The last place I thought I’d find all-you-can-drink Coronas was an Indian restaurant on Wolfe Road. But then again, Sankranti, Sunnyvale’s super-popular South Indian buffet, is home to no shortage of surprises.

For starters, it’s located in an almost-abandoned strip mall right next door to a mixed-martial arts gym. Not even a little next-door muscle will stop people from learning about one of the South Bay’s new foodie secrets. I knew I’d arrived at the right place when I saw a mass of people waiting to be seated inside the nondescript interior, comprised of a couple dozen tables and a few flat screen TVs showing the latest in Bollywood.

Once I was seated, the server handed me a large pitcher of water and a basket of freshly baked naan and invited me to help myself to Sankranti’s vegetarian and non-vegetarian lunchtime buffet, comprised of nearly two dozen different dishes—plus desserts—for an absurd $12.50 per person. This also includes all the beer one can drink in addition to unlimited wine, masala chai and mango lassi. The latter helps cool off the palate in between plates of very spicy house specialties.

Sankranti serves food thali-style, focusing on a variety of dishes that can be served side by side with chutneys, raita and fresh slices of red onion and lime. While the menu changes every day, some signature dishes—such as the grilled chicken tikka kabob, creamy butter chicken cooked in a tomato sauce or the Nellore fish pulusu, a tangy and spicy fish curry flavored with tamarind—remain on the menu on a rotating basis. I started off by loading my plate with Sankranti’s vegetarian dishes, including the mirchi bhajji, deep fried whole chilies topped with chopped onion and chutney, and beerakaya pappu, a South Indian dal (or lentil soup) that paired nicely with rice and raita.

Sankranti also serves a number of biryani and rice dishes, but the standouts were the tamarind rice and vegetable pulao, both loaded with fresh curry leaves and spices. The latter also included onions, saffron, coriander and ghee—a winning combination with baingan bharta, a South Indian eggplant dish similar to baba ghanoush but far more flavorful. Seasoned with onion, tomato, ginger and fresh herbs, it was a nice change from the many cream-based sauces and curries that Sankranti specializes in but become overwhelming when side by side.

After three and a half trips to the buffet bar, it was time for dessert. Sankranti serves both shahi kheer, pistachio rice pudding and gulab jamun, a traditional deep fried pastry coated in a saccharine, sticky rose- and cardamom-infused syrup.

One dessert I’d never tried—and had to Google when I got home—was saggubiyam payasam, a tapioca pudding sweetened with jaggery and topped with cashews, raisins and cardamom. The texture and flavor were both excellent, and I enjoyed two small bowls with my chai tea to finish off an eventful weekend lunch.

Mexican beer may seem an unlikely pairing with spicy Indian food, but it’s an excellent combination as far as I’m concerned. While Sankranti’s buffet is definitely the crown jewel of the menu, specific items can also be ordered a la carte for both lunch and dinner. Keep in mind that dinner buffet prices bump up to $13.99 and $14.99 per person for the vegetarian or non-vegetarian buffet Friday through Sunday, respectively. Come for lunch on a weekday and score an all-you-can-eat veg or non-veg buffet for a cool $7.50 per person.

And yes, that still includes all the Coronas one’s heart desires.

727 S Wolfe Rd, Sunnyvale.