Sometimes quantity is more important than quality, but sussing out a decent all-you-can-eat buffet can be a daunting task. Fine dining this ain't, yet with a little luck and minimal bucks, dining on a dime can be delicious. There are cheaper north Indian spreads than the daily $10.95 lunch at Dhaba (309 King West, at John, 416-740-6622), but owner chef P. K. Singh is one of the few Subcontinental cooks in town who doesn't overload his grub with ghee. His 50-item lineup includes outstanding takes on standards like tandoori and butter chicken as well as several vegetarian mains and a fully stocked salad bar.
The only thing you'll be converted to after a visit to Govinda's (243 Avenue Road, at Roxborough, 416-922-5415) in the Hare Krishna Temple is its $7 tax-deductible south Indian daily lunch and dinner feast, especially since it's completely vegan.
On a different plane, Toronto's only Nepalese eatery, Mount Everest (469 Bloor West, at Brunswick, 416-964-8849), offers a standard north Indian lunchtime buffet for $7.95 that shames the puzzlingly popular Nataraj across the street, but occasionally sneaks in a few Nepali dishes like on-the-bone goat in lush, nutty gravy or a colourful cauliflower casserole with garlicky chopped tomato.
Elsewhere along the Annex's student strip, Tre Fontane (486 Bloor West, at Albany, 416-535-1818) dishes up a considerable spread of old-school southern Italian favourites - 99 per cent vegetarian - on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for only $9.95. Late-night noshers cook all they can eat on braziers built into the tables at Korean Grill House (214 Queen West, at Duncan, 416-263-9850) for only $8.95 nightly after 10.
Sibling Japanese joints Katsu (572 Danforth, at Carlaw, 416-466-3388) and Masa (15 Charles East, at Yonge, 416-920-3388) put a new spin on all-you-can-eat. Instead of steam tables piled high with soggy sushi, both make everything to order, the former for as little as $8.95 at lunch Monday through Thursday, and the latter $11.95 for weekend lunch from noon. The catch? Those with eyes bigger than their stomachs get charged full price for anything that remains uneaten.