America's Best 24-Hour Hot Spots
On one of his first nights in Dallas, Robert Rosen, a new teacher in the area, turned into Fuel City gas station off Interstate 35E. But he wasn’t there to fill his car’s tank; Rosen went to fill his stomach—with what locals say are the best tacos in the state.
While many gas stations have 24/7 convenience stores, the crowds that gather at this humble taco stand, even at 3 a.m., are testament to the tastiness of these award-winning tacos piled high with juicy meat and served with delectable sides like corn with a Mexican-style Parmesan cheese.
“It’s insanely popular in Dallas. People go out of their way to eat their authentic Mexican tacos,” says Rosen.
Whether you’re an insomniac or an early riser, the beauty of a 24/7 spot is you can go—literally—whenever you want. Urban diners that catered to workers on the graveyard shift coming and going from nearby factories at the turn of the 20th century were some of the first establishments in America to stay open around the clock. Since then, all-hours businesses have grown beyond the greasy spoon, providing locals and visitors with a much-needed place to rest, drink, or even go shopping at any hour of the day or night.
With an antidote to restless nights in mind, Travel + Leisure searched out 10 of America’s best 24-hour spots. Take the Wilshire Spa in Los Angeles’s Koreatown. This full-service spa keeps its doors open for those who are looking for relaxation, detox, or a full-body scrub at any hour.
While some brands have started keeping their flagship stores open 24/7, L. L. Bean, the granddaddy of outdoor supplies, has temporarily closed its original store in Freeport, ME—open since 1951—only four times, including the day the founder, L. L. (Leon Leonwood), died in 1967. While the always-open policy was introduced to accommodate hunters going out on trips before dawn, today it’s also convenient for last-minute holiday shoppers, teenagers looking for a place to hang out, and locals and visitors to Vacationland looking for some after-hours retail therapy.
The next time you find yourself awake in the wee hours of the morning, don’t get stuck in front of the TV channel-surfing through reruns of The Golden Girls. Instead, celebrate your inner night owl and head out to one of these cool all-hours haunts.
L. L. Bean Flagship Store, Freeport, ME
Located on Main Street since 1917, this popular outdoor sporting goods store went 24/7 in 1951 in order to accommodate hunters who needed to pick up supplies before heading out at dawn. Even if you’re not the outdoors type, the store hours are convenient—especially if you forgot it was Father’s Day.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Grab a free cup of coffee the staff puts out for late-night shoppers, and relax in peace by the trout-stocked indoor pond.
Voodoo Doughnut,Portland, OR
Open round-the-clock since 2003, this offbeat doughnut shop has a treat for every hour of the day. Snack on a Diablos Rex (chocolate cake doughnut with red sprinkles and a vanilla frosting pentagram) during the witching hour, or try a new take on breakfast and order The Loop (raised yeast doughnut topped with Froot Loops). Its sister stores, Voodoo Too (Portland) and Tres (Eugene), recently went 24/7, adding to the nonstop sugar high.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Take the Texas Challenge: if you eat a giant doughnut equal in size to six regular ones within 80 seconds, you get your money back ($3.95).
Mr. Lucky’s 24/7, Las Vegas
In a nonstop city like Vegas, even the hardiest of partiers have to eat. The never-ending menu at this round-the-clock spot in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has first-rate diner fare. While standards like French toast and burgers are sure bets, Mr. Lucky’s is famous for its “steak, shrimp and salad special,” only $7.77 (gambler’s luck) and available by request only.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Even though the food is first-rate, the people-watching alone at this hour is memorable entertainment.
Ron Jon Surf Shop, Cocoa Beach, FL
After catching an early morning rocket launch at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, don’t go back to sleep. Instead, head down the road to this 52,000-square-foot sand-castle-shaped surf emporium to rent a surfboard and beat the crowds to the beach.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Buy your bikini now; this place is a tourist magnet during daylight hours, when privacy is limited.
