Like realizing that you are at work and your phone is not, few things that are as abruptly unpleasant as craving a specific food late at night and finding everything is seemingly closed. While we all can’t have access to the street-side ramen dispensers of Japan or the cupcake ATMs in Beverly Hills, Chicago is still thankfully futuristic enough to have a whole menu of delicious late-night eats–most of which are available at any hour.
Here’s a round-up of establishments that absolutely have your back, no matter the craving, even after the rest of the city has gone to bed.
Open until 6 am.
You want a tamale, but you want it served on a hot dog bun, and you would like chili on top. The Hat, a notorious late night street food destination, doesn’t think this is too much to ask for, and has this exact dish on the menu in the form of their “Mother In Law” special. Everything on their extensive menu will hit the spot, but their meaty gyros and burgers are an especially welcomed finish to a wild Saturday night.
Open until 4 am.
You may not always need a sizzling Chicago dog served with a puddle of life-giving cheese fries, but chances are when you do, you need it long after midnight and you need it stat. Clark Street Dog has your fix–with sausages of the frankfurter, Polish, or Italian kind, all “dragged through the garden,” (for novices, this order is topped with all kinds of relish, pickles, tomatoes and onions, etc.). Go ahead and throw some pizza puffs in there too, for a double hitter of Chicago-only quirk. But whatever your selection, it should never, ever be served with ketchup, if you respect Chicago at all.
Open 24 hours.
Why wait for morning when you can have pre-dawn pancakes at this classic, around-the-clock diner? Tempo Cafe is a reliable, family-style restaurant serving everything from stir fry to sandwiches. Plus, their breakfast skillets let you choose your own adventure from the countless toppings that can be served over a bed of eggs and hash browns. Wash it all down with fresh squeezed orange juice or take advantage of their BYOB policy (until 10 pm).
Open 24 hours.
Dat Donut correctly assumes that there is never a wrong time for a donut, and encourages you to give in to the sugary siren song of glazed, filled, or sprinkled whenever you feel that it is appropriate to do so. This warm and friendly home of deep-fried, hand-cut dough is famous for its “Big Dat” donuts, which are the size of your head.
Open until 1 am.
This high-demand ramen joint requires a high tolerance for pain, as their famously spicy noodles promise “deep regret followed by pure euphoria.” If you opt for their advanced-level heat option, it may help to order one of their cooling tiki-style cocktail slushies to soothe your tongue. Their tonkotsu style broth is simmered for 18 hours and is so delicious that their 16-seater space often has a line, but their late kitchen close time means you can plan to arrive after the dinner rush to practice your spice immunity.
Open until 5 am.
With worn-in, wood-paneled interiors–and yes, an actual fireplace–this cozy Cajun-inspired spot will take care of your sudden urge for blackened catfish or their famous ribs. This place is full of surprises, from their retractable rooftop dining to their secret Thai menu available only on weekends. The best surprise, however, is that they will even deliver wine and beer if you can’t make it out to this Northside bar in person.
Open 24 hours.
Pizza–the most classic late-night-craving. In any other city, you’d be out of luck and have to resort to a big chain option, but you’re in Chicago, and Chicago knows pizza. While technically in the suburbs, the longstanding local favorite DiNico’s can deliver (literally) any pizza style of your choice. They have thin crust, deep dish, stuffed, and even a “stadium” pizza that comes in at an enormous 18”x26” dimension, which should definitely put your pizza craving to bed… at least until next weekend.