All You Can Eat Meat at the International Food House Restaurant & Buffet

Am I in the minority of people by not getting excited about IHOP coming to Times Square?  To me it just seems like another addition to an area that is quickly becoming an Epcot’ish oversize chain restaurant pavilion.  In all the excitement, I did however notice a little interesting nugget in this little posting by NY Mag’s Blog “Grub St.”

Search for IHOP in the Yahoo white pages (and on Citysearch and various other sites) and… you’ll find a listing on 240 W. 35th Street [which doesn't exist as an IHOP]. We know this because we tried to go there once and instead of being greeted by a Rooty Tooty Fresh ’N Fruity we found, of all things, the International Food House and Buffet, an all-you-can-eat Latin spot.

WHA?!?! All You Can Eat?  Latin food?  International Food House & Buffet?!?!  Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the exciting part of the story?  Who cares about an IHOP in Midtown.  I want to hear more about the buffet!

Well, yesterday I trekked down to 35th St. to find this fake IHOP that had disappointed so many, but was about to make me the happiest lunch’er in all of Midtown.

All the buffet-tastic glory, after the jump…

There are certain places you just walk into, and you know immediately- this is going to be awesome.  All you can eat + Latin Food + $8.95 = happy fat man.  With a fairly long line of options, the buffet quickly goes from a small selection of fruit and salad, through the rice, beans & plantains, into soups and ends up in a meat explosion of epic proportions.  I didn’t even have to taste one bite.  I knew I had found my new favorite Midtown Lunch.

With prices at Margon hovering around $8 and Sophie’s raising their prices to the $9 range, one cannot afford to ignore the economics of a $9 Latin buffet.  Most Indian buffets are more expensive than a lunch at Minar or Joy Curry & Tandoor.  But when a buffet ends up being practically the same price as the take out places with the same offerings, it doesn’t matter how much you can eat.  You have got to go with the buffet.

First Plate:

It’s tough not to load up on carbs at a Latin Food Buffet, but what’s roast pork without rice, beans and plantains to wash it down?   I started slow, adding a BBQ rib, popcorn chicken and a Cuban style chicharron (those little on the bone fried chicken nubs) to my morros, plantains and roast pork.  I also got something that was labeled “goat”, but I’m pretty sure it was chicken- which is actually one of the few problems with the buffet.  A lot of things are mislabeled… but that only becomes a problem if you don’t eat everything.  I don’t have that issue.

The popcorn chicken was a little dry, and I literally choked on my first bite- but I have to say, it probably had to do more with my initial buffet excitement, then through any fault of the chicken.  Can you imagine the irony of my choking to death at a Midtown all you can eat buffet?  In my dream scenario, it is always how imagined going…

The stewed meats fared a little better in the buffet format.  The BBQ ribs were tender, and sweet, and the stewed “goat” (which was actually chicken) was incredibly tender, and tasty.  The food is all way to heavy, and there were two many options to do a significant double dip with the things I had liked from the first go around.

Plate #2:

With my second plate, I tried the BBQ chicken, the fried fish, a roasted rib (with no sauce), a dish that I’m pretty sure was the actual goat (even though it was labeled “spaghetti”), a scoop of this eggplant dish, and of course- morros, plantains and pork.  The sauce-less rib was considerably more dry than the BBQ rib and not as good, but everything else was pretty tasty.

There were three soups (chicken, tripe & a Dominican soup) that I didn’t have enough room to try, but will be perfect for the winter.  There was also a strange selection of pastas, which I guess is why they call it “International” Food House rather than just “Latin Food Buffet”.  Needless to say, I wasn’t there for the lasagna- but if you are into that stuff, there were more than a few choices.  There also was a dessert fridge, but those cost extra.

Nothing on the buffet was really exceptional, but it was *good enough* and by that I mean, more than worth the $8.95 when you consider the variety, cleanliness of the restaurant and the fact that you can stuff your face beyond the point of what is humanly acceptable.  And in the end, that’s all I could ever ask for.  That, and not to choke and die on a Midtown Lunch… despite how funny it would be for you people.

THE +

  • Um… it’s a buffet!  (Is there any greater plus?)
  • All you can eat latin food at practically the same price as Sophie’s Cuban & Margon
  • Great selection
  • It’s a nicer interior than you would expect for a $9 latin buffet in Midtown
  • The day we were there, the fried plantains were perfectly ripe and exceptional
  • Buffets are a great way to have a sit down meal, in less time.  You just walk in, find a table sit down and start eating.  A waitress will take your drink order, and then you pay when you leave.
  • Did I mention it is all you can eat?

THE – (What someone who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I don’t like meat.  And if you don’t eat meat, it’s not worth it
  • A lot of the things on the buffet are dry
  • A lot of things were mislabeled so you had to figure out some items on your own
  • We got there at 1:30 and the place was pretty full (but we still got a seat).  I would imagine, the IFHR&B is a madhouse between Noon and 1pm… and you may not be able to get a table.
  • As my fellow diner Mike said… “it’s a lot of brown”.  Not too many vegetable options, and a lot of stewed latin meats taste the same.
  • With nap time not considered a socially acceptable work activity, the rest of afternoon on the job is pretty tough after an all you can eat Latin buffet.

International Food House Restaurant & Buffet, 240 W. 35th St. (btw. 7+8th), 212-564-7444

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