World's Top Late-Night Restaurants
How do you coax Anthony Bourdain, Daniel Boulud, and four other celebrated, eternally busy Manhattan chefs to sit down for three hours? Put them in the company of friends and culinary idols, and ply them with lager and a nonstop banquet of spicy noodles, roasted pork, and deep-fried soft-shell crab.
And that’s exactly what we did. T+L invited six famous chefs to dinner and set them loose on their favorite subject: the best places to eat and drink after hours. Not only did they turn us on to amazing late-night hot spots, but we learned some interesting nuggets about them. Who knew that Daniel Boulud enjoys chicken wings (at least the ones from Pho Kim Long II in Las Vegas) or that David Chang likes Tokyo’s Toriyoshi, a (gasp!) chain restaurant?
The setting for our rowdy bacchanal? Great New York Noodletown, an institution in Manhattan’s Chinatown that’s long been a magnet for hungry late-night revelers. At the table: David Chang, of New York’s cultishly popular Momofuku restaurants (the much-anticipated Momofuku cookbook is in bookstores now); Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel’s hit series No Reservations; Daniel Boulud, the ebullient French chef whose four-star restaurant, Daniel, has held fickle New Yorkers’ attention for nearly two decades; Marco Canora, of Hearth and Terroir wine bar in Manhattan’s East Village (his new Italian cookbook, Salt to Taste, is a must-read); Akhtar Nawab, one of the acclaimed new guard, formerly of Craft and the boundary-pushing Elettaria; and Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Michelin-starred fish mecca Le Bernardin and host of the new PBS show Avec Eric.
After the third round of Tsingtao beers (by now they were arriving by the six-pack), the discussion veered to the subject of the perfect hamburger—something everyone in this meat-crazed town has an opinion about. With his characteristic…er, restraint, Bourdain called Minetta Tavern’s Black Label burger “the best f***ing burger of my life. The meat’s incredible. It’s some sort of combo of dry-aged rib eye, skirt steak, and brisket, and of course, they’ve got some farm in Kentucky or something.”
Chang, meanwhile, greeted a heaping plate of ginger scallion noodles with a lusty nod of recognition: “This is my favorite dish at Noodletown.” (No doubt—Chang admits in his cookbook to serving an “homage to/out-and-out rip-off” of it at Momofuku Noodle Bar.)
And where does Ripert go to unwind? The Frenchman copped to getting a weekly (at least) fix at Balthazar, the ever-popular SoHo brasserie. “I’m obsessed with the place. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, anything. My family won’t even go with me anymore! I order steak tartare, clams, oysters. I love the energy, the food is very consistent, the service is great, and they have good, cheap Bordeaux.” Ripert also likes the food at Miami’s T-Mex Tacos, which is perfect “after you’ve been out drinking.”
As the meal wound down, the chefs lamented that the younger generation can’t seem to keep up with their late-night antics. Polishing off his beer straight from the bottle, Daniel Boulud, whose television series After Hours pulls back the curtain on the chef’s raucous late-night parties, joked, “These days, they’re taking pictures everywhere. I’ve got to tone it down before I get arrested!”
Meet the chefs:
Daniel Boulud is the chef and owner of Daniel, Bar Boulud, Café Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, and DBGB Kitchen & Bar in New York; Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas; Café Boulud in Palm Beach; Maison Boulud in Beijing; and DB Bistro Moderne and Lumière in Vancouver. He is also the host of late-night dining show After Hours.
Anthony Bourdain is the peripatetic host of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations. Bourdain is shooting the show’s sixth season throughout this fall.
Marco Canora is the chef and co-owner of Hearth, Insieme, and Terroir Wine Bar in New York City. His first book is Salt to Taste (Rodale Press; $35).
Akhtar Nawab was most recently the chef and co-owner of Elettaria restaurant, in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Eric Ripert is the chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City. He is also the author of three cookbooks. His first TV series is Avec Eric, on PBS.
Brasserie Georges, Lyon
“In the heart of Lyon is a classic of its genre—a bustling French beer hall with great food. It’s near the Gare Perrache, with makes it a particularly good late-night destination if you’re arriving after hours by train. Brasserie Georges is a crossroads for every possible element of Lyon society, from dockworkers to businessmen, and even neighborhood chefs. Charcuterie washed down with beer makes for a perfect bedtime meal.”
Pho Kim Long II, Las Vegas
“For an antidote to the Las Vegas Strip, I head to Pho Kim Long II, a great, casual place for getting together with fellow chefs after work. A group of us usually sits at a big table and orders a bunch of dishes to share family-style. We always go for pho, a classic with a variety of cuts of beef, including meatballs and brisket, over rice noodles with Thai basil, lime, and sriracha sauce. The chicken wings are awfully tasty—they’re seasoned with green chiles and cilantro. And the light summer rolls are perfect when the weather is especially hot. We also go for the whole crispy fish, bones and all. That and cold beer and we are happy campers.”
Jin Ding Xuan, Beijing
“This is a 24-hours restaurant that serves Cantonese cuisine, mainly in small dim sum portions. It’s a great place for people-watching, too. The shrimp dumplings, stewed beef with radish, and spare ribs with black bean sauce are some of my favorites. This is just the kind of steamy hot food that’s especially comforting on a cold, damp Beijing winter night.”
