Food & Drink

Chicago's Best Late-Night Eats

Published On 09/13/2016 Published On 09/13/2016

Ugo's masterful fried fare

Ugo's

Address and Info

Logan Square

Nothing beats the deep-fried and salty at the end of a long night of drinking... especially when it’s made by a chef (and lifelong night owl) whose CV includes Sixteen, Alinea, and Salero. Ugo’s, the Italian-style diner from executive chef/owner Stephen Hasson, features charcuterie such as aged prosciutto and pork rillettes; antipasti like burrata with focaccia crackers; and blistered Neapolitan-style pizzas until 1:30am nightly. But it’s the fried section -- with panko-crusted mozzarella that oozes on the inside; toothsome, buttermilk-brined calamari; beguiling curls of still-crackling fried Parm; and crunchy cured eggplant -- that your sauced self might just thank you for the most.

Lisa Predko

The best food on North Michigan Ave after midnight

The Purple Pig

Address and Info

Magnificent Mile

Wandering down North Michigan Avenue at night amid the closed shops could easily take on a dark, otherworldly creepiness a la Stranger Things. Luckily, you can retreat to The Purple Pig, where grilled, fried, and meaty Mediterranean-inspired delights await from James Beard Award-winning chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. The whole menu’s fair game 'til midnight Sunday through Thursday and 1am on weekends, but you might not even want to venture beyond the shareables like antipasti (pork-fried almonds! Greek cornbread!), smears (salt-cured Greek yogurt! house-made nduja!) and fried things (nuggets of chorizo stuffed olives! crispy pig ears!). Just be vigilant when you venture back outside.

Turkish soul food

Galata

Address and Info

University Village

Galata may look like any University Village bar, where flat-screens dangle over the standard-issue wood bar and the cocktail menu is packed with Technicolor concoctions named Electric Lemonade and Stiletto. But the food tastes like Istanbul on a plate. Feast on shatteringly crisp borek (fried dough stuffed with feta), juicy beef-and-lamb doner, and an array of spreads from hummus to the less-expected ezme (bell peppers and tomatoes) until midnight on weekends, reassuring yourself that your last meal of the night could have been your best all day.

Epic Burger

A mindful late-night burger

Epic Burger

Address and Info

South Loop, River North

When your fourth meal can only be a burger, it helps if it’s the kind that’s handcrafted from additive-free, humanely sourced ingredients, right? As of July, Epic Burger’s River North and South Loop locations have gone late-night, offering a focused menu of said mindful burgers -- topped with soft grilled onions, pickles, optional cheese, and “epic” (aka ketchup and mayo) sauce -- plus fries, from midnight to 4am. So it technically counts as breakfast.

Fatso's Last Stand

The closest we'll get to In-N-Out Burger

Fatso's Last Stand

Address and Info

Ukrainian Village

Maybe you’ve just closed down Tuman’s or Beauty Bar, and you and your dancing shoes are a bit run-down. Refuel at Ukie Village hot dog stand Fatso’s Last Stand with snappy Chicago-style char dogs (no ketchup requests, please), crisp-edged smash burgers, and seriously poppable panko-coated fried shrimp. If you ask for it, you can also get those shrimp on an off-menu po-boy with slaw. Everything comes with a side of fresh-cut fries and great hipster watching 'til 2am on Thursday nights and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Tasty tacos and 19 different margs

Del Toro

Address and Info

Pilsen

East Pilsen taco and tequila bar Del Toro doesn’t get half the love of trendier modern taquerias like Antique Taco and Big Star, but the tacos are as delicious as they are cheap ($2.50 to $3.50), and you can get them 'til 2am five nights a week. The adobo-encrusted pork or charred carne asada are solid standbys, while the Saturday-only steamed barbacoa is well worth the wait. The hamburguesa, an oregano-spiced double oozing with chihuahua cheese, is a non-taco sleeper hit. If you’re still boozing, go for one of 19 different margaritas on the drink menu. Might we suggest the refreshing Pepino, laced with cucumber, jalapeño, and chile piquin? Almost tastes like it’s good for you.

