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Buffets That Are Really Good, And Not Just Good “For a Buffet”


I spent the past two days cleaning off the top of my desk.


It had about two-and-a-half years of accumulated notes, ideas, phone numbers, and other such valuable but disorganized stuff on it, and I’ve been trying to move everything into a more organized way of being. Why? Because I seem to have joined the cult of people who follow David Allen and his book/personal productivity lifestyle, called Getting Stuff Done. Don’t ask—just read about it on Wikipedia if you want.

I’ve kind of gotten to a point in my life where—with all these projects, with all these children—something needed to change. And yes, I only have two children, but I’ll tell you, with toddler and the infant there are moments where I think: This is bliss, this is the happiest anyone could ever be. And there are other moments where I feel like I’m riding a runaway bus full of drunk tiger cubs: adorable, yes, but certain to kill us all.

So, I’ve joined a personal organization cult. My file labeler came in today’s mail. Many thanks, I think, to reader Gunnar who started me down this particular rabbit hole; if you see a sudden surge in my productivity, you’ll know whom to thank.

Unsurprisingly, in my great desk purge I came across dozens of food story notes and ideas, perhaps the most intriguing of which was: “Buffets That Don’t Suck.” My short list was: Holy Land, the various Indian buffets, and King’s Fine. But then I realized why this story never got off the ground. If the most enthusiasm I can muster for a place is “not that terrible,” well…eh. When I think about buffets that I truly, truly feel enthusiastically about, the short list remains pretty damn short. I don’t think it really counts to include splashy, pricy options like 20.21’s wonderful Sunday brunch buffet—or does it?

So I’m putting out an open call: Anyone have a buffet they really love? My criteria is this: If you were telling your best friend about it you’d say: “It’s really great.” Not: “It’s really great, for a buffet.”

And, to kick things off, here’s my very short list of the Twin Cities’ best buffets:

Holy Land

2513 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis

Why I like it: So many intensely flavored Middle Eastern foods—olives, hummus, tabbouli, and so on—hold really well in a buffet, the place is so popular there’s always lots of turnover. The Monday through Thursday buffet runs only at lunch; it’s $8.49 a person (or only $5 the last hour, when they stop replenishing things). Friday through Sunday it’s $9.99 a person, and runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; the buffet is $5.99 a pound if you take it to go.

King's Fine Korean Cuisine

1051 East Moore Lake Rd., Fridley,

Why I like it: The various Korean pickles and such hold perfectly, and the buffet tends to keep to an “all killer, no filler” policy of Korean greatest hits like pork bul go gi. The few sushi items are the best I’ve ever encountered on a buffet, not like the mealy, rice-heavy creations you tend to see at “sushi buffets.” But there I go myself: The criteria is not: good for a buffet! It’s: just good. Anyway, this is one of my favorites. It costs $11.99 per person.

The Vegetarian

4022 Central Ave NE, Columbia Heights


Why I like it: About a hundred million years ago, I reviewed this restaurant in its former incarnation, Sahib’s Gateway to India, and this is what I said, more or less: Everything tastes like the same sauce, different meat. Well, I went to the vegetarian version last year—this is kind of a longer story than I wouldn’t normally don’t get into—but they had had some problem which meant they were asking for drivers’ licenses with all the credit cards so I ended up using my real-name credit card, after which the owner cornered me and said I ruined his life, blah blah blah. To which I said: But this food is much, much better. Why? To which he said: Well, we were always vegetarians, this is what we ate the whole time. To which I did not say: Duh, I knew you weren’t tasting that stuff with the meat in it. Anyway, this place is actually pretty great: Vibrant spices, lively curries. They are closed Mondays but have a lunch buffet every other day of the week; the weekend one is best, and costs $10 per person.

All right, I have to wrap this up (in the name of organizational efficiency). Other buffets I like: Most of the Indian ones, including Nala Pak and the secret south Indian one in downtown Minneapolis I wrote about a few months back, though I would need a really good reason to drive out of my way to one. So, if you post about one, please give some reason why yours is better than all the others. Also, the Korea Restaurant semi-buffet(you order an entrée and get soup and sides from the buffet.) I’ve been to the buffet at El Meson a few times, and have found it wildly uneven: Once it was great, once it was horrible. So don’t bring that one up. But tell me this: Where are the great buffets I don’t know about?

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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