Commentary, Nutrition

Ottawa’s Hidden Vegan Gem: Govinda’s Restaurant

Fresh lotuses on the walls, malachite tables, all you can eat healthy buffet.. $5 what? We love Govinda’s so much! Okay, $7 now that we are not students anymore… But still!

Ottawa is becoming a great place to eat out for vegans. As our “Vegan In Ottawa”guide shows, there really is no shortage of decent options in the city. But there is one vegan restaurant that has been serving Ottawa for decades that many people overlook.

Granted, Govinda’s buffet is not what you would call fine dining, but it is my favourite restaurant in the city. It’s set humbly in a Hare Krishna Temple on Somerset St. East (near the university of Ottawa). At $5 for students and $7 dollars for everyone else, anyone can afford to eat there.

Jane and I frequent Govinda’s almost once a week when we both have had very busy days and can’t be bothered to cook. At such a low price, we don’t feel guilty about it either.

But Govinda’s has more going for it than just being economical, there are other reasons Govinda’s is my favourite restaurant in Ottawa.

Govinda’s offers genuinely healthy cuisine. The all-you-can-eat style buffet offers a small selection of bean and vegetable curries, soup, brown rice and salad that are tasty and good for you.

Sometimes, all you want is simple, delicious, and wholesome food to keep you going. Govinda’s never fails to provide this. The buffet is all you can eat, too!

Many other restaurants mean well but use too much oil and salt for my liking. Often you get served a fat bomb disguised as healthy cuisine. I feel comfortable eating at Govinda’s because the food is prepared much the way I would prepare it at home: High carb and little to no oil.

Instead, Govindas relies on simple staple whole foods and healthy starches such as rice, potatoes, and beans spike with traditional Indian spices such as ginger, coriander, cumin and garam masala.  The meals health, high-carb , high-energy and low fat for people who are not only interested in eating yummy food but also fueling themselves to think, work and play. It’s comforting food, and it’s the healthiest way to eat.

The humble restaurant also has a genuinely warm atmosphere. It is run by the friendly, spiritual man, Shankar. But Shankar is not just a Hare Krishna adherent, he is really just a nice guy.

To put the obvious questions to rest, I have been frequenting this restaurant for over 12 years, and Shankar and I have never once had a conversation about religion. One year, on Krishna’s birthday, he did offer me a crisp new copy of the Bhagavad Gita, which I gladly accepted out of scholarly interest and the inquisitiveness innate to a secular spiritualist. He is not trying to spread his religion any further than his religion calls for dispensing kindness to all he meets. His friendship is genuine.

Shankar takes the time to get to know his regular patrons. He will always stop by our table and take the time to ask how we have been doing, and hear about what has been going on in our lives.

Govinda’s is a place to feel welcome. The staff never seems to change, so you will always be remembered and greeted with genuine hospitality.

Govinda’s represents a food style that, in my opinion, is sorely lacking in Ottawa. Occasionally I like the occasional gourmet meal with pickled this and faux cheese that, but for functional, healthy cuisine, Govinda’s is the real deal. I can fuel on rice, potatoes and bean curries to my heart’s content, and know that I’ll be up for a hard day of work and training the next day.

If you have not discovered this hidden Ottawa gem yet, what are you waiting for?

If You Go

As part of the experience, you should know that you are required to take your shoes off at the entrance of the restaurant. It is, after all, a Hare Krishna temple

The atmosphere is somewhat informal, something sometimes reflected in unexpected closures. To avoid disappointment, you should call the restaurant beforehand to make sure it is open.

Address: 212 Somerset St E, Ottawa, ON K1N 6V5

Phone:(613) 565-6544


Monday-Friday 5–8PM

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