Wilshire Spa, Los Angeles
Before entering this traditional Korean spa in K-Town, patrons must check their self-consciousness at the door. While some may balk at the thought of baring it all in front of strangers, the rejuvenating effects of the spa’s baths and signature Korean full-body scrub are worth the embarrassment. (It has separate facilities for men and women.)
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Go now if you want to avoid crowds, or if you need to detox after a night of heavy drinking.
Hound Dog’s Three Degree Pizza, Columbus, OH
The atmosphere of this pizza joint may not be for everyone—it’s attached to the Ravari Room, a punk rock music venue and bar. Still, make the trip for the pizza and find out why locals revere it. Try a specialty pie like the Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza, or build your own by choosing from two crusts (Smokin’ Joes, a thick crust coated with garlic butter, or regular thin crust), three sauces (regular, spicy, and howlin’ hot), and more than 25 toppings from sauerkraut to hot Cajun links.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Order a pizza and rock out to whatever jams are on the jukebox.
Gem Spa, New York City
Though it may not look like much, this tiny newsstand—located on the corner of St. Mark’s and Second Avenue—is an East Village institution. Gem is a go-to stop for newspapers and magazines, but its true draw is the classic egg creams—made with chocolate or vanilla syrup, seltzer, and milk—served from the old-fashioned soda fountain behind the counter.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Accidentally poured too much hot sauce on your falafel from Mamoun’s down the street? Rush here for a refreshing vanilla egg cream to cool the burn.
La Mexicana Bakery, Austin
This family-owned bakery serves some of the best authentic Mexican pastries in Austin, like pan de huevo, marranitos, and empanadas, alongside sweets like pecan pralines. Don’t have a sweet tooth? There’s also an all-day breakfast and lunch menu, featuring breakfast tacos and torta sandwiches.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: While most anything on the menu will satisfy late-night munchies, order the specialty: the tres leches, a moist cake soaked in a blend of three kinds of milk.
Jim’s Original, Chicago
Chicago may not be the City That Never Sleeps, but that doesn’t mean Windy City residents don’t need a late-night food fix. Fortunately, Jim’s has been perfecting its founder’s creation, the Maxwell Street Polish Sausage Sandwich, since 1943 (though the original location has moved to Union Avenue). It’s one-third pound smoked pork and beef polish sausage with mustard, onions, and peppers on a hot dog bun. And while it may not sway hard-core Chicago hot dog lovers, the sausage is still a delicious, cheap treat served any time of day.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Pull up and grab one; there’s no need even to turn off the car.
Fuel City Tacos, Dallas
Considering it’s attached to a gas station located off Interstate 35E, this humble 24-hour taco stand gets plenty of hype. Back in 2006, Texas Monthly magazine even deemed Fuel City’s picadillo taco the “best taco in Texas.” The affordable street-style tacos are as close to eating authentic Mexican as you can get (without having to worry about Montezuma’s revenge).
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Order one of each kind of taco it serves—beef and chicken fajita, picadillo, barbacoa, and al pastor—and join in the stand’s perennial late-night party.
Fifth Avenue Apple Store, New York
Hiding beneath a 32-foot-tall glass cube designed by award-winning architect Peter Bohlin on Fifth Avenue at East 59th Street, Apple’s four-year-old subterranean flagship store stays open for insomniac New Yorkers and Mac fanatics visiting Gotham with jam-packed schedules. While iPhone activation is available only 7 a.m.–11 p.m., most other services are available around the clock.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Already broke your iPad? Reserve an early-morning slot at the Genius Bar. They’re usually available.
Au Pied de Cochon, Atlanta
Hidden within the luxurious InterContinental Buckhead, this Atlanta brasserie not only lifted the name (which roughly translates to “at the foot of the pig”) and ambience from the eponymous Parisian restaurant that opened in 1946, but also adopted its legendary 24-hour policy. Suddenly the Left Bank doesn’t seem so far away.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Grab a private booth curtained off behind red velvet drapes for an intimate dining experience—perfect if you’re famous, or just an ashamed vegetarian who can’t resist the house specialty of pig trotter with béarnaise sauce.