Pick Me Up Cafe

A reliable pick-me-up next to Wrigley

Pick Me Up Cafe

Address and Info

Wrigleyville

Pick Me Up Cafe has provided of the city’s most veg-friendly menus for 19 years, and it’s a delightfully kitschy old gem in a hood where they’re in short supply. Wander into this vintage-style Wrigleyville cafe 'til 2am any night of the week, where you can get huevos rancheros or a five-high stack of pancakes at any hour, where Blink-182 is still in regular playlist rotation, and where the delectable cheese fries always come topped with real -- as in, not cheese sauce -- melted cheddar and little metal cups of tangy ranch and zingy fresh salsa.

College redux by way of mac & cheese pizza

Dimo's Pizza

Address and Info

Wicker Park, Wrigleyville

The unconventionally topped pies at Dimo's Pizza -- like the redundantly carby yet irresistible mac & cheese, the butter- and bourbon honey-soaked chicken & waffles, and Philly cheesesteak -- might make your sober, waistline-savvy self cringe a little, but they’re nearly perfect at preventing a hangover. With locations open until 2am on Fridays and 3am on Saturdays in equally raucous Wrigleyville and Wicker Park’s Six Corners, you may feel a few shameful pangs of college deja vu in the post-bartime line, but that alcohol sponge of a slice is well worth it.

Courtesy of High Five Ramen

High-five for dim lights and fiery noodles!

High Five Ramen

Address and Info

West Loop

How should one cap off a night of seeing and being seen at one too many West Loop bars? Slurping ramen- and pork-filled broth in the subterranean High Five Ramen -- both because low lighting works wonders on your complexion, and because the fiery, rich broth brimming with springy noodles and silky pork belly seems like as good a salve as any for tomorrow’s hangover. Slurp ‘em 'til 1am, Thursday through Saturday.

Courtesy of Urbanbelly

When regular nachos won't cut it

Urbanbelly

Address and Info

West Loop

If your “late” happens during a more civil timeframe (say 8-11pm), and your taste in late-night fare runs fancier than the standard nachos, doggies, and fries, Urbanbelly’s recently launched late-night menu is for you. Bill Kim’s Asian fusion spot serves up Asian-inflected bar bites like chicken gyro bao with yogurt nuoc cham; beef hot dogs topped with crunchy ramen, kimchee slaw, and curry mayo; grilled cheese with sambal and cilantro; and togarashi fries.

A finer diner breakfast

Johnny's Grill

Address and Info

Logan Square

Sometimes hearing “last call” can invoke a Pavlov’s dog-type craving for greasy-spoon breakfast. Luckily, revived Logan Square diner Johnny’s Grill, helmed by the capable Sarah Jordan (Blackbird, GT Fish & Oyster, and Cicchetti), serves up classic diner breakfast (and dinner) fare without the duct-taped booths or lingering smell of bleach. Get the whole menu 'til 11pm each night, though on Fridays and Saturdays from 11pm until 2am, it shrinks to a focused list of staff favorites -- like blueberry syrup-soaked Johnny cakes, Irish fried breakfast, that double-patty cheeseburger, or coffee and beignets. Bonus: should hambre strike while you’re sipping on mezcal at the adjacent Mezcaleria Las Flores, Johnny’s late-night menu is available there, too.

Mike Gebert/Thrillist

The closest thing to poppable BBQ

Lem's Bar-B-Q

Address and Info

Grand Crossing

Did you know that rib tips (the irregular, cartilage-laced bits made famous on the South Side) are actually terrific drinking food? Lem’s Bar-B-Q’s sturdy yet tender, savory nuggets of crispy-edged pork are perfect to snack on on the ride home (provided your designated driver doesn’t mind the BBQ smell overtaking the car). Throw in a few smoky hot links for good measure, all piled alongside Wonder bread and fries soaked in tangy, spicy BBQ sauce. Get ‘em 'til 1am Sunday through Thursday and 3am on weekends; just don’t forget to bring cash.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Ugo's Kitchen & Bar 2833 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

Executive Chef/Owner Stephen Hasson, whose CV includes Sixteen, Alinea, and Salero, heads up Ugo’s, an Italian-focused diner in Logan Square. The menu features Italian comfort foods like charcuterie, hand-pulled mozzarella, hand-made pastas, Neapolitan-inspired pizzas, fried eggplant, and more. The dinner-only spot serves late into the night, in fact, the kitchen closes at 1:30AM every night of the week.

