The stretch of Grand Avenue just north of I-30 resembles Jefferson Avenue in Oak Cliff, bustling with a diversity of businesses – taquerias, quinceaniera and bridal shops, quirky dollar stores, and furniture stores packed to bursting with colorful items. And the type and era of architecture in the surrounding residential streets are virtually identical to what you’ll find in the Cliff. But what the area around Jefferson Boulevard does not have is a Hare Krishna Temple.
Installed in what used to be Mount Auburn Christian Church, Kalachandji’s has been open for roughly 25 years. Inside the structure is a veritable treasure chest of Hare Krishna beliefs and practices for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, complete with gift shop and vegetarian restaurant.
This Dallas Hare Krishna Temple serves as a local spiritual center aligned with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and boasts a sanctuary featuring Sri Kalachandji — a 500-year-old Deity in the form of Krishna (which happens to be the oldest Deity outside of India). As a casual visitor, the first glimpse of Kalachandji’s evokes architecture from the Asian subcontinent. The next sensual delight comes when one opens the door and encounters a warm rush of welcoming incense. A few paces in, the enticing fragrance begins to mingle with that of the food, arranged buffet-style just past the entrance to the gift shop.
On any given day at Kalachandji’s, the entrees could be any combination of foods — most inspired by Indian culinary tradition, but also including some more “mainstream” fare like veggie lasagna and Chinese noodles with vegetables. The selection is pleasing, with up to 15 different dishes to sample besides a respectable salad bar.
For the North American palate, most dishes are exotic and delicious, such as the pakoras (spiced, battered and fried vegetables), saffron rice and Chinese okra with black-eyed peas. On one visit, we encountered a delectable twist on the spiced spinach and cheese commonly found in Indian restaurants — an eggplant dish with cubes of paneer, the simple but very tasty Indian farmer’s cheese. There are basic and recognizable foods to be found as well, such as steamed vegetables, lima beans, and stir-fried cabbage and potato; the buffet also tempts diners with a small selection of freshly-baked breads. A sweet-but-tangy tamarind cooler is a perfect complement to the food. And if you manage to save room for dessert, you’ll be rewarded richly — the delicate, sweet offerings include varieties of halava, a sesame-based confection, and spiced sweet rice.
The diversity of the daily menu is matched only by the diversity of the clientele. Visitors will witness everyone from aging hippies and tattooed and pierced college students to young families and professional women in suits and high heels. While some of the diners are also Hare Krisha adherents and attendees of the temple services, the majority seem to be a wide range of Dallasites who know that the temple is the perfect place to find a tasty vegetarian meal. At night in particular the dining area’s courtyard is a true delight — tables situated on three levels among trees strung with glittering white lights. The Kalachandji community actively seeks to share its delectable selection of flavorful vegetarian dishes with paying customers as well as with the City’s less-fortunate. The all-you-can-eat meals at Kalachandji’s ring up at “suggested donations” between $7 and $10. A 10-meal frequent diner punch card may be purchased for a donation of $80. In addition, the Dallas Hare Krishna Temple has been involved in Dallas’ charitable landscape through its involvement with the Food For Life program — a program that is dedicated to providing vegetarian meals to the world’s needy. Devotees from Kalachandji’s travel downtown every Monday and Friday to provide food to the home-less at City parks.
Kalachandji’s @ 5430 Gurley Avenue — just two miles east of downtown Dallas off I-30 at East Grand Avenue. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner; Sunday for dinner only; closed on Mondays. For more information, visit www.kalachandjis.com or call 214-821-1048.
Hare Krishna beliefs and practices are rooted in scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, both of which date back thousands of years. Hare Krishna devotees believe that the Hindu god Krishna is the highest form of God and affirm that the individual soul is an eternal personal identity. Most serious Hare Krishna practitioners live according to strict rules — what they consider the “four regulative principles” — as the basis for their spiritual lives. These principles include no eating of meat, fish or eggs and no intoxication (including alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco). The Hare Krishna mantra, also referred to as the Maha Mantra (“Great Mantra”), is a 16-word chant believed by practitioners to bring about a higher state of consciousness when heard, spoken, meditated upon or sung out aloud.