No brown-bagging

Belly up to the bar and buffet your hunger pangs

Tandoori Grill
Michael Callahan

The best nutritional advice continues to advocate the importance of eating breakfast. Yet when the alarm clock goes off and we set about our work or exercise, it becomes easy to forget feeding the body. For Boulder residents peckish after a morning of activity on an empty stomach, there are plenty of options to fill up your energy reserves without starving your budget.

Feeling a bit hungry, Boulder Weekly decided to explore lunch buffet options in the area. Whether you are entertaining a large party or getting by on a shoestring, what follows is a sampling of a few local restaurants where asking for seconds is not frowned upon. Despite the cliché Asian and Indian buffet fare, a plethora of quality choices in the Boulder area are available for lunch if you are willing to delve a bit deeper. Just don’t eat so much that you have to skip dinner.

Boulder diners have long showed an affinity for world cuisine, and their craving for Indian food in particular has led to an influx of restaurants offering a variety of choices. A big selling point of the Indian buffet in this area is the usual abundance of vegetarian options available, though there is plenty for carnivores to gnaw on as well. Starting off the buffet parade is Jai Ho, the Indian kitchen located at 1915 28th St. Serving its brand of lunchtime goodness daily between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Jai Ho’s menu offers what they call a fusion of youthful exuberance and classical traditions. Lentils, mushrooms and eggplant mesh seamlessly with chicken, mutton and egg, and the fresh ingredients help you forget that it’s only a break from work, not a vacation.

Despite a rather unassuming location in the Belmar Shopping Center, The Taj Restaurant has been serving consistent Indian favorites for years, and its $9.99 lunch buffet brings a steady stream of traffic to the 2630 Baseline Road locale. Move a little farther east to 5290 Arapahoe Ave. and indulge in more flavors from the world’s second-most populous country at the Royal Clay Oven. Another hole-in-the-wall joint, Royal Clay nonetheless rocks the popular faves for under 10 bucks. One more option for those on the north side is Himalayas restaurant, which recently relocated its beloved tandoor oven from Pearl Street to 2850 Iris Ave., near where the Diagonal Highway meets Highway 36.

Incorporating some real high-country flavor into its Indian-influenced cooking, Nepal Cuisine is a family-owned restaurant serving a lunch buffet from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Located on the south side of Boulder at 4720 Table Mesa Drive #C100, Nepal Cuisine serves whole wheat flat bread, a salad bar, appetizers and entrée selections like chicken curry or tandoori for less than $10. Mondays are especially inviting to vegetarians, as the buffet features all-vegan selections, including flaky vegetable samosas and alu gobi, a dish of cauliflower and potatoes cooked with tomatoes, onions and spices.

Down the street from Nepal in the Table Mesa Shopping Center, at 619 S. Broadway, sits Tandoori Grill. If the sprawling shopping complex makes the restaurant hard to find, just follow the steady flow of lunchtime diners that quickly fills up the place between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 daily. Traditional favorites include tandoori chicken, vegetable masala and the blend of spinach, cheese and spices that make up the creamy goodness known as saag paneer. Fresh fruit and rice pudding complement the flavors, with hot naan bread fresh from the tandoor ready to sop up any tastes lingering behind on the plate.

Like any cosmopolitan city, Boulder has its share of ubiquitous Chinese restaurants and buffets. While many buffets serve up Americanized Asian cuisine at low prices, few locations stand out for their taste, longevity and popularity. The few that do and would be worthwhile lunch destinations include Tsing Tao Chinese in the Table Mesa Shopping Center on South Broadway, Jin Chan near 28th Street and Valmont Road and Haoway Chinese Café near 30th Street and Arapahoe Avenue.

Moving away from the Asian continent but staying in the same hemisphere, Ras Kassa’s Ethopian Restaurant has been mentioned in past Best of Boulder issues for its vegetarian-friendly cuisine and ambiance worthy of a first date. If you’re feeling hungry between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays, Ras Kassa’s offers up a banquet of traditional salads, injera sponge bread and entrees. Be it the ki ser ena denech, a mix of warm, fresh beets and potatoes, or the lamb tibs, a dish of cubed lamb with sautéed onions, peppers and herbs, most everything is finger-licking good. And since Ethiopian tradition eschews silverware in favor of your own hands, you won’t be looked upon with disdain if you get your fingers dirty. This restaurant named for a king is located on 30th Street between Walnut and Pearl.

One straight-up Colorado option is the Beau Jo’s Pizza lunch buffet at its 2690 Baseline Road location. Starting daily at 11 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m. weekdays and 3 p.m. on the weekend, the restaurant offers unlimited eating from the buffet for $8.99. The buffet serves a variety of pizzas, including their signature Mountain Pies, along with a fresh salad bar and selection of hot soups. With honey on the table to sweeten the burly Beau Jo’s crust, you might even say dessert comes with the price.

Perhaps the most decadent and varietal of the local buffet choices is the Tuscan Table lunch buffet served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro inside the St. Julien Hotel & Spa for just $11.99. Offered as Jill’s take on a New York City power lunch, the Tuscan Table buffet is crafted daily by Executive Chef Laurent Mechin and his team. While the ingredients are handpicked, menu items remain fairly constant. An antipasti bar and composed salads prepare the mouth for homemade pizzas from the wood stone oven, pressed panini sandwiches, a roast or fish selection, and a pasta bar with 20 combination creations. With dessert included, no wonder reservations are recommended for the daily lunch.

The next time your office cohorts whine about being hungry, ditch the PB & J and vending machines and head out to lunch, where even the most finicky of eaters can find something to fit their taste. For little more than $10, Boulder can satiate even the most famished of daytime eaters.