Penny-pinching epicures know that when it comes to stuffing one's face for next to nothing, all-you-can-eat buffets are the only way to dine on a dime. Sadly, most are also aware that steam table spreads are generally near inedible. Here's a sampling of smorgasbords that warrant return trips.
You only had to taste the deep-fried maki at deservedly defunct Shintori to realize that leftover sushi is not a pretty sight. But the folks at Katsu (572 Danforth, at Carlaw, 416-466-3388; Monday to Thursday $8.99 lunch/$14.99 dinner; Friday to Sunday $9.99/$16.99), the jumping east-side Japanese joint that's about to launch a teppanyaki grill in Shintori's old Comfort Hotel space, make all their handrolls, tempura and teriyaki to order.
Downtown's Korean Grill House (214 Queen West, at Duncan, 416-263-9850; $12.95 dinner, $8.95 lunch and after 10 pm) goes one better by allowing customers to cook their own never-ending carnivorous nosh - hold the tongue - on barbecues built into every table.
Down on touristy restaurant row, P. K. Singh 's Dhaba (309 King West, at John, 416-740-6622, $10.95 lunch) offers quite possibly the most extensive north Indian spread in town. Don't miss his fabulous butter chicken.
Make a point of showing up early and with a reservation for the Free Times Café 's Bella Did Ya Eat Eastern European brunch (320 College, at Major, 416-967-1078, Sunday $16.95). Otherwise, be prepared to be mowed down by an unruly mob of walker-wielding seniors in a feeding frenzy. It's worth it for the latkes alone.
Considerably more serene, Govinda's (243 Avenue Road, at Roxborough, 416-922-5415) in the Hare Krishna Temple just north of Yorkville offers a varied lunch and dinner buffet of superbly spiced southern Indian vegetarian fare for a $7 tax-deductible donation. Shame the house band only seems to know that one song, though.