Lake Minnetonka Buffets

Local cheap [and filling] dining adventures.
Spasso's "endless family-style platter" brunch

Feeling financially wrung out after the season of spending, but still desperate to fend off impending cabin fever? Why not celebrate one of our state’s greatest culinary contributions? No, not hot dish. The “all-you-can-eat” buffet was invented in 1946 by a certain Minnesotan hotel manager named Herb Macdonald—and that’s all the excuse we need! The economical mealtime adventure known as the buffet is sure to please every belly, even the persnickety ones. Here are seven local variations that we love.


Lunch Buffet

Curry ‘n’ Noodles Indo-Chinese

This “Indo-Chinese bistro” features both traditional Indian and classic Chinese dishes as well as unique combinations of the two cuisines. The ample buffet serves universally-adored fare like orange-hued Tandoori chicken on the bone and chili-spiked stir-fried vegetables, but the adventure deepens with exotica such as a goat biryani, a saffron-laced, cinnamon-y rice dish mixed with generous chunks of meat. The goat tasted a bit like beef, a bit like lamb, and was wholly delicious in its own right. Vegetarians also would do well here: Paneer kadai consists of mild chunks of white cheese sautéed with tomato, onion and pepper; sag channa is an aromatic stew of curried spinach and chickpeas; and the soupy dal tarka features mild yet nutty yellow lentils. For dessert, try the deliciously creamy rice pudding studded with golden raisins, pistachios and slivered almonds. All this and no MSG! $8.99. 803 Mainstreet, Hopkins

Lunch Buffet

Taste of India

Taste of India features Northern Indian cuisine, and has done so in this location for more than 16 years. Miraculously, the lunch buffet is different from day to day; you’ll have to return daily to sample the full range of the kitchen’s talents. Start with some chunky vegetable pakoras, fritters fried in chickpea flour, dipped in an electric-green mint chutney. We loved the tender cubes of Chicken Tikka Masala, the fluffy naan bread and the spicy beef curry. The homemade pickles were thrillingly unusual: carrot, cauliflower, green pepper and lemon wedges liberally studded with aromatic seeds such as coriander, fennel, mustard, cumin and fenugreek. Add a cup of cardamom-laced Indian tea and you’re firing on all cylinders. The silver-and-red bedecked party room is almost always in use on weekends, filling the restaurant with a delightfully festive air. The weekend buffet gets dressed up, too, with several more curries and two different kinds of grilled kebabs. $8.99 Monday–Thursday, $10.99 Saturday and $11.99 Sunday. 5617 Wayzata Blvd., St. Louis Park; 952.541.4865

Unlimited Sushi and Salad Bar

Aji Japanese Restaurant

The sushi buffet at Aji Japanese Restaurant was such a killer find that we kept looking over our shoulder for the stampede. The salad bar was small but smartly appointed with interesting dishes such as chilled sesame soba (buckwheat) noodles, seaweed salad and kim chi (pickled cabbage). We advise that you dispense with it quickly and dive into the sushi extravaganza, since there are no fewer than 20 different kinds of sushi to savor. Some may be found on the menu—say the “Black Pearl” or the “Red Dragon”—but most are dictated by the creative whims of the sushi chefs, and you can tell that they had fun. A deep-fried salmon, crab and cream cheese roll was over the top with rich flavors; a tuna- and avocado-encased tempura shrimp roll was a study in textural contrasts. Our favorite was a sort of Latin fusion roll: a rosy knob of bluefin tuna topped with a zesty, chunky mango salsa and garnished with pretty black sesame seeds. The aesthetic factor was highly amped with drizzlings of pink spicy mayonnaise; pools of dark, sweet soy sauce; daubs of zippy red Sriracha; and strategically placed flowers. The sushi is not labeled, so be adventurous and try them all, or be curious and engage the sushi chefs on hand. $12.95. 712 Mainstreet, Hopkins; 952.358.3558

Taco Tuesdays

Red Rooster Bar and Restaurant

Red Rooster has some pretty sweet food deals most nights of the week: Monday is spaghetti night and Wednesday is 35-cent wing night. But our hands-down favorite is 75-cent taco night. A brimming ladleful of ground-beef filling is the stuff of childhood memory: a saucy mince of meat and mellow seasonings. Many of our most beloved foods involve toppings (think pizza, ice cream and baked potatoes), and these taco embellishments make all the difference: yellow shredded cheese, soft peaks of sour cream, tomato-packed pico de gallo, tangy-hot pickled jalapeno rings, and chopped raw onion. There is a choice of a flour tortilla or the more old-school hard corn shell. We chose the soft tortillas and loaded ours with everything. A couple of these beauties washed down with an icy cerveza made a satisfying supper, though we strongly considered squeezing in just uno mas. 1832 Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake; 952.473.4089

“Endless Family-style Platter” Brunch


The menu promises “platter after platter,” and so it is.  Sunday morning’s banquet features interminable heaps of fluffy white cheddar scrambled eggs, strips of applewood-smoked bacon curled crispy at the edges, savory and sweet chicken-apple sausage, garlic-herb hash browns, sugar-dusted Belgian waffles with maple syrup, and stacks of buttered toast. A warm loaf of banana bread with cinnamon-maple butter arrived at the table gratis. With an impossibly light and tender crumb and intense banana flavor, it slyly stole the spotlight. We added hot sauce, a bloody mary and lots of coffee. Perfection. 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Sundays. $12.95. 17523 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.224.9555

All-You-Can-Eat Salad Bar


Start with a chilled plate and go to town on this expansive salad bar. There are three choices of foundation lettuces, and a bedazzling array of vegetables: multi-colored bell pepper slices, whole snow peas, pale discs of cucumbers, plump artichoke hearts, sunshiny carrot coins, broccoli florets, grape tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, green and black olives, beets, and chopped red onion… just to name a few. There are also myriad protein options to boot: hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, chopped ham, sliced turkey, shredded cheddar, bacon bits, pickled herring and sunflower seeds.  Throw on some additional homemade concoctions: creamy coleslaw, golden-hued potato salad or a classic three-bean in a vinaigrette. The salad bar includes a nightly hot entrée to warm the bones—mini-corndogs, pizza rolls, BBQ meat balls—and a choice of two soups. One night, we enjoyed a thick potato and bacon, and another, a chunky, hearty vegetable beef. Add a few heavenly smelling soft garlic breadsticks and revel in the bounty! $8.75 5765 Sanibel Dr., Minnetonka; 952.935.6537