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"Sorry, the kitchen's closed." If you're a night owl you've heard that any number of times in Chicago, a city where, despite its renowned theater and music scenes, it's suprisingly difficult to get fed after the show. This guide to late-night dining will help. From downtown to Devon, Maxwell Street to Chinatown and beyond, here's where you can eat after midnight, seven days a week. Hours reflect when the kitchen closes; the TK icon indicates a 24-hour spot.

You'll find more than 1,200 restaurants open till 11 PM or later online in the Reader Restaurant Finder, a database with more than 3,500 Chicago-area restaurants. Restaurants are rated by more than 2,600 Reader Restaurant Raters, who feed us information and comments on their dining experiences, all available on the site. Web listings are updated daily. For the searchable database and information on how to become a Reader Restaurant Rater, see chicagoreader.com/restaurantfinder.

Listings were compiled from reviews by Martha Bayne, Kathie Bergquist, Rob Christopher, Chip Dudley, Jeffrey Felshman, Anne Ford, Mike Gebert, Holly Greenhagen, David Hammond, J.R. Jones, Heather Kenny, Michael Nagrant, John Norris, Kate Schmidt, Laura Levy Shatkin, Ann Sterzinger, Steve Tomashefsky, Peter Tyksinski, Pete Weers, and Gary Wiviott. —Kate Schmidt, restaurants editor

american

Bijan's Bistro663 N. State | 312-202-1904

$$ Lunch, dinner: seven days | Sunday brunch | Open late: every night till 3:30 | Reservations not accepted

At this reincarnation of the old late-night hangout Bijan, regulars crowd around the gleaming mahogany bar, and Ralf, the courtly host, seems to know half the tables in the joint. Aside from keeping New York hours, the kitchen offers everything from escargots to veggie stew over couscous as well as upscale entrees and gussied-up salads, burgers, and sandwiches. Martinis, as you might expect from a place lined with bottles of Absolut, are formidable and delivered promptly.

a Express Grill1260 S. Union | 312-738-2112

$ Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted| Cash only

Squaring off against feuding family members at neighboring Jim's Original, Express Grill (with the word original prominently plastered all over their new, similarly very yellow building) serves up a somewhat smaller lineup of items starring the smoked Polish sausage ($3.10, same as Jim's) and its almost indistinguishable though slightly less garlicky twin, the Vienna Beef sausage. Any sandwich order gets you a "free" bag of fries, leaving you enough spare coin to purchase some bootleg CDs or tube socks from the sidewalk entrepreneurs set up by the serving windows.

The Fireside5739 N. Ravenswood | 773-878-5942

F 6.7 | S 8.0 | A 7.3 | $$ (6 reports)Lunch: Monday-Saturday; Dinner: seven days | Sunday brunch | Open late: every night till 3

From the outside it may look like a tavern, but inside you'll find a home-style restaurant with a spacious patio that's tented and heated in the winter. While offerings are eclectic and reasonably extensive—blackened catfish and Cajun meat loaf, pizza, a menu of pastas—many diners opt for the ribs, glazed in a sweet, tangy sauce. The bar, dominated by big-screen TVs, is a popular hangout on game days—whatever game it might be.

Gene's and Jude's2720 River Rd., River Grove | 708-452-7634

$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 2, Sunday-Thursday till 1 | Cash only

A Gene's and Jude's hot dog, like a Cezanne painting, represents the apotheosis of a form, inessentials stripped away, almost the Platonic ideal of the hot dog. No tomato, and you don't dare ask for ketchup. What you get at this middle-American icon is a perfectly warmed wiener with world-class snap, nestled in a steamed bun and layered with mustard, relish, onion, sport peppers (if you want 'em), and fries. That's right: the fries, fresh cut with a hand-operated mechanism straight out of the Eisenhower administration, are laid gently on top of the dog, creating a steamy union of dog and fry that miraculously benefits both. It's always standing room only in this bright yellow-lit room, and when you bite into one of Gene's and Jude's franks ($2.07), you'll see why.

