You just got out of a game at the United Center, a show at the Goodman, a concert at the Aragon Ballroom, or (gulp) a late night at work. You’re famished, and you don’t want to settle for fast food — nor should you. Chicago might not be the late-night mecca that NYC is, but we’ve still got plenty of options. Unsurprisingly, upscale versions of comfort food like ramen, pizza, barbecue, and tacos are out there for your late-night delectation and delight, but you’ll also find some pleasant surprises on the list: steakhouses, James Beard Award-winning chefs, a red-hot tapas bar, and more. We’ve listed them by neighborhood to make it easier to find a spot near the theater, arena, or concert venue you frequent.
Upstairs is the swanky Maple & Ash steakhouse; downstairs is little sister Eight Bar, with a special late-night menu that runs after 10 p.m. and until at least midnight. Avocado Toast with smoked salmon and soft-cooked egg, Classic Steak Frites, Slagel Farm Crispy Fried Chicken, and a Spicy Meatball Fundido are menu highlights.
Check out the late-night window (look for the brown awning labeled “Hot Buns!”) at this fully automated buns and dumplings spot, open until midnight Thursday through Saturday. Get some potstickers or a few bao, but be forewarned: credit cards only.
Feeling hangry after that extra-long show at the Vic? The Furious Ramen bowl is for you. Chicken dumplings! Chashu pork belly! Tonkotsu broth and spicy miso! This will make it all better. The Lakeview location is open until midnight Sunday through Thursday, 1 a.m. weekends; Wicker Park and Logan Square are open until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 2 a.m. on weekends; Pilsen until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and midnight on weekends; Evanston and Andersonville close shop a bit earlier, so check the website for deets.
Perhaps it’s the (next door) proximity to Shubas, but remarkably, the very fine Tied House — with James Beard Award-winning chef Debbie Gold at the helm — serves dinner until 11 p.m. on weekdays, and midnight Friday and Saturday. So if you have a late-night hankering for short ribs, monkfish, or risotto, you are in luck!
It’s midnight, but you know you want … no, need! … a deep-dish pizza pie, STAT. Head over to Chef Curtis Duffy’s favorite spot (he’s partial to the thin crust) and mack on the crazily addictive caramelized crust surrounding an indecent amount of cheese and pepperoni. They’re open until 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and midnight on Sundays.
Rolling out of Steppenwolf’s latest? Head up to this bastion of Mexican street fare, where you can order barbacoa and chicken tinga tacos, tortas, queso fundido, and more until 11 p.m. on Thursdays, and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
I don’t know about you, but I am ALWAYS in the mood for empanadas and Argentine-style steak with chimichurri sauce. Happily, you can catch a show here and enjoy a late-night feed concurrently. Serving dinner until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and midnight on weekends.
Quad Cities-style pizza (love that malted crust and the copious amounts of CHEESE) is here for you until midnight Sunday through Thursday, and until 2 a.m. on weekends. You should also know that their West Town location is open until 2 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and 3 a.m. (you read that right) on Saturdays.
They are in it for the long haul here, opening every morning at 9 a.m., and closing at 2 a.m. every night except Saturday, when they stick it out until 3 a.m. “Eat, Sleep, Drink” indeed. You didn’t know that a Wild Boar Sloppy Joe with crispy onion and sage was just what you needed in the wee hours. Something has to absorb all that alcohol!
Their late-night pub menu, served from 10 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. weekend nights, is all that is right with the world. So know that if you go see a late movie at the multiplex next door, you can still get a Scotch Egg, a Ploughman’s Board, Fish & Chips, or their outstanding Slagel Farms Beef Burger, as well as oysters, pickles, and more.
Not content merely to be one of the top cocktail bars in the city, they’re also serving some delicious bar food, including deviled eggs, charcuterie boards, a killer Ham & Cheese, inventive Broccoli Caesar Salad, and Meatballs on Sunflower Seed Polenta. Did I mention the free chocolate chip cookies? Open until 2 a.m. Sunday through Friday, 3 a.m. on Saturdays.
For more than 90 years, the Italian Village has been holding down the Loop dining scene, and when it comes to after-theater dining, they’ve got you. Enjoy calamari, paninis, pizza, pasta, seafood, and steak until midnight Monday through Thursday, and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Calling all night owls! Chef Nathan Sears is serving his special Late Night Menu on Friday and Saturday nights from 10:45 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. That means bowls of chili, Stout-Cheddar Dip with the housemade salt-and-vinegar chips and pickled veggies, a damn good burger, and various encased meats, including a Smoked Kimchi “Polish.” Sunday through Thursday nights, you can enjoy the regular menu until 10:30 p.m.
Chef/owner Jimmy Bannos Jr. is serving his full menu until 11 p.m. every night, so if you’re in the mood for “cheese, swine, and wine,” you know which direction to head. So much goodness! Don’t miss the Chorizo-Stuffed Olives, Razor Clams or Octopus a la Plancha, Grilled Broccoli, or the house-made charcuterie.
Way, way up in the sky you’ll find the best view in town … and a kitchen that’s open until midnight every night. Duck Nachos, a NY Strip Steak Sandwich (with caramelized onions, provolone, and giardiniera aioli on a French baguette), Raw Bar for two, and more are available on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower. Save room for the Blackberry & Lemon Cheesecake!
