It's that time of the year again--Ramadan--when Muslims fast from suhoor (dawn) to maghrib (sunset) for a month (June 17 to July 17 this year), all in the name of spiritual cleansing. And beautiful deliverance comes every night in the form of the fast-break called iftar. Historically, Muslims celebrated iftar at mosques or at home, but given this is OC, nearly all Middle Eastern restaurants offer awesome Ramadan buffets that draw in the crowds. And don't worry, non-Muslims: these buffets are also open to you!
10. Cairo Restaurant and Cafe (Anaheim)
Part-Egyptian and Mediterranean restaurant and part-hookah bar, Cairo Restaurant and Cafe is where you go to try Egyptian-style falafel and koshari (a fun mix of pasta, rice, lentils, chick peas, and chili sauce) while embracing your inner Caterpillar (yes, the blue one from Alice in Wonderland). There's that, and then there's molokhia (a vegetable dish normally served with rice), fatta (rice, meat, and tomato sauce), and so many other things to try.
10832 Katella Ave, Anaheim, (714) 999-8861; facebook.com/CairoAnaheim
9. Little Arabia Lebanese Bakery & Cuisine (Anaheim)
The open Ramadan buffet here goes for $17.00, which isn't shabby considering the amount biryani (mixed rice dish), chicken tiki masala, and crispy kibbeh you can consume. Main buffet courses change every day, so if you're the type who doesn't like surprises, keep tabs on their Facebook page below.
638 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim, (714) 833-5760; facebook.com/little.arabia.restaurant 8. Al Tannour Mediterranean Cusine (Anaheim)
Lebanese sambouseks (cheesy pastries--need I say more?) and sphihas (tasty rolls of pita flour cooked in an oven--like pizza!) are specialties at Al Tannour, but so are Iraqi dishes like masgouf (marinated fish slow-roasted over a fire) and kobba musilia (a wheat pie stuffed with beef). Named our best Iraqi restaurant in 2013, you won't want to miss this Ramadan buffet special that starts at 8 p.m. every evening.
2947 W Ball Rd, Anaheim, (714) 484-0900; https://www.facebook.com/pages/Al-Tannour/277509088963045?fref=ts
7. Midan Al Tahrir (Anaheim)
Arabian and Egyptian dishes are the heart and soul of Midan Al Tahrir, yes, but they get deeper than that. The menu also includes offerings from the region known as Khaleeji (not the mother of Dragons), which includes the Arab states on the Persian Gulf. Stuffed birds (squab and ducks alike) and various protein plates (a good amount of which are lamb and chicken) make up the main menu, and of course Egyptian-style falafel. End your meal with Khaleeje desserts and fasting might just been well worth it.
1324 S Magnolia Ave, Anaheim, (714) 220-9700; facebook.com/pages/Midan-Al-Tahrir-Restaurant/191214784283059
6. Golden Nights Restaurant (Buena Park)
The Ramadan buffet at Golden Nights Restaurant will not only help you cover every food group by the end of the day (take that, no-eating for-16-hours!), but it will also have someone entertain you while eat (you might just catch Syrian singer Rami Mousa serenading you from the buffet table corner one of these days.) This buffet runs from Sundays through Thursdays at 8 p.m.
7115 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, (714) 228-9730; facebook.com/pages/Golden-Nights-Restaurant/411928878910097 5. Al Wadee Bakery and Restaurant (Anaheim)
Want Kabse rice with lamb shoulder? Chicken with white sauce and garlic? There's a time for that (8 p.m.--when Al Wadee opens their Ramadan buffet), and during that time there are no limits, my friend (Seconds? Lame. Go for thirds!) Wash it all down with lentil or noodle soup, and then cool down the palette with yogurt and cucumbers.
311 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim, (714) 956-2997; facebook.com/Alwadeerestaurant
4. Chili Chutney Afghan Restaurant
Chili Chutney is where you go to for great Afghan food, whether it's a bowl of aush (noodle soup spiked with yogurt and dried mint leaves--oh yes) or endless potato samosas. You'll have stuffed flatbread at your disposal too, which wouldn't be bad with some aushak--dumplings served with meat sauce and sour cream.
24301 Muirlands Blvd, Lake Forest, (949) 859-1778; facebook.com/ChiliChutneyOC
3. Aleppo's Restaurant
Aleppo's is where you find Aleppine (a la its namesake) specialties like kibbeh (dough made with ground meat, bulgur, onions, and spices), and there are nine kinds of that here. You'll get your shawerma, falafel, and kebab plates here, but also lesser known items like olives drenched in pomegranate sauce. Waiters say seats fill up quick, so make sure to RSVP.
513 1/2 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim, (714) 991-5000; facebook.com/AlepposKitchen 2. Kareem's Restaurant (Anaheim)
Named our best Middle Eastern restaurant in both 2009 and 2013, we'd need more than two hands to count all the good things that exist at Kareem's (here's one example: their crunchy yet soft falafels.) Now that that's said, you best bet their Ramadan buffet has all of your favorite Middle Eastern foods: fatteh, tabouli, mosabaha, hummus topped with steamed chickpeas, and then some. Are you hungry yet?
1208 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim, (714) 778-6829; facebook.com/kareemsgreenfalafel
1. Olive Tree Restaurant (Anaheim)
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Now, for the most epic of all Ramadan Buffets--the one at Olive Tree Restaurant, where for $20 mansaf, musagaa, and kebabs are limitless and made from scratch. Entrees change so showing up more than once a week is nothing to be ashamed about. Like at Aleppo's, waiters say it gets crowded here quick so make sure to make a reservation and be there when the buffet starts at 9 p.m.
512 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim; facebook.com/OliveTree.AnaheimCA