Ganesh Temple Canteen This Queens Canteen is housed underneath The Hindu Temple Society of North America located in Flushing. It was started in 1993 to prepare food offerings, known as naivedyam, to the Hindu deities in accordance with agama shastras, the collection of ideas and principles that guide the Hindu faith.
The canteen is known for its dosas, which are large, crepe-like pancakes made from fermented rice and lentil batter, served with sambar and coconut chutney for dipping. The canteen’s most ordered dosa is the Masala Dosa, which is filled with spiced potatoes, but they can also be filled with a variety of ingredients such as paneer cheese, onions, dried dhal and chickpeas, or topped with ghee, a clarified butter. A dosa will cost you between $4 – $7, depending on the type.
The temple canteen also offers other traditional South Indian dishes such as idli (steamed cakes made of rice and lentil) and vada (a doughnut-like deep fried fritter), as well as Indian beverage staples like masala chai tea and mango lassi. At the counter you can find pre-made mixed rice in containers, Indian sweets, and a number of fried snacks. On Saturdays and Sundays, after weekend service, the canteen provides specialty items on its menu such as a Thali lunch, which is a platter comprised of rice, chappati bread, and various vegetable dishes.
Hindus and non-Hindus alike make the trek out to the canteen to sample its food. Minesh Ahluwalia, an animal rights activist from Bombay but has been living in New York City for over 20 years, told us that he keeps coming back to the canteen because “there’s an emotional and spiritual connection to the food, I feel good eating here” and adds that he “gets to meet wonderful people here all the time.” During Diwali, Ahluwalia accompanies groups of hundreds of people to tour the temple for worship, as well as to eat at the canteen afterwards.
The temple itself, which is an imposing architectural beauty and has been around since the 1970s, is also open to the public. If you happen to be visiting near closing time, you might be able to witness a prayer ritual service, known as Puja, and will be offered a cup of spiced milk at the end. Make sure to take your shoes off before entering, though.
Ganesh Temple Canteen is located at 143-09 Holly Avenue in Queens and is open everyday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., (718) 460-8493.
Govinda’s Found beneath the ISKCON Hare Krishna Temple in Downtown Brooklyn, this cafeteria opened about 10 years ago and has other locations all over the world. It strictly serves vegetarian meals because, according to Hare Krishna principles, not only does the killing of animals interfere with the process of reincarnation, it also disrupts “physical, mental, and spiritual well-being,” as well as “increases anxiety and conflict in society.”
“We don’t use meat or fish or any garlic or onions,” Satya Britten, the manager of the cafeteria, stated. “We do use some dairy, but we don’t use any eggs. And we also have some vegan dishes”
The cafeteria serves both Indian and global dishes; in fact, its most popular menu item is the Eggplant Parmesan. Govinda’s also serves quinoa and chickpea salads, basmati rice, breaded tofu fillets, kitchari (rice and split peas), nut loaf, samosas, and is known for its fresh homemade desserts, such as its cheesecake and cupcakes. The cafeteria also offers complimentary lemonade and pineapple juice for its patrons.
The cafeteria serves at least a hundred people daily and welcomes folks from all walks of life, though they serve mainly those in the Downtown Brooklyn area.
Damon Baram, a massage and acupuncture therapist, said that he is a regular at Govinda’s because of “the energy of the place. There’s an idea of food being sacred and your consciousness is affecting the food while you’re cooking it.”
The food at the cafeteria is relatively affordable, with a meal there running you about $5 – $12, depending on how many items you want. Govinda’s also offers a free vegetarian dinner after Sunday services in the evening.
The Hare Krishna temple above the cafeteria has been open since 1966 and is part of a worldwide confederation of over 500 temples, centers, communities, and schools with about 250,000 devotees. There is usually a staff member on site to guide visitors through the temple and to educate them on its history.
Govinda’s is located at 305 Schermerhorn Street and is open only during weekdays on Monday to Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., (718) 855-6714.