authentic, good indian buffets?
Raaga on Leesburg Pike in Falls Church/Bailey's Crossroads area has an excellent $8.25 all you can eat lunch buffet that has salad, lots of basmati rice, two types of meat dishes (varies but i've had their chicken tikka masala and tandoori chicken, both great), two types of vegetable (i've had saag paneer, cauliflower and peas, spicy cabbage,and dal), raita, cilantro chutney, and naan. It's a clean, nice restaurant with good service and good food.
Every Indian restaurant is authentic and they all have buffet. Pakistani food (more spicier) is same as Indian and there are at least 30 places in Metro DC area in price range of $ 3.95 to $ 15.95
Since you are talking lunch hour your location is important as you are not going to drive 25 miles to get there. I can give you specific names if you reveal your location. Otherwise try Bombay Palace on K St. NW in DC. Udipi, Tiffin, Woodlands in Langley Park MD. Aabshar, Taj Mahal, Bombay Buffet in Springfield VA. Bombay Tandoor, Aarthi, Vienna Tandoor, White Tiger in Vienna VA.
re: Pablo Naruda
Though I am not from dc, I would disagree with the above post almost entirely.
In my experience there are almost no "authentic" indian restuarants in the US period if you mean authentic in that you would get the food you would normally eat in an indian home. Most do have the same menu- mughlai dishes heavy on the food coloring and cream sauces. though udupi palace and woodlands (and anyplace with udupi or udipi or woodlands in the name ) is southern indian and you should stay with the specialties of the region - specifically dhosas (udupi is supposed to be the birthplace of this dish). Never ever eat a dhosa that is on a buffet - it has to be made fresh. In fact many dishes that will be on a buffet do better if they weren't (the exceptions being some stew like dishes and soupier, thicker daals)
a few general rules of thumb
more authentic will usually be found in the "snack and sweet" shop genre -there you should order things like pani puri, channa batura, bhel puri, pakora. They are usually found in areas with sari palaces, electronic shops and indian grocers.
pakistani places tend to be closer to "authentic" as they generally serve newer immigrants, often cabbies, look for places that serve nihari and haleem. Also many of these places will do a better job with meat as unlike most indians pakistanis are not usually vegetarian.
hope this helps.
speaking of cabbies, i used to spend some time in chicago, and there is a truly authentic, home-cooked place downtown just around the corner from the Merch. Mart below the L track called Baba's. no buffet, but a range of small and large indian/pakistani dishes. it mainly caters to cabbies and true chowhounds and it's open 'all the time' (from what i could gather from the manager's little english). it's quite a dive, but homey, and the food is excellent, made to order, and cheap- plus, the bread there is some of the best i've ever had.
re: Pablo Naruda
Another chowhound brought up an interesting point about "authentic." A lot of ethnic cuisines you'll eat in this country are Americanized to fit tastes.
Still, there are decent ethnic lunch buffets to be had for a great price ($7-10), sometimes including dessert (altho some cuisines do better on steam tables than others - Indian curries keep better than, say, Mexican entrees).
But you didn't specify which area. If it's downtown DC, there are weekday lunch buffets at White Tiger near Union Station, and Taj Majal & Polo Indian Club near DuPont Circle. Even 2 Indian owned/managed bars get into the act - Ascot & Odds, both near 18th & L - but I'd suggest a real Indian restaurant over them. I will not recommend Mehak in Chinatown - they only have weekend buffets & their poor service is not worth the visit.
Lots of Indian restaurants in Montgomery Co. with buffets:
the aforementioned Bombay Bistro (tho they put out paratha instead of the better naan), Memsahib & India Garden in Rockville.
Aangan & Haandi (my husband's personal favorite) in Bethesda.
Bombay Gaylord in Silver Spring.
And Gaithersburg especially has the biggest concentration of Indian restaurants: Tandoori Nights, Bombay Dhaba, the totally veg Madras Palace, India Bistro & Royal Bombay (I will not recommend India Kitchen on Gaither Rd due to 2 episodes of poor service).
There's also Indian Palace in Germantown.
In Takoma Park/Langley Park/College Park, you have several: Woodlands/Chandni (all-veg?), Royal Bengal, Tiffin, Udupi Palace (all-veg) & Moyor Mohal.
(Gosh - Wheaton has so many different cuisines, but not Indian!)
Soooo, take your pick & enjoy...