Ten Great All-You-Can-Eat Restaurants in OC
If you want to eat all you can at an all-you-can-eat in Orange County, there will be a lot of Indian, a lot of sushi, and a lot of Korean BBQs. This list has more than a few of each. But there are non-Indian, non-KBBQ, non-sushi options, too...just not that many.
Share your favorite spots for gluttony in the comment section. Excuse me while I get some more Alka Seltzer.
1. Agora Churrascaria
After you've had your fill of steakhouses and their boring slabs of meat, Agora will show you how steak should be done: impaled on metal swords, served by sash-wearing gauchos and offered as an all-you-can-eat. Except maybe the Argentineans, no one can match the Brazilians' love of beef. And in Orange County, no restaurant demonstrates the expression of that love better than Agora. This meat-a-palooza is a parade of protein only a brazen carnivore hopped up on cholesterol meds could embrace. It is a meat feast to end all meat feasts. On those sabers comes a never-ending steak procession, hunks of cow roasted over flames with nothing more than salt and respect. You'll call over the gaucho who carries the sanguine pleasures of rare sirloin more than once, asking him to carve off yet another slice. You'll pop those nuggets of filet mignon wrapped in bacon like popcorn. The restaurant also boasts an immaculate buffet line of sides. They do a mashed potato so smooth it could pass for crème fraîche. But who are you kidding? You're here for the meat, and you're going to have it, one bloody piece at a time.
2. All That Barbecue
It may charge just $20 like other new age KBBQ like Gen in Tustin but All That BBQ has a quirkiness all its own. It names its dishes with pun-filled phrases like "Don't Rib Me Off." And it pre-cooks some of its proteins even before your tabletop grill has had a chance to reach searing temperature. The flap tail steak, for instance, is grilled to a rare center, then served in slices for you to finish cooking to your level of desired doneness. Also pre-cooked are the boneless beef ribs, the meat rolled up like a tube sock and served on a pie tin. You then unfurl it on the grill top, letting the heat penetratethe thick length of cattle and slowly roast it to brownness before you snip it to bite-sized pieces with shears. Yet another All That BBQ oddity: a ground beef patty with pieces of chewy rice cake embedded in it. The menu describes the dish as a "Rice Hot Dog", but it's so obviously a burger you wish it came witha bun and a slice of cheese. But it's the classics you covet. There are those thin sheets of pork so well marinated and mired in gochujang it's simultaneously too sweet and too spicy to eat without rice. There are slabs of chicken thighs coated in the same sauce; a sesame and soy-perfumed bulgogi with onions; whole blocks of pork belly; and unshelled shrimp that you need to roast until their antennas char and their innards percolateinto a sort of sauce.
3. Gen Korean BBQ
You would have already waited two hours when your name is finally called. As you enter a room that glows as blue as if you were boarding the StarshipEnterprise,the intoxicating aroma of cooking meats hits you so thick you could draw it apart like a curtain. Airborne and mixing with the breathable air, the smell of atomized fat and protein invigorates; if you weren't so ravenously hungry, you could conceivably inhale deeply and be sated from the fumes. Six square saucers of panchan sit on your table. Among them is kimchi, a scoop of potato salad and marinated bean sprouts. All are gone in seconds. You ask for more so the proteins you're about to grill will have company. Surveying the single-sheet list of things to sizzle, you know now what you didn't a few minutes ago. Gen may be slightly more expensive than other Korean-barbecue AYCEs, but it offers cuts of Kobe (or at least something that's so well-marbled it passes as the costly breed). The prospect of bankrupting the restaurant with unending orders of the stuff makes your $20 and two-hour investment immediately pay off. The waitress, perhaps under the direction of management to keep the place in the black, suggests you start with the basics: a Black Angus top sirloin, the shaved-thin brisket and the short rib. You agree because--let's face it--you'll say yes to anything at this point.
4. Haveli Fine Indian Cuisine
Although they didn't invent the Indian buffet, this Tustin restaurant has been getting raves from just about every corner of the foodie universe -- and for good reason. For a pittance ($7.95 for lunch or $11.99 for dinner) Indian food noobs can skip the menu roulette and do what must be done when you don't know what to order: Try everything. Spices dominate the food and pepper the crisp garlic naan. Fenugreek, cardamom, ginger, every flavor that makes Indian cuisine complex and craveable each sing its own notes, but together, in each dish, they harmonize. Potatoes are cooked with onions, dry-seasoned with curry, and blasted with whole spice pods. Eggplant is reduced to mush, as is the spinach, concentrating the flavors that will invade every sensor on the tongue, leaving none unstimulated. The pakoras--fried vegetable fritters covered in chickpea batter--are fresh and crisp. Once you finish gorging, there's the gulab jamun, fried dough balls steeped in syrup that eat like bite-sized bread pudding.