Sometimes Valentine's Day is magical and filled with love, laughter and deep, romantic, meaningful moments with your special someone. And sometimes you're alone, and all you want to do is drown your sorrows in as much food (and wine) as humanly possible. Often, this is accomplished by buying a whole pie, a gallon of ice cream, a large bag of tortilla chips and two jars of salsa, then taking all of these items to bed with a napkin and a horror movie on Netflix.
Or maybe that's just my solution.
But this year, get out amongst the other sad sacks and commiserate over a lengthy Chinese buffet. Or Indian, if that's what you're in the mood for. Or even some good ol' southern cooking, sure to warm an icy disposition.
Whatever your lonely heart desires, you'll find it at one of these (surprisingly good) buffets.
8. Khyber North Indian Grill On any given day, the sign outside Khyber North Indian Grill will display a pithy response to the sign outside of Pappadeaux next door. The owner who comes up with these cheeky comments is often at the restaurant helping out by waiting tables and seating guests, but he's only the second best thing about Khyber. The best thing is the lunch buffet. It's a little pricier than many other buffets in town, and there isn't a huge variety to choose from, but what's there is high-quality food. The curries aren't incredibly spicy, so they appeal to even novice Indian food-lovers, while those interested in some sinus-clearing sauces can add extra heat.
7. The Bombay Brasserie Indian buffets get a bad rap because so many people can't handle the spice and unusual flavor combinations of Indian food. So they eat too much of it and end up sick and blame the buffet. That won't happen at The Bombay Brasserie, where the food is a great blend of traditional Indian with modern culinary sensibilities in a slightly more upscale dining environment than your average Indian restaurant (Kiran, Indika, Himalaya and Pondicheri are not "average"). Many people who don't think they like Indian food have been won over by the extensive lunch buffet, which features just about anything an Indian food-lover or novice eater could want.
6. Kim Son Restaurant Kim Son Restaurant on Bellaire claims to be the original spot for Vietnamese food in Houston. While we kind of doubt the veracity of that claim, we can attest to the fact that it's one of the best buffets in town. Lunch and dinner are both buffets, and the menu changes every day. For around $10 per person, you can get an insane variety of Asian food (not just Vietnamese) from sushi to dim sum to all-you-can-eat hot pot for only $1 more. Is it the first Vietnamese place in town? Probably not. But it's consistently one of the best.
5. Dimassi's Mediterranean Buffet The Dimassi family is Lebanese, but the buffet at Dimassi's features food from many eastern Mediterranean countries, which means the cuisine straddles the border between Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. Each buffet order comes with freshly baked pita bread. From there you can delve into vegetarian dishes like falafe, fattoush, baba ganoush and hummus, or meaty options like lamb shank, baked fish or chicken kebabs. The buffet also features made-to-order pita pizzas baked before your eyes in a brick oven. The interior design of the Dimassi restaurants (there are several locations across Texas) leaves a bit to be desired, but the quality and variety of dishes is pretty great.
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4. Udipi Cafe Every day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Udipi Cafe serves a buffet featuring some of the best dosas in town. You can also choose from a number of different curries, samosas, chutneys and idlis, all of which are vegetarian. The restaurant does a lot of catering, so that's what their focus is on, but the $8.99 weekday buffet ($10.99 on weekends) is great for a quick sit-down lunch that packs a bit of heat. There are several locations in town, so stop by the nearest one next time you get a masala dosa and sambar craving that just won't quit.
3. Best of Filipiniana Filipino Buffet In spite of Houston's diversity, there aren't very many Filipino restaurants in town. But we don't need very many with a place like Filipiniana here, which offers just about every traditional dish you could want (they advertise a minimum of 32 dishes). The freshest food hits the buffet table at lunchtime, and in spite of the crowds, that's the best time to go. You'll find palabok (a rice noodle dish), sinigang (a sour tamarind stew) and ginataan bilo bilo (sticky rice balls in coconut milk). This is also one of the few places in town where you can order the buffet to-go, meaning you can stuff your take-home container with as much food as possible and eat it in the comfort of your own home.
2. Luby's For me, Luby's is nostalgic. I remember eating there with my father (an inept cook) on nights when my mother was teaching, and we'd always have wonderful -- albeit far from gourmet -- meals. Most Luby's don't offer buffets, and many of the ones that used to have closed, but in Houston, the Eastex Freeway and West Greens Road spots still serve it. The buffets are served only on Saturdays, but they're available all day for $8.99. On the buffet, you'll find classics like macaroni and cheese (I still love Luby's mac better than most), famous "square fish," chicken fried steak, fried okra and a few purportedly healthier dishes that no one wants anyway. I don't go to Luby's for healthy food. I go for a little comfort food with a big dose of nostalgia. And Jell-O.
1. Sweet Tomatoes Not only is Sweet Tomatoes the healthiest buffet in town, it's also the freshest and the tastiest. Yes, it's a chain, but it has so much to offer. Breakfast AND salads AND soups AND desserts AND pasta. And sometimes other stuff, too. Every month the restaurant changes the specials, so there's always something a little different at the buffet. All baked goods and soups are made fresh every day, and the buffet is always stocked with kid-friendly items in addition to more sophisticated dishes like Thai slaw with fresh herbs and whole-grain couscous with feta cheese. And then, there's the quattro formaggio focaccia, buttermilk biscuits and red velvet lava cake. OK, so not all of it's healthy. But I kinda love that about it, too.