Food & Drink

24-Hour Restaurants Where You Should Eat While the Rest of NYC Sleeps

In the “city that never sleeps,” finding food at all hours is easy as big apple pie. But too often, your options seem limited to a floppy dollar slice, the contents of a street cart’s styrofoam clamshell, or a regrettable combo under a fast food joint’s sterile lighting. Come the witching hour, pickings for a place with seating and silverware may have slimmed, but in true New York fashion, an assortment of dependable and delicious restaurants are still just a jaunt away.

Regardless of your reasons for being up at an ungodly hour, below you’ll find a cross section of locations, cuisines, and price points. And these are places that stay open, not just late, but 24 hours a day. Sure, diners usually keep a candle burning for the late crowd -- you’ll find a few here. But maybe you’re in the mood for a little more. Maybe you’ve got a hankering for pierogi, cake, lengua, or kimchi. If it’s past your bedtime, you’re awake, and your tummy’s rumbling, look no further. Here are NYC’s best 24-hour restaurants.

Girasol Bakery 

South Park Slope
$
It’s nearly 5am, you want both Mexican food and baked goods -- what do you do? You head to Girasol Bakery where the tortillas and many of the confections are made on-premises. It’s a lunchtime cafeteria-esque space, so you won’t want to lounge too long, but in the wee hours, you’ll feel at home with a steak torta con todo filled with onions, pickled jalapeño, refried beans, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and melted queso. Add a slice of Oreo cake for dessert.

Sarge’s Delicatessen

Murray Hill
$$-$$$
Sarge’s is the kind of spot your family goes to after shul; the go-to for shiva catering when great uncle Herman finally checks out. Aside from geshmak standard diner fare, Sarge’s prototypical Jewish deli has smoked fish, liverwurst, softball-size coldcut sandwiches, pickles, rye bread for days, and some of the city’s best New York cheesecake. There’s ample space in the dining room with delightfully squeaky vinyl banquettes, so when the 4am yen for a knish and egg cream hits, Sarge’s salvation awaits.

Georgia Diner

Elmhurst
$-$$
A shining glass, chrome, and neon beacon in the Queens night, Georgia Diner feels precisely like a greasy spoon should. Replete with approximately one million places to sit, spinning cake display, and tome of a menu, this is the quintessential diner experience imitated by the likes of IHOP -- one that’s become all too rare in NYC these days. If you’re craving filet of sole, knock yourself out, but breakfast staples are your golden ticket here.

L’Express

Gramercy
$$
This 24/7 French bistro on Park Avenue is just five blocks from Union Square’s massive subway interchange. Its plentiful tables may be candlelit, but le ambiance is casual. L’Express doesn’t serve alcohol from 4-8am, but its “graveyard menu” proffers French staples like croque madame with creamy béchamel, gruyère, ham, and a fried egg; fresh salad niçoise, and peppery steak au poivre.

SGD Tofu House

Flushing
$$
Mouthwatering Korean Barbecue served in stylish environs -- if only all 24-hour restaurants were this good. Along with complimentary pickled veg, your funky, savory favorites are all here, including bibimbap with chewy caramelized rice, veggies, and a fried egg; scrumptious beef bulgogi, and warming soondubu jjigae (silken tofu stew). The place has plenty of table seating and a friendly, attentive staff. The portions are sizeable, so plan on sharing.

The Donut Pub

Chelsea
$
This place is Americana just awaiting your arrival. Late night vibes are right out of a Hopper painting; recalling a bygone era. If you can find one on the weekends, your counter seat will face donuts of every shape, size, and filling, confections (get the black & white cookie), and coffee. Some savory selections like egg sandwiches and a few classic simple lunch-y offerings like chicken salad, grilled cheese, or a turkey club are also available.

Hadramout Restaurant

Cobble Hill
$-$$
This lowkey neighborhood pillar’s portions of Middle Eastern fare are as generous as they are delicious. Standbys like falafel, shawarma, and hummus with rashoosh (tandoori flatbread) stand out, and the lamb haneeth, and roasted chicken are spicy, hearty and delicious. It isn’t a big place, but seats are easy to come by late at night.

