READERS' PICK: Those seeking great food at a low price and with lots of good karma know that Govinda's Natural Foods Buffet is the place to go. Located at the home of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of Arizona, Govinda's offers a mouthwatering array of vegan and vegetarian dishes, from simple spinach lasagna to more complex curries and rice dishes, all made with predominately organic produce, and all served buffet style. At $7.95 for dinner and $6.95 for lunch (with specials on Wednesdays), this all-you-care-to-eat style meal is a serenely smoking deal. But true Govinda's devotees know that for vegetarians whose stomachs are larger than their wallets, the $3 Sunday Feast is without doubt the best-kept secret in the Old Pueblo. Starting at approximately 7 p.m. (after on-site church services have ended), this small exchange of green will get you a heaping plate of assorted entrees, green salad, dessert and drink. You'll have to pinch yourself to believe you haven't left this earth and ascended to a higher plane. An all-around unique experience, Govinda's food soothes the mind, body and soul (as well as the pocketbook). And the live peacocks don't hurt, either.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Casbah Tea House, 628 1/2 N. Fourth Ave. (See Best Vegan Selections, page 75; and Best Teas, page 78.)
MORE MANIA: Cocido is a simple proposition: a big steaming bowl of chicken or vegetable broth aswim with vegetables -- potatoes, corn, tomatoes, onions and fresh chiles. Nothing will make you feel more acceptably human in the thick of a nasty cold. Nothing will more thoroughly warm your very bone marrow when the big nasty world has given you the cold shoulder. Head down to the south side -- Mi Nidito (1813 S. Fourth Ave.) and The Crossroads (2602 S. Fourth Ave.) are always good bets -- when the need for culinary therapy rears its head. For a close second, try the exceptional posole (sort of like cocido with hominy) at Tooley's (299 S. Park Ave.), a short hop east of downtown and south of Broadway in the colorful Lost Barrio arts district. Sip, slurp, savor, and be saved.
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