According to the greater UF population, Friday Krishna lunches are the best day to stop by. Besides the vibrant colors on the plate, the medley of flavor is one that draws the most crowds. As a result, I decided to give these Friday lunches a try despite the line of students leaving their 11:45 class for a delectable midday meal. 

However, I couldn't try their delectable dish without educating myself on the history of the Krishna organization, specific to Gainesville.

Hare Krishna: A History

The Hare Krishnas established their presence in Gainesville in 1971 through the creation of the ISKCON, an international effort to expand Krishna Consciousness. Through the distribution of “prasadam,” or karma-free food, and “kirtan,” or musical mantra meditation, Krishna has expanded its influence across the University of Florida’s campus.

In 1989, the organization refurbished a former fraternity house to serve as the “Krishna House,” which hosts dinners, speakers and practices Krishna consciousness. In 2008, the House leaders created the Bhakti Academy for students intrigued by practicing Krishna consciousness while pursuing academic degrees. By upholding five pillars — Upliftment, Relationships, Teamwork, Kindness and Service — through sustainable and inclusive methods, the greater UF community can have a taste, spiritually and physically, of Hare Krishna.

Bayley Needham

Every weekday from 11 a.m.- 1:30 p.m. at Plaza of the Americas, Krishna serves single lunches for $6. However, if you feel you may be a returning customer, one has the option to purchase 6 lunches for $28. Additionally, bringing Tupperware allows you to receive a second serving without an additional cost. All of their lunches are completely vegan and balanced, with diverse options to choose from each day of the week. Each lunch will vary in a main dish, but always comes with a side salad and almond dressing, and halava — a dessert from the Balkans made with semolina and sweet hot milk that resembles a loose pudding. It has the consistency and taste of grainy cream, which complements the savory goodness that is unveiled with each lunch.

My Experience

I was immediately greeted by Hare Krishna monks, who have willingly distributed around 3 million plates of Krishna lunch across the span of 51 years. The first serving is a rice base, followed by chili beans and Gauranga potatoes. Lastly, I was served carob halava and a side salad, drizzled with their special dressing.

Bayley Needham

My impressions gravitated towards the colors of the plate — the bright yellow of the creamy potatoes, the brown and red contrast of beans on white rice, the rich brown of the halava and the colorful spring mix of the salad.

Bayley Needham

The components of the plate were all equally compelling, but I decided to dig into the chili and rice. The protein of the beans meshed perfectly with the composition of the rice and chili sauce. The sweet undertones of the rice mingled with the gentle spices of the beans, convincing me with every bite that Friday may truly be the optimal Krishna day.

I then consumed the Gauranga potatoes, a creamy potato mixture with a cheesy consistency. This side truly convinced me that vegan alternatives can be just as great as their dairy-filled counterparts. The creative twist on potatoes along with the crumbly texture that came with each bite made this one of my favorite variations of these gratifying Gauranga. It was not too heavily spiced, instead making its presence known with soft, buttery flavor.

Bayley Needham

Lastly, I tried the carob halava. Traditionally, carob is a sweet and healthy chocolate substitute grown from carob trees, which are grown across India. The halava was simultaneously soft, crumbly and gritty, melting in my mouth with each forkful. The sweet undertones intertwined with an earthy base that perfectly satiated my sweet tooth. This was complemented by a refreshing lemonade on this Friday afternoon.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the experience of the Krishna lunch drew from not only the food but recognizing the value of the Krishna history as an organization, specific to UF. Witnessing UF students sitting on the grass of the Plaza of the Americas, with flowers blooming across the benched walkway, truly added to my afternoon.

With a breeze in my hair on this pristine spring day, I truly feel confident in saying that Krishna is worth the hype it gets — especially Fridays! Never soy-never to vegan foods, especially if you’ve bean thinking of trying a Krishna lunch!