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What are the best AYCE in Chicago? Especially North suburbs?

l
lilmomma Mar 2, 2009 06:58 AM

My DH and I love to go to AYCE places, especially for ethnic food. WHere are your favorite spots? We live in the burbs so recs out here are fine. But we're willing to travel.

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  1. nsxtasy Mar 2, 2009 08:54 AM

    One basic principle I've observed is that all-you-can-eat offers are often better when the food is cooked to order, rather than sitting around on a steam table buffet that is refilled. It's not always true, but it's often true. So it's helpful to distinguish between places that do one, vs the other, vs a combination of the two.

    Lulu's, in Evanston ( www.lulusdimsum.com ), has pan-Asian food. They have a great offer on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and Monday and Tuesday evenings. They call it "Munch a Bunch". For somewhere around $15, you can order almost anything on their menu. Some of the main courses are brought in half portions rather than full portions. A few of the items are limited, you can order one serving per person but no refills, and there may be one or two that aren't included. No desserts or beverages are included. But those are really very minor restrictions, and it's a great deal. It's all cooked to order, same as you would normally get a la carte.

    Indian restaurants commonly have an all-you-can-eat buffet at lunch, usually for $8.95 or $9.95. Two of the best are in the northern suburbs: Mount Everest in Evanston ( www.mteverestrestaurant.com ) and the Curry Hut in Highwood ( www.curryhutrestaurant.com ).

    Allgauer's, including the Northbrook location ( www.northbrookallgauers.com ), has a huge dinner buffet on Fridays and a similarly huge Sunday brunch. I had their Friday buffet a couple of months ago, and although there were a few good items, overall I was a bit disappointed in the quality; the desserts, in particular, were uniformly dreadful. It's been a number of years since I've been to the brunch buffet but it was pretty darn good then.

    I really love Sunday brunch. Some Sunday brunches are all-you-can-eat, while others are strictly a la carte. A lot of brunches are just okay - not bad, exactly, but with food that's just acceptable, not great or memorable or exciting. This description applies to Barn of Barrington, where I've brunched with the past couple of months, and that hotel in downtown Lake Forest whose name escapes me (it's been several years). But there are exceptions, particularly in the city, that make it worth traveling downtown. Sunday mornings and afternoons are an easy time to drive down, without the usual traffic.

    I absolutely love the "American dim sum brunch" at David Burke's Primehouse downtown in the James Hotel in River North ( www.jameshotels.com ); the food is cooked to order, and with somewhat small portion sizes so you can try everything, all 22 or so items served in 7-8 courses. Also an excellent value at $35, with all-you-can-drink (AYCD?) alcoholic drinks for $10. Read my recent report in the brunch discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403

    Seasons, downtown in the Four Seasons Hotel off Michigan Avenue ( www.fourseasons.com ), also has a magnificent Sunday brunch buffet, with top quality including not only the traditional breakfast dishes but also savory dinner dishes etc. Last time I went, a few years ago, it was around $50.

    There are two other luxurious buffet Sunday brunches that I have not been to. One is the Lobby, the restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel off Michigan Avenue ( www.peninsula.com ); I recently walked through and took a close look at the buffet, which looked great but the $62 price scared me off. The other is NoMI, in the Park Hyatt on Michigan Avenue ( www.nomirestaurant.com ), a lovely space for dinner as well as brunch, one of the top restaurants in the city; their brunch is also not cheap, around $55.

    This is a great idea for a topic; thanks for starting the discussion. I'm looking forward to reading recommendations of other all-you-can-eat places, in the northern suburbs as well as elsewhere!

    1. g
      gordeaux Mar 2, 2009 11:38 AM

      Try India House in Buffalo Grove. It's not all MIND BLOWING, but they usually have a few dishes on their lunch buffet that are really decent. Last time I went, they had a curried catfish dish that was outta this world. The Mango Kulfi is usually pretty good (but when is it not?)

      OOOH also, in Palatine, I have a co-worker who absolutely SCREAMS about Sushi Parra being the best AYCE sushi joint he's ever been to.

      1. s
        sydney33 Mar 2, 2009 12:45 PM

        My favorites are Senoya on Golf Rd. in Niles and Todai at Woodfield Mall. Senoya is mostly Korean but also has some Chinese dishes.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sydney33
          b
          bibi rose Mar 2, 2009 01:08 PM

          I'd say Todai too, if you don't go primarily for sushi. Unless you can eat a humungous amount of sushi (all that rice!) you will do better getting inexpensive sushi elsewhere, even the takeout sushi from Mitsuwa, which you can buy by the tray and the piece and eat there. But the two times I have eaten at Todai they have also had a respectable selection of other dishes, such as hot dishes and pretty good poke, which you don't see every day around here. Some nice desserts too. It's definitely an option if you are at Woodfield for some other reason. You can eat cheaper there at lunch, at least outside of weekends.

          1. re: bibi rose
            abduction51 Mar 3, 2009 07:34 AM

            I'd recommend Todai also. But as a warning, try to get there when they open. I made the mistake of showing up 45 mins before the lunch hours were over and they were already tearing down the buffet. All that was available was whatever hadn't been eaten and the chefs were not making any new rolls. It was basically pick and choose and we still got charged the full price.

          2. re: sydney33
            z
            zgwarnki Mar 6, 2009 07:23 AM

            Not the North suburbs but definitely in Chicago, I would recommend the newly opened Shinju sushi at 1375 E. 53rd Street (at Kenwood) in Hyde Park. They have all you can eat every day all day and it was under $20.00 a few month ago when they first opened. Service was cordial. Everything seemed fresh, the deal included desert and a very strange fruit drink, the name of which I cannot recall. It's a very small place and be prepared to sit on the floor at some tables.

          3. Scylla Mar 3, 2009 05:23 AM

            We went to Senoya a couple years ago and were unimpressed. It was good, but I had heard so many good things about it I was expecting it to be great.

            While not a buffet, I love Flat Top Grill for stir fry because it is AYCE, you choose the ingredients, sauces, etc. and your food is cooked to order. They have a couple of locations in the city and one in Naperville, I believe. Fresh, quality ingredients, nice modern decor. I love that place!

            3 Replies
            1. re: Scylla
              nsxtasy Mar 3, 2009 05:54 AM

              Flat Top Grill also has a location in north suburban Evanston (for the OP), in addition to its three locations in the city, three in the western suburbs, and six other locations in downstate Illinois and in neighboring states. www.flattopgrill.com/locations.html

              1. re: nsxtasy
                c
                CJT Mar 4, 2009 08:32 AM

                Have you ever tried Sweet Tomatoes? they have restaurants in St. Charles and Schaumburg (as well as Lombard, Aurora, and Glenview). It's AYCE salads (make your own or try their pre-mixed specials) and soups (6 different ones plus chili), not to mention foccacias, baked potatoes, other side dishes, muffins, and plenty of dessert, including self-serve soft ice cream from a mixer. About $10 per person for dinner, and some of the places now offer wine for purchase.

                1. re: CJT
                  l
                  lilmomma Mar 4, 2009 12:23 PM

                  Thanks for the posts. We have been to Todai, Sushi Para, Sweet Tomatoes, India House and other indian buffets, Allgauer's andvSenoya. We like all of those choices. I definitely will check out Lulu's dimsum and the "American dim sum brunch". We've eaten at Reza's for brunch which is good too. What about good AYCE fish frys now that it is Lent?

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