Harold's Chicken Shack #26419 S. Cottage Grove | 773-363-9586

$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 5, Thursday till 3, other nights till 2

The late Harold Pierce was a crafty entrepreneur who in 1950 saw that major fast-food chains were ignoring African-American neighborhoods, so he filled the breach, and his franchise empire has been expanding ever since. It used to be that an order of fried yard bird couldn't get any more debauched than at Harold's #2: a lightly battered but still peppery leg, thigh, breast, and wing bedded on a nest of crispy shoestring fries atop a slice of white bread, then drenched in a bright orange, vinegary hot sauce and boxed. Alas, under new management, things have slipped in the last couple years, and while there are now soul-food sides like mac 'n' cheese, baby lima beans, and greens on offer, the chicken doesn't come close to that of the magical old #2.

a Jim's Original1250 S. Union | 312-733-7820

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted| Cash only

Jim Stefanovic—whose family fled the Russian Revolution and wound up working at a Maxwell Street hot dog stand in the late 30s—is said by some to have invented the Maxwell Street Polish. Located blocks from the now painfully gentrified old market location, Jim's Original serves a Slotkowski sausage, with factory-modified dimensions to better suit the steamed bun. Though Jim's sausage includes liquid smoke in its flavorings (anathema to some purists), what makes it pop are the grilled onions and a splash of yellow mustard, condiments added to all the sandwiches here, including a respectable fish sammie made of actual fillet and a pork chop sandwich that's an excellent rendition of the workingman's classic. You'll be entertained by the street-smart efficiency of the crew, cracking wise about their "secret seasonings" and the failings of nearby Express Grill.

Superdawg6363 N. Milwaukee | 773-763-0660

$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 2, other nights till 1 | Cash only

From the time you spot Tarzan-clad Superdawg and his coy wienie sweetie towering over Milwaukee Avenue to the moment you beckon a carhop with the flip of a switch, you know you're at a tailfin-era original. The Superdawg itself is one of Chicago's outstanding hot dogs, an oversize garlicky natural-casing wienie as plump as a 50s starlet. The Superburger—a thin patty fried to a crispy crust and dotted with tiny diced onions—might be even better. Both "lounge contentedly," as the charmingly corny restaurant copy has it, in crinkle-cut fries; accompaniments include pickles and pickled green tomatoes (though not, on the dogs, ketchup). Spoon-thick shakes round out the four food groups.

The Wiener's Circle2622 N. Clark | 773-477-7444

$ Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Saturday till 6, Friday till 5, other nights till 4 | Reservations not accepted | Cash only

The raucous scene at this late-night stand has impressed the likes of Tom Waits, who at his last concert appearance in town confessed that when, on a return visit to Wiener's Circle, he was not insulted by the sassy, famously foulmouthed counter ladies he felt almost hurt. Estimates of the food vary depending on time of day and degree of drunkenness, but plenty of Chicagoans have a thing for the Vienna Beef hot dogs, served charred or boiled with all the classic fixin's, and the cheese fries, hand-cut and topped with orange goo. The shakes and burgers are also pretty decent, but most just come for the sideshow.

asian

Golden Bull242 W. Cermak | 312-808-1668

$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 1 | BYO

The Bull has something for both the beef-and-broccoli set and those seeking a challenge like frog with yellow chives. A variety of impeccable Chinese greens are always on offer (usually pea pod shoots, water spinach, mustard greens, and watercress). Fried smelt, steamed whole sole, and deep-fried chicken are customer favorites. The homemade egg rolls are fantastic—plump and greaseless. Seaweed soup is another great starter—the velvety pork broth is loaded with shrimp, ground pork, egg, and seaweed and finished with a dash of sesame oil. Salt-and-pepper fried shrimp is pretty much faultless; chow fun noodles are alternately crispy-fried and soft—an effect that chow fun enthusiasts seek out. And while the fried tofu may not be the revelatory version with king mushrooms offered at Ken-Kee down the block, it's pretty damn close.

Happy Chef Dim Sum2164 S. Archer | 312-808-3689

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: every night Till 2

Happy Chef is unlikely to win any interior design awards—the tablecloths are made of Hefty bag plastic, the china is chipped, the teapots cracked—but service is friendly and the adventurous menu rewards exploration. Dim sum is served daily, and party-colored papers on the walls announce tank-fresh scallops, large-mouth fish, frog, eel, and tiny, sweet shrimp, sold by weight and served delicately steamed accompanied by a jalapeno-laced soy sauce. A clay pot of bony but delicious duck has hints of ginger, orange peel, and curry; watercress in bean-curd sauce is bright green and very fresh. For dessert try "crispy milk," the liquid frozen and cut into balls, then batter fried and arrayed with Cantonese simplicity around a bowl of sugar.

