The Dollar-Wise Gourmet: On a Beer Budget? Join the Buffet Line


Is Sacramento in the midst of a buffet boom? Lately, it’s been one grand opening after another, suggesting that the notion of getting more bang for your buck is drawing those who would, in more robust times, avoid buffets like the plague. Confession: I’m one of those people. But as my little lunchtime investigation proved, some of these places may surprise you—and in a good way.

The place: Crest Cafe 1017 K St., Sacramento 
The 411: Midsize Mediterranean spot serving lunchtime buffet    
The damage: $9.99   
The good: Flavorful falafel, fresh pita and hummus, simple Greek salad, green beans in tomato sauce, brown basmati rice with raisins    
The not-so-good: Chicken curry was a bit dry  
The verdict: Nice job; the only thing missing were the kabobs

The place: Mizu Japanese Seafood Buffet 3636 N. Freeway Blvd., Sacramento  
The 411: Massive Japanese/Chinese buffet with seafood emphasis and sensational sushi bar   
The damage: $8.95*
The good: Superfresh sushi, anything with shrimp (delightfully tender) or vegetables (al dente and delicious), ungreasy tempura, pot stickers, cream cheese wontons  
The not-so-good: Crab legs were a tease, skimpy on the meat  
The verdict: Top-notch fare and cool modern décor make this the winner. Only turnoff: pushy crowd 

The place: Queen Sheba Restaurant 1704 Broadway, Sacramento 
The 411: Colorful Ethiopian restaurant with vegetarian and vegan lunchtime buffet  
The damage: $7.50  
The good: Spicy red lentil stew, yellow split peas in garlic-turmeric sauce, spinach and collard greens, yellow cabbage   
The not-so-good:  Rice was coldish, and the cornbread (was that cornbread?) was like cardboard 
The verdict: Tasty and different, with the added benefit of making you feel virtuous for eating all those veggies

The place: Tandoorie Wok 403 J St., Sacramento  
The 411: Pleasant Indian restaurant with lunchtime buffet, divided into two sections: vegetarian and non   
The damage: $9.99  
The good: Warm naan is the bomb; wonderful sweet corn soup; tasty tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala in creamy, soothing sauce  
The not-so-good: Vegetable pakoras were on the cold side   
The verdict: Generally good food and even better service: The waiter gave me a buffet-table tour before I dug in

The place: Taste of China Super Buffet 1000 Howe Ave., Sacramento  
The 411: Huge Chinese buffet with Mongolian barbecue grill, small sushi selection and an American-style salad bar  
The damage: $6.99*   
The good: Anything with chicken—orange chicken, bourbon chicken, roast chicken; crisp, fresh veggies; cream cheese wontons (yum-o)  
The not-so-good: Slithery beef (in broccoli beef) nearly caused gag reflex   
The verdict: A pleasant surprise, and full of surprises: What’s that pepperoni pizza doing here?

* Dinner buffet prices higher