DC is a commuter city, which means most restaurants close up shop early. But look around and you'll find some exceptions for quality meals beyond giant slices of greasy pizza. Drunken indulgences in Jumbo Slice or Ben's Chili Bowl certainly have their place, but not everyone up during the twilight hours are in need of an alcohol sponge.
For the night owl who wants something more, here are ten of our favorite spots in DC to grab a meal after midnight. Some are classic standbys, others post-shift industry favorites, and a few are restaurants with late night menus that may surprise you.
Gonzo Belgian: B Too
At Top Chef alum Bart Vandaele's B Too, offerings span the range of Belgian cuisine from waffles to frites to mussels, but Vandaele adds in ingredients like enoki mushrooms and blood sausage.
B Too's new late night menu is all about hearty fare like enoki and boudin noir waffles, steak and mussels frites, and even a bucket of ribs. To top it off, drafts are $5 and large format beers are half off. B Too's facade opens up in nice weather, and if you grab a seat at the window bar or sidewalk tables, the night spilling out into the city feels decidedly European and un-DC.
Open until: Late night menu available 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday; 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Fried Chicken and Doughnuts: GBD
GBD's tagline, after all, is "Open Early, Open Late," which means you have plenty of time to get your fried chicken and doughnuts fix well into the night. Chef Kyle Bailey's ever imaginative use of the fryer also produces snacks like fried chicken bao and perfectly seasoned jerk chicken tenders. And the doughnuts, from pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, are equally as inventive with flavors like Grapefruit Campari and Strawberry Lemonade. And any talk of GBD bears mentioning that it's also overseen by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group's Greg Engert (read: amazing beer list).
Open until: 12 a.m. Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; 1 a.m. Thursday; 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Southern Snacks and Whiskey: Jack Rose Dining Saloon
For a bar that boasts the largest whiskey selection in the western hemisphere—and that could rest on that laurel alone—Jack Rose has a surprisingly good late night menu on Fridays and Saturdays. Chef Russel Jones highlights simple Southern snacks that are ideal complements to the whiskey.
Chicken skins are fried to a satisfying crackle; barbecue almonds seasoned with coriander, five spice, and cayenne are difficult not to eat by the handful; and the liver and onions are tasty enough that a child would eat liver without complaint.
Open until: Late night menu available 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Your 24-Hour Bookstore Cafe: Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe
A late night favorite in DC, Kramerbooks pulls double duty as bookshop and redeye cafe. Kramerbooks is open until 1 a.m. every night, except for Friday and Saturday when it's open for 24 hours. The diverse, roiling milieu of Dupont Circle spills into Kramerbooks in between its bookshelves and into the diner, making for an always-diverse dining crowd there for a full meal or just a post-book-shopping snack. Kramerbooks's menu spans pasta, crab cakes, tacos, and Cuban sandwiches. It's not necessarily the most focused or specialized menu, but it's hearty, satisfying food offered late to people traversing one of DC's busiest nexuses.
Open until: 1 a.m. nightly; 24 hours Friday and Saturday.
Standout Korean: Mandu
Danny Lee's Mandu is one of the only names in the game for Korean food within DC proper. So when it comes to late night Korean, if you don't have a car to make the drive to Yechon in Annandale, Mandu is where it's at.
A late night menu offers pan-fried mandu (Korean dumplings), fluffy pa jeon (seafood pancakes), double-fried Korean-style wings, and Korean barbecue tacos that are less of a Korean-Mexican fusion than prepared Korean grilled and seasoned meats on a corn tortilla. Go full Korean-style and order a bottle of soju (or three), or go even further and ask for a cheese ramen and yakult drink (a popular milk-like yogurt snack drink).
Open until: Late night menu available 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday and Monday.
Spanish Small Plates: Mockingbird Hill
Mockingbird Hill is probably not your first thought when considering late night dining, but Derek Brown's ode to sherry and ham is the perfect thing for a post-diner snack. Spanish-inspired small plates accompany the charcuterie, with dishes like chorizo and octopus that wind up tasting far more thoughtful than you'd expect from a restaurant selling ham at 1 a.m.
Open until: 12:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Classic Chinese: New Big Wong
New Big Wong is a perennial industry favorite for post-shift restaurant and bar crews. Open late enough to qualify as early morning, it's constantly home to bleary eyed restaurant workers winding down over dishes of deep fried pork chops, congee, or stir fried duck feet. The basement restaurant is heralded by big name chefs around town as some of the best Chinese in DC, and not just because it's open at ungodly hours.
The menu is classic Chinese-American in the front and traditional Chinese in the back, but whether you're ordering General Tso's chicken or chilled jelly fish, New Big Wong is an oasis of ultra late night dining that's served DC's tired chefs, bartenders, and waitstaff for years.
Open until: 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Pub Grub and a Killer Seafood Platter: Old Ebbitt Grill
Just steps from the White House, Old Ebbitt Grill is an old DC favorite. A tavern with an expansive, but familiar menu of American food, Old Ebbitt is a place where you're just as likely to see a family with small children as politicians and lobbyists. That said, one of the best things about Old Ebbitt is the late night happy hour.
The abbreviated happy hour menu includes dishes like grilled pizza and fried calamari, but the real draw is the half-priced raw bar. A half dozen oyster goes for $8.50 and a dozen for $15; or you can have crab claws or a lobster cocktail. If you're up for a real challenge, the Orca Platter (normally $126.95, but $63.50 during the late night happy hour) consists of a lobster, six crab claws, six clams, 24 oysters, and 12 shrimp. Take one of these down at 2 a.m. and that's likely to be a night you'll remember for a while.
Open until: Late night happy hour available 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday and Monday; 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Modernized Mexican: Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
If you've craved fresh, creamy guacamole in the middle of the night, only to settle for Taco Bell, you're in luck. José Andrés' Oyamel recently instituted a late night menu for those late night Mexican cravings that don't involve Crunchwrap Supremes.
In addition to that made-to-order guacamole you'll find legit tacos (don't miss the suadero made with an excellent brisket) and some more obscure dishes like Nopal Asado con Salsa Molcajete (cactus paddles served with salsa, onions, cilantro, and chiles-the cactus has a texture like eggplant and an aloe like quality that's different and complemented nicely by the tomatoes and chiles). The bar also continues to mix its signature cocktails, like the Oyamel Margarita, which incorporates Andrés characteristic flair for molecular gastronomy and replaces the salt rim with a "salt air."
Open until: Late night menu available 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Great Slices: Wiseguy NY Pizza
There are few things more satisfying than having an excellent slice of pizza at the end of a long night, no matter what kind of night it's been. Jumbo Slice not withstanding, DC has historically had a dearth of quality by the slice shops. So when Wiseguy NY Pizza opened in 2012, it became one of the best places to get a New York-style slice of pizza in town, and it remains one of the best today.
Wiseguy churns out solid margherita slices and even does a mean Sicilian. And it's open past 3 a.m. several nights a week—pizza's golden hour.
Open until: 1 a.m. Saturday through Wednesday; 3:30 a.m. Thursday; 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.