Cafe Lafitte in Exile, New Orleans
One of the oldest gay bars in the country, this Bourbon Street spot knows how to let the good times roll—by never closing. Playwright Tennessee Williams is rumored to have frequented Lafitte’s during his years in New Orleans, and this festive French Quarter bar is still popular today, beloved by many regardless of their sexual orientation.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: After a few Hurricanes, head to the Clover Grill across the street for some old-fashioned diner food and southern classics like biscuits and gravy (also available 24 hours a day).
Freebirds World Burrito, Isla Vista, CA
Across the street from the University of California Santa Barbara’s ocean-side campus, this nonstop burrito joint has been feeding famished co-eds since 1987. The portions here are so over-the-top that some opt to share a single burrito. But for a ravenous undergrad they’re the necessary fuel for a night of mayhem at this notorious party school (or a way to recover from it the next morning).
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Top off a late night with a “quesarito,” a burrito wrapped in a quesadilla instead of a traditional tortilla.
Blueberry Hill Restaurant, Las Vegas
Sure, there’s Denny’s, but it doesn’t make French toast and pancakes from scratch, like this hot spot does. Las Vegas has seven Blueberry Hill restaurants—all family- or employee-owned—and the outlet on S. Decatur Boulevard is just a 10-minute drive from the Strip.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Bring your blackjack winnings and come hungry: you won’t have to wait in the lines characteristic of weekend mornings.
Veselka, New York City
Who doesn’t get late-night pierogi cravings? Fortunately, this family-owned restaurant has been serving up uniquely Ukrainian cuisine since 1954. The expansive menu features Ukrainian specialties like homemade pierogi, cheese-filled blintzes, and beef Stroganoff, but you’ll also find American diner staples like pancakes, burgers, and mac ’n’ cheese.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: After catching a midnight movie at the East Village Cinema up the street, head to this late-night spot to discuss the film over a plate of pierogi.
Café du Monde,New Orleans
Sure it’s touristy, but that doesn’t make the beignets any less delicious. Enjoy the square doughnuts coated in powdered sugar with (of course) café au lait, made with a blend of dark roasted coffee and chicory mixed with hot milk.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Linger in the late-night scene, which is more tourist-free than during the day.
Pat’s King of Steaks, Philadelphia
“Pat” is Pat Olivieri—the South Philly hot dog vendor who’s credited with inventing the Philly cheesesteak (with his brother Harry) back in 1920. This simple, historic corner shack still serves the now-famous sandwich and has played host to the likes of Rachael Ray and Larry King. It was also a must-stop on the 2008 presidential campaign trail for Obama, Kerry, and McCain.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: You could order a hot dog, but you’re here for the original melty cheesesteak, with or without mushrooms and peppers.
Pacific Dining Car, Los Angeles
“An elegant place to hide” is this 24-hour spot’s tagline, and with its elegant décor, full wine list, and celebrated dry-aged beef, it seems apt. While the PDC’s Santa Monica location is also open 24/7, downtown is where the historic hideout has been operating since 1923, two years after opening. Start the day here with truffled free-range eggs and close it with filet Oscar.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Dig into the late-night menu (offered 11 p.m.–4 a.m.), which includes everything from French toast to filet mignon, all at special prices.
TheAvenue Pub, New Orleans
Homer Simpson would think he’d died and gone to heaven. This Garden District pub serves up 40-plus tap beers (mostly American craft) and dozens more by the bottle, and they’re available all day, every day. Food? Sure—until 2 a.m., you’ll find gourmet choices like grilled redfish sandwich on a crostini (after that, the bartender will cook you up a burger or taco), but there’s no question the suds are the stars.
What to Do at 3 a.m.: Work your way down the taps. Hey, no one in NOLA wakes up early.