It’s 2 a.m. You’ve spent the last three-plus hours out at the bar(s) and the only thing better than your bed right now is that greasy grub, located conveniently around the corner from wherever you will pass out in about 20 minutes and counting. It’s also that time of night where getting your food fix now means avoiding a painful migraine when you wake up. Nobody—and no line—is going to get in the way of you getting your hands on that late-night something. We’ve all been there.
Now, I’ve never professed to being the ultimate foodie, but when it comes to chowing down before I finally crawl into bed, I definitely have my go-to spots that I like to hit up around Chicago—whether I’m flying solo at that point in the a.m. or not. Below is a round-up of my local favorites so that the next time you find yourself in the Windy City craving good, cheap eats in the middle of the night, you have a plan.
The Boss Bar in River North (left) is a favorite watering hole with great bar food on the cheap, anytime of day. I swear by their deep-fried jalapeno peppers and onion rings. It may or may not also have been the site of my birthday pre-gaming last year. (Jamo shots are my middle name!)
Tempo on State Street is a popular brunch spot and crazy-hard to get into before noon. But go in the middle of the night and you'll sail right in. The 24-hour BYOB diner is known for their omelettes, which are huge and served up in your own personal skillet. And the post-club Gold Coast people-watching is prime. Just make sure to keep some bills on you because it's cash only.
There are a ton of Irish pubs in the city, but Dublin’s in the heart of Chicago's Viagra Triangle takes the cake. Their baked brie with apples is gooey goodness on a plate (unexpected, I know) and will leave you in a food coma—the good kind. Despite the flat screens and crowds, the pub's cozy dive feel is always welcome after a long night of drinking, dancing and the occasional debauchery.
When I’m looking for something on the healthier-ish side, I opt for the salads at Bijon’s on State and Erie. Their ranch dressing should be illegal. If you’re not counting calories, go for the spin-artichoke dip or chocolate soufflé. Beware of the slightly scene-y atmosphere. (Kim Kardashian is known to frequent the place when in town.) Open till 4 a.m.
Last but not least: Wiener's Circle. Open till 5:30 a.m. on the weekends, this iconic Lincoln Park joint is the definitive spot for a late-night dog, whether you’re a tourist or local food snob. As a vegetarian, I can’t personally attest to this one, but any tour guide or Food Network fan can. Note to newbies: The staff behind the counter is paid to insult customers, end of story. (For the seriously sensitive, get your wiener fix at the Dog Joint on Armitage.) A heads-up that ordering a chocolate shake is not what you think it is. Order cautiously.
I could tell you how vulgar the waitstaff is, but you really have to see it to believe it. Watch Dave Attell get up close and personal (really personal) with the ladies of Wiener's Circle and see for yourself.
Unlike L.A. or Manhattan, most people wouldn’t classify Chicago as one of the craziest party cities in the country. The average closing time is closer to 2 a.m. than 4 a.m. and you’re not gonna find 99¢ pizza on every other corner. But every time I go out here—be it a low-key night or one documented with pics and video—I’m reminded of why I love this city. The down-to-earth locals, the unassuming nightlife and all the late-night eateries that help prevent mean hangovers the following morning.
What after-hours spots do you frequent in your hometown? Send me a tweet or leave me a comment below. Until next week, TGI-almost-F!