Hourglass3658 W. Lawrence | 773-478-4050

$$ Dinner: seven days | Open late: every night till 1

Variously welcoming and uninviting, this weird little bar serves tasty Korean boozing food. Owned by master kumdo swordsman Suk Do Im, it's decorated with fake foliage, dark wood, and an empty fish pond schizophrenically accented with classical busts, a suit of armor, steer skulls, mounted swords, and reference books. There are two kinds of fried chicken here, one a simple marinated crispy-skinned bird, the other dangerously glazed in a dark, cinnamony sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Various noodle dishes and roiling spicy stews—fish cake, mussel, or kimchi—gird the brain, stomach, and tongue against the effects of strong spirits. Any and all can be consumed at a pace befitting a gentleman or lady of leisure: Master Im is a personable and attentive host not above supplementing your choices ("Eel make you strong").

Penang2201 S. Wentworth | 312-326-6888

F 7.3 | S 6.8 | A 6.0 | $$ (5 reports) Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: every night Till 1 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

Given the number of Filipino restaurants around town, it's discouraging that there isn't an Indonesian one, and only a single Malaysian one. Penang—part of national chain—doesn't need to be mind-blowing to survive. It isn't, but it's the only place around where you get a representative taste of the Spice Islands, the botanical homeland of cloves, galangal, and nutmeg. Despite a sluggish waitstaff and the bamboo-armored airs of a South Pacific Applebee's, it does a decent job of presenting a lengthy selection of Malaysian specialties, and then some. There are roti canai, a thin pancake meant to be dipped in a oily brothy curry; a handful of preparations with sambal, the ever present condiment made with chiles and shrimp paste; 19 noodle dishes; and a huge seafood section with a number of whole fried fish. In the unlikely event anyone's bored with the huge menu, there's a sushi bar and big window on the kitchen where you can watch the cooks do their thing.

Sakura Sushi234 W. Cermak | 312-326-9168

$$Dinner: seven days | Open late: every night Till 2

If you like wandering among the Walgreens-style pagodas of Chinatown Place but don't always feel equal to a big pile of stir-fry at stroll's end, it's nice to know there's a little Japanese joint on the Cermak strip offering a full slate of sushi, shabu-shabu, and udon and soba soups. The teriyaki combos are cheap and decent, and the two koroke (lightly fried potato croquettes) included in the deal were surprisingly yummy. The sushi too is good stuff for the price, fresh and very pretty; the seaweed salad was delicious, and the spinach in the oshi tashi was perfectly blanched to a chipper green. Service is swell, and the bright basement room feels cozy rather than cramped.

San Soo Gab San5247 N. Western | 773-334-1589

F 7.5 | S 6.8 | A 5.8 | $$ (8 reports) Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 5

This bustling establishment draws a late-night crowd, often remaining packed far into the wee hours. The main room is dimly lit, with semiprivate tables divided by high walls. There's also a bright sushi room adjacent (sushi's available in both). Panchan, little Korean side dishes, come in a plenteous array of more than a dozen varieties, including three kinds of kimchi (baby bok choy, scallion, and traditional cabbage). The most popular dishes are cook-your-own barbecue—kalbi (marinated short ribs), prime rib eye, spicy eel, and octopus. Hae moul pajon, a seafood pancake served with a sesame dipping sauce, makes a delectable starter, and the tofu hot pot is a vegetarian's dream.

Seven Treasures Cantonese Cuisine2312 S. Wentworth | 312-225-2668

$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 2:30

The keys to happiness at Seven Treasures are many: Chinese barbecue, noodles in soup with fresh shrimp wontons, congee (rice porridge), simple vegetable dishes prepared with oyster sauce or fermented tofu. Start with a quick perusal of the gorgeous full-frontal barbecue display—crisp roast pig, succulent duck, red-tinted pork, and moist soya chicken served with astoundingly flavorful ginger scallion oil. Tasty pork broth heaped with wontons and a tangle of noodles makes for an inexpensive lunch, though a "double" on rice (your choice of two barbecued meats) for under $5 is one of the better deals in Chicago. It's not that there isn't the full spectrum of Cantonese-American classics here—egg foo yong with lifeless cornstarch-laden gravy, a ridiculously sticky-sweet version of sweet-and-sour pork, crab rangoon—it's just that you don't want or need them.