Keep the party going with late night comfort food and a craft beer. They’re open late every night (Sunday/Monday until midnight; Tuesday/Wednesday until 1 a.m.; Thursday/Friday until 2 a.m.; and Saturdays until 3 a.m.), and you can order crowdpleasers like Smoked Wings with chipotle-maple sauce, Nashville Hot Chicken Wrap, Filet Sliders, and Buffalo Chicken Dip from the special late menu after 11 p.m.
The Roman-style pizza here has a light and crispy crust from a long fermentation process, so eating it at midnight won’t weigh you down! There’s also plenty of appealing salad and sandwich options if pizza isn’t your jam tonight (but seriously, what the what?). Open until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Bonus: They are launching a late-night pizza window in July. Be still my heart.
Now is the perfect time to check out new chef Jason Hedin’s small but lovely Late Night menu; the Spiced Merguez Flatbread, Manchego Croquettes, and Ahi Tuna Tartare are standouts. It’s available Wednesday and Thursday from 10 p.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
This mash-up of Korean and Mexican comfort foods is exactly what you need after sitting through two hours of improv comedy. Whether you opt for tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, or the Gogi Bowl, you’ll have your choice of Korean-style steak, chicken, spicy pork, or tofu. Word to the wise: Get the Kimchi Fried Rice on the side. Open Friday and Saturday nights until 4 a.m.
Rub elbows after hours with dining industry types at this Restaurant Row staple as chefs and club kids alike chow down on Mediterranean small plates (the focaccia with taleggio cheese and truffle oil is insane, and the Chicken Shawarma Pizza is late-night menu only!) until midnight Sunday through Thursday, and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
This über-hip basement bar serves food until midnight Wednesday through Sunday nights; they’re closed Monday and Tuesday. The Unishu, an uni shooter with shoyu dashi, is a must, as is Chef Erik’s Wagyu Omurice (wagyu fried rice topped with a “badass” omelet and spiced ketchup demi). Here, the Royale with Cheese finds a beefy griddled burger on a house-made bao bun, served with togarishi fries. You don’t need Samuel L. Jackson to tell you that it’s far superior to a Quarter Pounder.
Ready for some “eatertainment?” You’ll find karaoke, cornhole, bowling, virtual reality games, and more at this enormous adult playland. And if you want to simultaneously stuff yourself with Sriracha Peanut Fries, Queso Fundido Nachos with roasted cauliflower and jalapeño cream, and tacos stuffed with cocoa-dusted pork carnitas, who would blame you? Served Monday through Saturday until 1 a.m., and Sunday until midnight.
Late night eats at this noodle house means a rotating Fried Rice special after 10 p.m. (recent versions include smoked brisket with enoki mushrooms and sweet peas, and king crab and buttered corn); both this location and the River North shop are open and offering their full menu until midnight Sunday through Friday, and Saturdays until 1 a.m.
The neighbors and regulars clamored for longer hours, and this Spanish brasserie happily obliged. So, now you can order from the full menu until 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Must orders: Fried Manchego Gougères, Littleneck Clams with Gigante Beans, Wild Mushrooms with Poached Egg and Sherry Jus, and the Duck Rillette Toast, washed down with vermouth on tap.
This neighborhood biker bar happens to make a righteous sandwich, be it Shrimp Po’Boy, BBQ Brisket, or Fried Egg. Burgers, nachos, tacos … they’ve got it all. The kitchen is open until 1 a.m. every night, and until 2 a.m. on Saturdays.
Wicker Park/ Bucktown
Their tagline — “Tacos, Whiskey & Honky Tonk” — pretty much sums it up. The cuisine inspiration is Mexican street food, supplemented by a fantastic bar program (the tequila and bourbon menus are extensive). The kitchen is open until 1:30 a.m. Sunday through Friday, and until 2:30 a.m. on Saturdays. It’s comforting to know that a kick-ass Taco al Pastor is available when I need it most. The new Wrigleyville location also served into the wee hours.
When they say “late night,” they aren’t playing. They serve food and drink until 4 a.m. daily, so if you’re hungry after a shift at the ER or a midnight movie, head to the Six Corners area of Bucktown and grab a made-to-order burger, hand-cut garlic-parmesan fries, or a Spinach Salad and wash it down with a craft beer from their comprehensive list, and groove to the jukebox tunes.
Not only is this New Haven-style pizza available until 10:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 p.m. on Thursday, and 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, but they just announced a partnership with Honey Butter Fried Chicken. We are talking FRIED CHICKEN ON PIZZA, accompanied by red and banana peppers, tomato sauce, mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan, fried crunchies, and a drizzle of honey. I think my head just exploded.
As you head out to these restaurants, take a moment to remember that not everyone is so easily able to enjoy such fabulous food. Feed your stomach, then your soul by joining the fight to end world hunger.
More from Make It Better:
- Best of 2018: Dining
- Chicago’s 16 Best Sandwiches, 2018 Edition
- Chicago’s 15 Best Rooftops and Patios for Outdoor Eating and Drinking
Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.