Birmingham’s first and only vegetarian market and café opened in Southside a little over 4 decades ago.
Harinam Khalsa opened the first Golden Temple location in a tiny building in Homewood in 1973. Shortly after, he and his wife expanded into what is now their most popular location in Five Points. This location features a market, café and small boutique area with new and secondhand clothing, jewelry, essential oils, books, journals and more wellness trinkets.
1. Namaste, Birmingham
How did this health and wellness shop start? Necessity was the mother of invention.
Harinam and his wife moved to Birmingham in 1972 where they were—and still are—active members of the yogic lifestyle in Birmingham. They are both vegetarians who valued eating healthy food and were having a difficult time finding some of their staples here. According to Harinam,
“My wife went out shopping one day and she came back home and told me that she had been to multiple stores and couldn’t find any brown rice in the city. I looked at her and I said, ‘Let’s open a health food store.'”
The idea seemed very New Age at the time for Birmingham, but as they started to stock more and more food and grew to a larger space, they started to have more and more patrons. The clientele started out as people who primarily practiced yoga or were very into natural healing modalities, such as herbs. But when asked if his clientele has changed much over the years, Harinam agreed that it has. He now sees more young people, especially vegetarians and now more vegans, as well as some older New Age people who got involved in yoga and wellness in the ‘60s.
2. The Café And Market
Golden Temple is a unique Birmingham institution because it remains the only fully vegetarian café and grocery market in the city. In addition, almost every item on the menu can be made vegan and gluten free, as they have seen a rise in interest in those diets in the last 10-15 years.
The market features over 200 different kinds of herbs, including hard-to-find ones like whole cardamom pods and calendula flowers. Most, if not all, of the produce is organic.
The vitamin shelf is stocked full, and you’ll find row after row of non-toxic shampoos, body washes, toothpastes and lotions. If you are looking for a specific item let them know, and they can special order it for you!
3. You Had Us At Mac And Cheese
In the café, Harinam’s favorites are the specials. They change every day, but he said that one of his favorites is the macaroni and cheese (vegan and gluten free option available!) with broccoli and pinto beans as the sides.
The menu is broad, and many of the options have been on the menu since they opened the café in 1975. In addition to the wonderful food options, patrons can order fresh smoothies and juices, tea, local kombucha and coffee.
Golden Temple Hours
- The café is open from 8:30 a.m to 3 p.m, Monday through Friday.
- On Saturdays, café hours are 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
- The market and boutique are open every day of the week.
- Store hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.mS
- Saturday store hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
- Sunday hours are 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
So, maybe you’ve always known about the funky, free spirited, vegetarian health café on the corner of 11th Avenue South. Maybe this is the first time you’re hearing about it. Either way, it is worth a trip inside.
The employees are vibrant, friendly people who will gladly spend time helping you find the right vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedy you need. They’ll point you in the direction of their favorite books, journals, and teach you all about essential oils. And most importantly, you may learn something new, or find something you have never tried before.
What’s your must-have item from Golden Temple?