“It’s a temple of chicken in midtown Manhattan, the real deal and a long-time chefs’ favorite. Head up the stairs and give them your name and telephone number—then have a drink next door at the karaoke joint until they call you. After about two hours of snacking on perfect, charcoal-grilled skewers of chicken skin, butt, heart, livers and other poultry-related goodies, English chef Marco Pierre White asked me, ‘Anthony? Do they have…vegetables here?’ My answer: ‘Who cares?’”
“Sin Huat is a wonderland of fresh seafood—notably the Crab Bee Hoon. The service, however, could be described as borderline hostile, and the décor? Nonexistent. Grab your own Tiger beer from the case, and hopefully, eventually, someone will bring mugs and ice. Yes. Ice.”
Marco Canora: The Black Hoof, Toronto
“The Black Hoof is a great, no-frills charcuterie restaurant where everything is cured on the premises. The crowd is super-young and hip, and there’s a terrific wine list and really good cocktails—a number of which are made with rums imported from Cuba. The charcuterie sampler is a must-try, along with the wild boar and blueberry salami, horse-meat tartare with hot sauce, nose-to-tail terrine, and horse braciola. There isn’t a loser in the bunch."
Marco Canora: Dora, Tokyo
“When I’m in Tokyo, I often go to a place called Dora in Shinjuku, the city’s business district. Dora is a classic izakaya, which roughly translates as "pub." It attracts a high-energy crowd, and at night the booze is always flowing. Sashimi and grilled meats pair perfectly with cold beer or cold sake.”
Marco Canora: Hagi, New York City
“For a taste of after-dark Tokyo-style eating in New York, I often find myself at Hagi. Not only is it hidden down a set of stairs just off Times Square (and a couple of blocks from my restaurant Insieme) but it’s also crowded with Japanese diners, which is always a good sign. I fill up on whole grilled sardines and meats served on skewers. Have an ice-cold mug of Sapporo. Or, they have a great selection of sake to wash it all down.”
David Chang: Wo Hop, New York City
“It’s tucked away on Mott Street in Chinatown and has amazing 1960’s café decor—which I actually think looks terrible. Stay away from the egg rolls, but do order the blue-crab special. For the best atmosphere, eat downstairs.”Bellagio, Shanghai
“This Bellagio is not a Las Vegas hotel, but a faux-swanky Taiwanese brasserie. There are several locations in Shanghai, and they’re all open at all hours. It’s my favorite restaurant in Shanghai—which I know is sacrilegious—but everything is so delicious, like the pork-belly pot with egg and their weird fried breads. Don’t leave without ordering the shaved ice—it’s a must.”Toriyoshi, Tokyo
“Toriyoshi is a Japanese yakitori chain. This location is in the central Minato neighborhood, close to the Omotesando subway station. Don’t let a bias against chains throw you off—there are great ones throughout Japan. This place has amazing ji-dori, or ground chicken. Order a cold Kirin and about 20 tebasaki—their signature chicken-wing skewers—and enjoy.”
Akhtar Nawab: Great NY Noodletown, New York City
“Chinatown’s Great NY Noodletown is one of the great late-night restaurants in Manhattan. Often, in the wee hours when all of New York’s chefs are hungry and exhausted, you can find them gathered at a communal table here. What to order: jellyfish salad, salt-and-pepper shrimp, sea snails with garlic sauce, and all the roasted meats you see hanging in the window—racks of ribs, whole ducks and chickens, and the best of all, the suckling pig. Don’t forget to ask for the ginger and scallion sauce on the side.”
Akhtar Nawab: Nirula’s, Delhi
“Nirula’s is an old-fashioned Indian restaurant, the equivalent of a family-style diner in the United States. The original location is in Connaught Circus in old Delhi. After hours it’s reliably jammed with young locals looking for relatively inexpensive, good food and a fun time. The chefs specialize in kebabs, thalis—or small appetizerlike plates—and mutton. The seekh kebab is the best thing on the menu, but all the curries served with naan are worth a try. The one catch: the restaurant is standing room only, so order—and eat—fast.”
Akhtar Nawab: Au Pied de Cochon, Paris
“This shrine to the pig in the first Arrondissement was opened in 1946 and has been an after-dark favorite ever since. Quirky pig ornaments and antique French-style chandeliers set the old-school bistro vibe. It’s open 24 hours. The traditional offerings include a classic bone marrow with mustard and delicious pig trotters.”
Eric RipertCafé du Monde, New Orleans
“This may sound like an obvious choice, but the food at Café du Monde is classic, simple, and delicious. A café au lait and just-out-of-the-fryer beignets coated with a mountain of powered sugar are the things to order, of course. Since they’re open 24 hours a day, you can stop by on the way back from seeing live music on Frenchman Street.”
Eric Ripert: T-Mex Tacos, Miami Beach
“The food here is destined to be served late-night, a perfect fix after you’ve been out drinking. You can’t go wrong: from the chicken with onions to the fish and avocado, all the tacos are delicious.”La Tour de Montlhéry, Paris
“This is an authentic, 24-hour rustic Parisian bistro. The crowd is a good mix, from partygoers to after-work suits. They have a tasty stuffed cabbage and, without fail, a very good skirt steak.”