Silver Seafood4829 N. Broadway | 773-784-0668

F 7.6 | S 6.0 | A 4.8 | $$ (5 reports)Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: every night Till 1 | BYO

The focus at this Mandarin restaurant is fresh seafood; they'll steam a red snapper or sea bass (or whatever else is swimming in the tank) to order, then top it with aromatic herbs and a drizzle of soy sauce. Skip the pot stickers and egg rolls on the English-language menu and ask for the Chinese menu instead, which has English translations and offerings like fried crab claws, braised cuttlefish, and boneless duck web. Main courses come in a few familiar categories—seafood, chicken, beef—and then venture into the unusual: abalone, roast pigeon. Servers are welcoming, professional, and willing to make suggestions.

a Three Happiness209 W. Cermak | 312-842-1964

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day

Crunch into shell-on salt-and-pepper shrimp—juicy and fragrant with five-spice mix—or dry stir-fried blue crab, perfumed with ginger and scallion, and you realize that "Little" Three Happiness has a more expert hand with seafood than many far more upscale restaurants. Crisp panfried noodles, rice or wheat, groan under a shrimp-boat's catch of fresh seafood or a combination of barbecued pork and five-spice-accented roast duck. Crispy-skinned chicken is a revelation: moist, tender meat and succulent crisp skin served with lemon wedge, Szechuan pepper-salt mix, and a topknot of cilantro. Stir-fried watercress, pea shoots with garlic, and lettuce with oyster sauce are sure to please, but for a change of pace water spinach with fermented tofu (ong choi with fu yee) is a winner. Raymond and Betty Yau, who've owned the restaurant since 1995, gave the place a face-lift a few years back, and it looks nice—though thankfully not so nice as to violate Calvin Trillin's inverse ambience theory of Chinese restaurants. The clams in black bean sauce are as good as ever.

Triple Crown211 W. 22nd | 312-791-0788

$$ Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 2 | BYO

At Triple Crown the selection is wide, prices reasonable, and portions massive, but you'll enjoy it most if you're a fan of Cantonese food. Seaweed soup was light and mild, egg drop light and salty, fried shrimp and cuttlefish, just light. Our entrees were more of the same. The worn menus boast some adventurous choices: abalone braised and sliced with fish maw, Chinese ham with jellyfish, braised Chinese mushrooms with fish lips. But dishes like fried scallops with vegetables, chicken with panfried rice noodles, deep-fried tofu, and "big bowl noodle in soup" (seafood, tomato, tofu, and vegetables in about a gallon of clear broth), though fresh, were all but flavorless. Well, barbecue beef was sweet, at least.

bar/lounge

Bar Louie226 W. Chicago | 312-337-3313

$ Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: every night Till 3

The original location of this chain of trendy bar-restaurants is less upscale than its siblings but still packs in the customers. The expansive menu includes everything from gumbo, hummus, and a variety of greasy appetizers to Mexican, pizza, po'boys—you name it. The food may not be great, but it beats T.G.I. Friday's.

Billy Goat tavern430 N. Michigan | 312-222-1525

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Saturday till 3, other nights till 2 | Reservations not accepted | Cash only

More than 25 years after the heyday of the SNL skit, the Billy Goat is still trading on John Belushi's famous tagline, "Cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger. No Pepsi, Coke. No fries, cheeps." (Well, they do offer fries now.) Tourists continue to find their way into the subterranean dive under Michigan Avenue, and some journalists remain among the regulars, drinking against a backdrop of yellowing Royko columns and Billy Goat curse memorabilia. The cheeseburgers, thin and greasy, are probably best ordered in the form of a double, but they're helped along by self-serve raw onion and pickle slices.

Chaise Lounge1840 W. North | 773-342-1840

$$$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Saturday & Sunday brunch | Open late: every night till 1

The menu, like the decor, has an elegant retro feel most obvious in the list of specialty cocktails with names like the Deco and the Wingback, but the dishes hark backward as well, with French-inspired standards like duck confit receiving the inevitable contemporary twist. A friend said her frisee with poached egg, caramelized shallots, and bacon was "like breakfast" in a good way, crispy bacon adding a sweet edge. Also sweet, even a little cloying, was the apple cider reduction with chestnuts and raisin relish that accompanied unexpectedly mild slices of roast venison. The standout of the evening was a juicy pork chop special that seemed to show Chaise Lounge is best when it resists the urge to gild the lily. There's a heated rooftop patio.

