishna almond dressing. Diners can mix and match two items for $7.95 or get a full plate of three items plus dessert for $11.95 — and all meals include unlimited cold tea. The desserts, which vary daily, are one of the most enticing aspects of Govinda’s. There are familiar treats, at least to the Gainesville vegan palate, such as the vegan walnut chocolate chip cookie. And Govinda’s pastry chefs and bakers are constantly devising unique creations, like the chocolate and rose infused cupcake, and Hollis’ personal favorite, the pumpkin cupcake with ginger frosting.
For those who feel equally tempted by a cupcake and a cookie or want something outside the norm, there is a simple solution: The coconut date ball is a small, unsuspecting morsel of finely chopped dates and almonds rolled in shredded coconut. The sweet and nutty sensation is simple but energizing; you would never suspect it to be vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and all-natural.
The food at Govinda’s is only half of the dining experience. Natural light pours into the building through large front windows, pleasantly illuminating your lunch. The paper plates of Krishna Lunch are replaced by silver trays, and there is plenty of seating, so you won’t have to balance your plate on your knee like you might at Krishna Lunch. The ambient Indian music adds to the serene atmosphere.
“We wanted it to be a place you can come be yourself, relax and be welcome,” Hollis said.
And relaxed you shall be. Included in the menu are not-so-edible weekly yoga sessions, which can be combined with lunch, dinner and — for kids — a cookie. Check their website for the schedule and combo pricing.
Govinda’s unique approach to dining is one that is sure to find its home in Gainesville and please its customers.
“We didn’t just want to open a café,” Hollis said. “Our hope was to connect with people, and that’s been my favorite part.”
Recipes courtesy of Govinda’s assistant manager, Amy Hollis.
Govinda’s Bakery & Café
604 NW 13th St. | (352) 745-7747
Monday — Saturday
11 a.m. — 8 p.m.
Vegan Berry Crumble
- 3/4 cup nondairy milk
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 & 1/4 cup flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup of flour
- 1/3 cup of brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- Mix crumble topping ingredients in small bowl.
- Mix dry cake ingredients in seperate bowl.
- Mix wet cake ingredients in seperate bowl.
- Combine all your ingredient into one bowl.
- Add 1 cup of berries.
- Spread cake mix in 8 inch square pan. Top with crumble.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
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