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2. The Purple Pig 500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611 (River North)

All-swine-everything is the name of the game at this River North staple from James Beard award-winning chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. The Mediterranean menu features meats, cheeses, and adventurous tapas-like plates like fried pig's ear, pork liver pate, and housemade sausage served with a poached lobster tail. The lively space is dominated by an L-shaped bar and high-top communal tables, complemented by a few tables-for-two along the wall. The Purple Pig attracts a mixed crowd of suits and skinny jeans, especially for post-work drinks. Note: it doesn't take reservations.

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3. Galata Turkish Cuisine 717 W Maxwell Street, Chicago, IL 60607

The flat-screens dangling over its classic wooden bar, which is serving cocktails like Electric Lemonade and Stiletto, make Galata seem like any old University Village bar. But once you try the food, you'll be transported to Istanbul, particularly with the crisp borek (fried dough stuffed with feta), juicy beef-and-lamb doner, and an array of spreads from hummus to ezme (bell peppers and tomatoes). You can stop in until midnight on weekends, meaning your last meal of the day might just be the best.

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4. Epic Burger 517 S State St, Chicago, IL 60605 (South Loop)

Epic Burger is a Chicago hamburger mini-chain with a more mindful approach to sliders and fries. Inspired by the clean food movement and a desire to eat sustainably, Epic's fare is made without the preservatives, additives, nitrates, or hormones typically found in other chain restaurants. It's still fast food, but it's food for thought, too. The menu includes the namesake Epic burger, vegetarian options, and turkey and chicken sandwiches.

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5. Fatso's Last Stand 2258 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (Ukrainian Village)

This no frills, Ukrainian Village eatery pretty much has the perfect name, with a menu chock-full of items like fresh-cut fries, char dogs, and burgers. One of the staples here is the Double Fatso with cheese -- two perfectly grilled beef patties flanked by slices of American cheese, onion, and secret sauce -- a burger that can give In-N-Out a run for its money.

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6. Del Toro 2133 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608 (Pilsen)

Popular wisdom holds "liquor before beer and you're in the clear", but nobody's ever said "liquor before al pastor and you'll want some more"... until now thanks to Del Toro. From the family behind Pilsen staple F&R Liquors, DT's a laid-back adjacent tequila bar & grubbery with a mahogany hue, a U-shaped granite bar, and local abstract paintings, all punctuated by the sounds of Latin jazz and bossa nova, which is also how Brazilians describe their favorite PBS programming.

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7. Pick Me Up Café 3408 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

Pick Me Up is Chicago's finest late night establishment (their cheese fries are something to write home about... trust us).

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8. Dimo's Pizza Wicker Park 1615 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Wicker Park)

Dimo's Pizza's Wicker Park location is bigger than the original Lakeview one, has got $1 slices with certifiably crazy toppings, and a beer menu of local and season drafts and cans.

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9. High Five Ramen 112 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

Brought to you by Brendan Sodikoff, this West Loop resto is a cozy, dimly-lit space offering a concise menu featuring both traditional and modern ramen offerings, eye-popping “canzillas” of Asahi beer, and boozy slushies to temper the heat of the noodles.

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10. Urbanbelly 1542 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL (Wicker Park)

Urbanbelly's second outpost in Wicker Park delivers on the satisfying Korean fusion dishes you know from chef Bill Kim ("Phat rice" with crispy pork belly, braised beef and scrambled egg) and some you don't (black bean Udon noodle "Asian bolognese"). This buzzy eatery is open late and hits the spot with its inventive, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink culinary aesthetic.

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11. Johnny's Grill 2545 N Kedzie Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

The original Johnny's Grill was a greasy spoon fixture for years before its lease ended in 2014. A year later, chef/owner Sarah Jordan (Boka, Blackbird, Cicchetti) opened a same-but-different Johnny's in the exact location that's both an homage to the original and a total upgrade. The space and menu is still very much a diner with all formica everything, but there's now a bar, patio, and creative comfort dishes like house-made pop tarts, extra crispy fish & chips, and a sharp double cheeseburger that joins the ranks of the best in Chicago.

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12. Lem's BBQ House 311 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619 (South Chicago)

Lem's has racked up throngs of fans since it opened in 1954 thanks to its juicy BBQ ribs, which are served out of a retro roadside stand complete with a tall, neon-lit sign. This South Side institution still tops its meats -- from hot links and rib tips to chicken and shrimp -- with the original spicy BBQ sauce that late owner Myles Lemons created back in the 1940s. Prepare for large portions at small prices, and to take your order with you -- this tiny counter doesn't have seating.

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