Ramadan, the Muslim month of prayer and dawn to dusk fasting, runs through July 28. The faithful break the fast each evening with a festive dinner, and a number of local Middle Eastern restaurants mark the occasion with well-stocked buffets. These are so popular that some of the restaurants set up special outdoor tents to handle the overflow. Top local spots for Iftar buffets include the Marina Grill and Deli (2424 University Ave.) and Big Marina Grill and Deli (4755 Central Ave., Columbia Heights and 128 W. Lake St., Minneapolis) , Marhaba Mediterranean Grill (2801 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis and Crescent Moon Bakery (2339 Central Ave., Minneapolis).
The menu varies a little from place to place, but you can expect to find some of the same dishes at nearly all of them: lamb shanks, roast beef, kofte (ground spiced meat), roast chicken, rice pilafs, baked fish, tabouli, hummus, baklava and other pastries, and some of the same items that you might find at an Old Country Buffet – roast chicken, chicken wings, spaghetti and more. The going price seems to be around $14, for all you can eat, beverage included. At the W. Lake Street Big Marina, which I visited most recently, the dining room clientele was almost entirely East African men, with a few women seated in an alcove; on previous visits to the other restaurants I have listed, the clientele has been more diverse.