Crew Bar & Grill4804 N. Broadway | 773-784-2739

$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Saturday & Sunday brunch | Open late: Every night till 1 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

Crew is a gay sports bar. As at any sports bar there's a large selection of beer, and as at any gay bar, a bunch of featured martinis, including one called the Jock Itch. The menu may not stray far beyond bar-food expecteds—munchies, salads, and sandwiches—but its descriptions are flamboyant (the Sassy Wings are "just like Friday night's fling, tasty and hot!"). A veggie wrap with grilled peppers, goat cheese, and heaps of fresh spinach was goopy and good, though the honey-Dijon dressing adorning it was a little too sweet. For dessert you might try one of what they call their "big-ass martinis": a coffee one was creamy and terrific. Charmingly, the men's and women's bathrooms are decorated with pictures of Greg Louganis and Billie Jean King, respectively.

Emerald Loop Bar & Grill216 N. Wabash | 312-263-0200

$$ Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: every night till 1:30

This pub on the first floor of the historic Jeweler's Building looks unassuming from the outside. But the interior is spacious and well appointed, with plenty of cozy nooks for mellow conversation. As the name would suggest, Emerald Loop bills itself as an Irish pub, and sure enough there are the typical Bennigan's-like gewgaws on the walls. Traditional dishes include shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, and the like. Clearly, though, the kitchen is aiming a little higher. Fish-and-chips are unusual, with a crispy, almost spicy batter. The steak sandwich was a juicy cut of meat smothered in caramelized onions and blue cheese between thick slices of sourdough—definitely knife-and-fork food. The $11 martini was disappointing; not cold enough and served with plain old pimento olives. But a $5.50 Smithwick's, served in a frosted pint glass, was aces.

Fado100 W. Grand | 312-836-0066

F 7.0 | S 6.8 | A 8.4 | $$ (5 reports) Lunch, dinner: seven days | every night till 1 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

A calculatedly authentic Irish pub in the heart of River North. While they do pull a mean Guinness, the room has the tinny charm of a theme bar and more cell phones than all of Donegal. But Raters give props to the food—hefty, bone-warming servings of typical pub grub such as fish-and-chips, shepherd's pie, and lots of potatoes. A traditional Irish breakfast is served all day, every day. The labyrinthine first floor features plenty of nooks and crannies that create the illusion of a smaller, more intimate space. There's live music every Friday and Saturday.

Hop Haus646 N. Franklin | 312-467-4287

$$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: every night till 4 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

Brewpub meets sports bar in this new concept restaurant from the owners of Leona's—and the sports bar wins. Televisions cling to every spot with a sight line in this cavernous River North space, the walls are decorated with photos of mildly risque sports bloopers, and copies of Best Chicago Sports Arguments share table space with the salt and pepper. The burger menu—dreamed up by a couple folks from Alinea—includes "global" takes on the basic steak burger and exotica like kangaroo and ostrich. The German burger was pretty good: topped with rich butterkase, sauerkraut, and robust brown mustard. But the wild boar was a disappointment, the meat tough, greasy, and well past medium rare. Still, the beer list is excellent, with close to 40 imports and craft brews bottled or on tap and suggested beer-and-burger pairings helpfully provided. You could do a lot worse for late-night sustenance—especially if you're looking to catch the SportsCenter recap.

Iggy's

800 N. Dearborn | 312-829-4449

$$$Dinner: seven days | Open late: Saturday till 3, other nights till 2

The late-night mainstay recently reopened in its third location, this time in the Gold Coast. The full menu—steaks, chops, chicken, and pasta dishes—is available till last call, and there's curbside delivery for carryout orders.

Moody's Pub5910 N. Broadway | 773-275-2696

$ Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 12:40 | Reservations not accepted | Cash only

A good place to grab a burger and beer for lunch, dinner, or a late-night snack, even on Sundays. The menu is small, its centerpiece a burger that's been called the best in town (it's also been called the most overrated). Also available are fries, steak and chicken breast sandwiches, a dinner salad, and fried perch, shrimp, and chicken. The beer selection is limited, but the margaritas and sangria pitcher special are outstanding. In summer the large garden is the place to sit; in winter the two fireplaces keep it cozy—not to say smoky and very dark—inside.

