Best buffet

Ruby's Fast Food

3741 W. Montrose
773-539-2669

rubysfastfood.com

The food at this Albany Park eatery isn't really fast—Ruby Rodica begins cooking at 8 AM each morning and stays as late as midnight some nights. But most of what's available is laid out on the steam table and served up turo-turo style ("point point")—you indicate what you want and it gets dished up for you. Rodica and her family have a repertoire of more than 120 dishes in the rotation, among them soy-and-vinegar-braised beef, pork, chicken, or squid adobo; stewy peanut-sauced beef and tripe kare-kare; chunks of lechon kawali, deep-fried pork belly; fried whole mackerel; ginisang amaplaya, bitter melon sauteed with pork, tofu, and scrambled eggs; and pakbet (aka pinakbet), a vegetable medley cooked with pork fat and shrimp paste. Other items reveal the range of influences on Filipino cuisine, from Spanish (in the morcon, ham, cheese, and vegetables rolled up in beef) to Chinese (in pancit, the popular rice-noodle dishes) to good ol' American (in the sliced hot dogs tossed with spaghetti and banana-ketchup sauce, a legacy of the American military presence in the Philippines). Lots reflect the Filipino fondness for pig, including offal, blood, and crispy pata, a dinosaur-size deep-fried pig's foot whose skin is so delicately crispy it shatters like glass when you take a bite. And in addition to the steam-table specialties, there are items made to order like noodle dishes or tapsilog and three other -silogs—meat, fried rice, and fried egg combos commonly eaten for breakfast but served all day. To top it off there are Filipino desserts like cassava cake and halo-halo, rainbow-layered, bean-studded shaved ice. Be advised: Ruby's is cash only, and alcohol is prohibited. —Mike Sula