Veselka
Veselka | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Veselka

East Village, Manhattan
$$
Veselka has has had many a star turn on the big and small screen, but word-of-mouth is what has kept it downtown Manhattan’s after-hours Ukranian comfort food/diner destination for 65 years. They know what they’re doing; the “you-should-be-sleeping-but-since-you’re-not” menu from midnight to sunup every Friday & Saturday features a pierogi platter, latkes, egg sandwich and -- yes, oh yes -- a patty melt. You may encounter a smattering of drunks in the spacious glassed-in dining room, but those who eat in 24-hour glass diners shouldn’t throw stones.

Cafeteria

Chelsea
$$$
White on white on white, this popular weekend night spot almost looks like Apple’s idea of a 24/7 diner. Everything on the menu is carefully executed, but we’re not talking pinkies-out fancy. Sure, there’s asparagus with parm gremolata, PEI mussels, and sweet pea ravioli at dinner, but you can also nosh on several mac & cheese varieties, meatloaf, burgers, and the usual breakfast suspects into the wee hours.

Bagel Oasis

Fresh Meadows
$
Bagel Oasis has been handmaking its rings of perfection since the '60s, and while what you’ll get between 3-4am isn’t freshly baked, toast your bagel of choice and slap on some schmear  (or eggs and cheese, or cold cuts) and you’ll be carb-loading with the best of ‘em. There are only a couple of small tables, but you’ll likely secure a spot any (late) night of the week.

Empanada Mama

Hell’s Kitchen
$
Empanadas may be the perfect late night food; handheld, flaky, chewy, and available in staggering variety. Empanada Mama’s pernil is plump with slow-roasted pork, the shrimp and crab ‘Viagra’ is a flavor explosion, and the oven-baked spinach and feta is delectable and healthy (ish). There’s plenty of counter and table seating in the pink “Mama loves you” neon glow, so take your time.

Punjabi Grocery and Deli

East Village
$
This inexpensive, vegetarian-friendly gem has been a favorite of both local night owls and NYC’s cab drivers for more than 20 years. $5 buys a bowl of rice and a spicy selection of yummy curried veggies. There is but one seat outside, so plan to eat standing at the back counter or find a nearby stoop.

Coppelia

Chelsea
$$
It may look like a typical diner from the outside, but Coppelia sets itself apart with a menu of inventive Latin specialties sure to slake after-hours appetites. The Mac & Chicarron is a pitch perfect mix of pork belly and gooey cheese, and the lomo saltado (Peruvian stir-fry) is chock-full of skirt steak, red onion, tomato, and fries. Coppelia has DJs weekend nights, brunch 10am-4pm Saturday & Sunday, and a gamely cocktail bar if you’re there before 4am.

La Isla Cuchifrito

Bushwick/Williamsburg, Brooklyn
$
Two locations of this Brooklyn mini-chain supply sumptuous Latin victuals 24/7. A newer construction, The Bushwick location has virtually no decor and few counter seats. The Williamsburg location has more character, recalling an old-school luncheonette with a handful of built-in stools. Each location’s service is fast and the food makes a late night snack into a feast; plates of goat, roast pork, beef stew, and half chicken are all served with heaping portion of rice and beans for less than $10.

Your Local Bodega

Everywhere
$
Sometimes there’s an itch that can only be scratched by a bodega sandwich, bag of chips, and a soda. One of NYC’s great virtues is that it’s rich with bodegas ready and able to feed a nocturnal/hungry populace. Yes, they range vastly in quality and price. No, there’s probably no place to sit. But odds are you’re never more than five blocks from what is, all things considered, a valid 24/7 option.

BONUS:

Corner Bistro

West Village, Manhattan
$$
Okay, this one is cheating. Last call at Corner Bistro is 4am, so it’s not a 24-hour spot. But c’mon. It’s an estimable West Village bar that just happens to have a perfect bacon cheeseburger and little pints of McSorley’s ale for $5 available at 3am -- ask for more and you’re getting greedy. The barroom has a few tables and there’s more in the back, but you can expect a wait on weekends when Village revelers get the drunchies. Go during the week for late-night burger bliss.

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Julien Levy is a writer and native to downtown Manhattan. He now lives in Brooklyn.