There is something indulgent about a buffet—that sense of limitless abundance, and total agency over how much of what food ends up on your plate, and when.
Govinda’s Natural Foods Buffet hits all the satisfying marks of a buffet, but you will not find the hot pans of gummy mac and cheese and mystery meat that characterize some all-you-can eat joints. The vegetarian restaurant, which is attached to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple and gift shop, has been providing Tucson with flavorful, healthy options for over 22 years.
After entering through the gift shop, which sells clothing, books, incense, and more, patrons finds themselves surrounded by food. Fresh baked bread and crackers near house-made tea on one side, and a salad bar and hot food along the other. Diners at Govinda’s have the choice of eating at tables and chairs indoors or outdoors or of eating in the temple, where floor mats and low tables are provided and shoes are prohibited.
The food is hearty, and the portions are unlimited, though you get the impression that Govinda’s is the type of place where waste is, rightfully, frowned upon. Start with a bowl of salad and a plate of well-seasoned rice with vegetable curry. You can come back for seconds, or to try additional offerings. For people who are maybe less hungry, or satisfied by a more simple selection, Govinda’s offers a soup, salad, and baked goods option for $7.50. For adults, the all-you-care-to-eat buffet is $10.95, and there are discounts for children, students, and seniors. While dishes vary on a nightly basis the menu has a definite through-line. Curries, samosas, and fritters make a regular appearance.
If you go often enough you will develop a taste for certain staples, like the Halavah, a traditional Indian dessert of soft, dense, sweet cubes, and the salad dressings—full-bodied bends of nuts, miso, and spices in various combination that are good enough to warrant a write up about salad dressing.
The food is mostly Indian-inspired, but you can often find nods to traditional foods from other cultures—Seitan tex-mex fajitas, for example, or, on a recent visit, “meatballs” made from lentils and chickpea flour that left me wanting for neither the flavor or the protein of meat.
Govinda’s has special nights regularly—Wednesday and Thursday are vegan night, and every Sunday they host their Sunday Festival, an evening of music, dance, and mantra meditation followed by a vegetarian feast. More information on special events related to the temple can be found on the ISKCON website.
Lunch and brunch are also available.
Govinda’s Natural Foods Buffet
711 E Blacklidge Dr
Tucson, AZ 85719