Govinda’s, the long-running restaurant at Broad and South streets, has been serving vegetarian and vegan food since the 1980s, well before avoiding meat went mainstream. About four years ago, owner Haryasva Dasa, a Hare Krishna monk who goes by Hari, got the vegan community buzzing with news of an upcoming Govinda’s pizza shop right next door, in what was at one point Govinda’s To Go. It took a bit longer than expected, but that pizza shop is now open. It’s perfect timing, since much-loved vegan pizzeria Blackbird just had to temporarily close its Queen Village location.
The original Govinda’s (1408 South Street) is a certified-kosher fast food joint known for its (meat- and dairy-free) cheesesteaks, chicken cheesesteaks, and sandwiches. The new pizzeria, also kosher, sells slices, a wide range of hot dishes like mac and cheese, quinoa, vegetable medleys, three-bean chili, and whipped sweet yams, and a salad bar with veggies, pasta salads, and hummus. The hot dishes are small and meant to be ordered as sides or as a few together to make a meal.
The shop is almost entirely vegan, but there is an option for a pie made with real mozzarella, which Hari says was a request from the kosher Jewish community.
Overall, the offerings are healthier and “more wholesome,” Hari says.
“It’s a different spin on fast food,” he says. “I wanted to give people something we don’t have next door, where we use so many soy products. As a vegetarian, I sometimes want to go someplace and get food quickly, but I don’t always want a sandwich — so I wanted to offer a quality lunch, quality food cooked nicely.”
The counter-service pizza shop is designed primarily for takeout, but there are about 10 seats for eating in. Diners can’t get directly to the rest of Govinda’s from the inside; despite the two buildings appearing flush from the sidewalk, there is a small alleyway between them, says Hari, who lives upstairs.