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Let’s be real here. Sometimes eating is more about quantity than quality. Stuffing your face to max capacity with mediocre food with a practical price tag, plus the feeling of sheer terror mixed with pleasure watching friends and loved ones eat their body weight, is half of the experience. It’s why eating contests border on the same level of athletic legitimacy and reverence as curling or ballroom dancing.

Haters of the beloved “all u can eat” establishment tend to be lightweights and let’s face it – anyone who isn’t a member of the Clean Plate Club is no friend of yours.

There is no bigger buzzkill than someone who bottoms out after one plate, and that’s a fact. So check into any of these epic eating experiences and waddle out knowing you just paid $6.99 for a metric tonne of pizza, sushi, lo mein or, if you’re lucky, all three.

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LA Café II
1850 K St NW

This is that elusive place where you pay by the pound. The vast expanse of selections can be daunting at first (and often the way amateurs wind up spending mad amount of ca$h), so try to keep your goals in sight. You can get shitty Chinese at any establishment worth their salt in this city, so avoid. Turn to the sushi. The sushi selection is a basic array of rolls and nigiri, but ho! It comes at a 10-bucks-per-pound price that is so good it makes you blush. I actually developed a nosebleed from sheer giddiness the first time I went there and assembled my own quart-sized miso soup to accompany approximately 302,910 pieces of Florida maki. The place is located in the basement of some massive food court in Farragut North dedicated to quick lunchbreaks for the powersuited set, so be brave. If an unpaid, non-profit intern tries to shimmy in between you and that Hamachi roll, keep your chin up and your guns out.

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Bombay Gaylord
8401 Georgia Ave
Silver Spring, MD

A snicker-worthy name is what brought me, my roommate Tony, and our ragamuffin friend Joel to Bombay Gaylord for the first time. A respectable Indian restaurant by trade, Bombay Gaylord also offers a bountiful lunchtime buffet for like, pocket change. It may not be the most exciting menu (tandoori chicken, various curries, samosas, etc. All good, but all generally available in canned form at the grocery store) but the Gaylord makes up for it all in ambiance. Anything could taste good in this restaurant. The blinds are shut 24/7, keeping it a creepy degree of dark inside. The portraits on the walls are of the serving staff, only 15 years ago, so you look at their aged faces and start wondering what happened. Bombay Gaylord is probably haunted.

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Kuma
4441 Wisconsin Ave NW

To call Kuma’s array of weird pan-Asian cuisine “good” (or even “appetizing” on one of their bad days) is a bit of a stretch. The sushi is too heavy on the rice, the kimchee is disturbingly bland and everything sort of tastes like leftovers. But somehow Kuma always seems to draw me in between the hours of 11:30 and 2:30 like a siren’s alluring call. Maybe it’s the overcooked edamame crusted in enough sea salt to make your eyes water. Maybe it’s the soggy sesame tofu that somehow tastes like comfort and security. Maybe it’s the sign penalizing you for not clearing your plate or eating sushi without the rice (a risky choice in the first place, judging from the shape of the fish). Or maybe it’s the gallery of servers readily available with free refills and high fives for going back for more. Whatever it is, Kuma has cast some magical spell that keeps me coming back for more.

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CiCi’s Pizza
12111 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD

In some sort of grand fusion of family-style dining and an arena for overeaters anonymous, there lies CiCi’s Pizza buffet in Rockville (and about 39,282 other locations around the finer parts of Southeastern USA). As CiCi’s assures us all, it’s “almost too good to be true.” How true. For approximately $5, the price of one Miller High Life plus tip, you are granted access to a bountiful pizza/pasta/salad/dessert/cardiac arrest buffet that only the truly dedicated have seen in their wildest dreams. The buffalo chicken pizza is worth the sticker price alone, but pretty much everything else tastes the same – like happiness. Invest some real effort into the cinnamon rolls, though. CiCi’s lives up to the truest essential pillars of an all-u-can-eatery. The food is whatever, the atmosphere is like a carnival and no matter how sheepish you feel about that third plate, someone in there is going for their fourth.

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and if that is not enough, here are some:

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Terrace Dining Room
American University

Dupe a freshman into sharing a meal swipe with you and you’ll gain access to the 7th best collegiate cafeteria in the country. All the Belgian waffles and cheesy eggs a soul can eat. Tips for snagging that coveted meal swipe include false promises of illicit substances and/or premarital sex. You can’t lose.

Fusion Grill
515 8th St., SE

The $24 price tag is a little steep, but there’s supposed to be an endless supply of champagne and sushi. That is worth its weight in gold, but try to remember how absurdly filling the bubbly is. Save it for New Year’s and keep your eye on the prize. Not to mention the premium Eastern Market location, where you can engage the city’s more pleasant, inviting side. If you aren’t clinically dead from binging on sushi, that is.

City Buffet
1101 14th St., NW

This is that glossy, pristine place you see while veering up 14th Street from downtown, right before hitting Thomas Circle. How anyone actually gets to this place is a mystery, as parking is crazy and the metro is acres and acres away. True to form, the food isn’t awesome, but somehow edible, and the interior sort of resembles a hospital cafeteria, which has to be appealing to someone, right?

Tuesday nights at Lavandou
3321 Connecticut Ave., NW

Lavandou’s Tuesday night all you can eat mussels and fries special officially tops my list of things to do. Hunkering down in this precious Cleveland Park café and getting sloppy over mussels (and wine, undoubtedly) is like a classier version of the limitless crabs over at The Dancing Crab, but for half the price ($15 versus the staggering $33 the Crab has been charging). It warms my heart. See you on Tuesday!

(your own additions to the genre welcome in comments, as always)

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