Raw Bar & Grill3720 N. Clark | 773-348-7291

F 7.0 | S 7.2 | A 7.2 | $$ (5 reports)Dinner: seven days | Open late: every night Till 12:45

rrr Raters find this seafood place more of a bar hangout than a destination restaurant. The menu offers topneck clams, bluepoint oysters, and steamed Dungeness crab, all at market prices. There are also appetizers, steaks, and chicken. Several Raters complain about oversalted food, but most enjoy the lively ambience, with live jazz and blues most weekends and a belly dancer on Thursdays.

Reagle Beagle160 E. Grand | 312-755-9645

$$ Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 1

If Motel Bar attempts to capture the chic side of retro nostalgia then Reagle Beagle, a new lounge just east of Michigan Avenue, aims straight for schlocky. The space is a meticulously designed homage to the 70s and early 80s (it's named after the local pub on Three's Company). Sitcoms and vintage commercials play on large-screen TVs, framed glossies of various TV shows hang on the shag-carpeted and bedraped walls, and sofas with throw pillows cluster around a stacked-slate fireplace. The atmosphere naturally extends to the menu, with solid updates of suburban comfort-food favorites like pizza, baked mac 'n' cheese, and even shrimp salad. Signature cocktails include Brady Bunch Punch, which indeed tastes like something Carol or Alice would whip up if they were hitting the sauce.

Rockit Bar & Grill22 W. Hubbard | 312-645-6000

$$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Sunday brunch | Open late: Saturday till 2:30, other nights till 1:30 | Reservations not accepted

The menu at this club from the team formerly behind Le Passage is more elegant than it reads, featuring French-inspired dishes like onion soup and steamed mussels with spicy chorizo along with upscale tavern fare like Kobe beef burgers. Serious desserts include creme brulee and a dark-chocolate mousse served in a martini glass with a cherry-almond biscotti. The second floor is done up like a modern lodge: antler chandeliers, tables made from tree stumps, and four custom-made pool tables. Even the nine plasma screens are surrounded by antique-looking picture frames.

diner

a Diner Grill1635 W. Irving Park | 773-248-2030

$ Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted| Cash only

Open round the clock and offering counter service only, the Diner Grill has the grizzled, noirish look of a 70s art film, but the food is great, especially the burgers—must be the decades' worth of grease built up on the grill that provides the flavor. For the true Diner Grill experience, get the Slinger: two hamburger patties covered with cheese, topped with two eggs, blanketed with hash browns, then inundated with a couple of scoops of chili and served with slices of white bread on the side. It's impressive and, best of all, tasty, though you might throw a little A.1. in there just to jazz things up. If you finish the whole thing the cook will give you a little certificate testifying to your prowess.

a Golden Apple2971 N. Lincoln | 773-528-1413

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted

Open since 1960 and by many accounts a tastier alternative to the Golden Nugget, the local chain it split off from in 1984, the Golden Apple doles out breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day every day, along with bottomless cups of coffee poured by waitresses who call you "hon." The 132-item menu draws praise for its omelets, creative skillets, and entrees ranging from Greek chicken to enchiladas; be prepared to wait on weekend mornings.

a Golden Nugget1765 W. Lawrence | 773-769-6700

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted

Everyone should live around the corner from a diner, especially one as reliable as the Golden Nugget on Lawrence. The service is always quick and cheerful; the food always cheap and ridiculously substantial. Breakfast, served 24 hours, encompasses everything from chicken-fried steak with two eggs to the "all-fruit waffle," each quadrant of which bears a different oozy-sweet compote (apple, blueberry, strawberry, and banana). The lunch and dinner choices include the Grubsteaker—ground sirloin smothered with mushrooms, bacon, an onion ring, and melted cheese—and a few diner standards of yore such as liver and onions. Other locations of this local chain are at 2720 N. Clark, 2406 W. Diversey, and 3953 W. Diversey.

a Hollywood Grill1601 W. North | 773-395-1818

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted

This Wicker Park diner bustles 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's a cheap neighborhood breakfast favorite but also a popular late-night stop for club hoppers. Oldies music sets a 50s tone, as do the deep booths and counter seating. Waitresses are attentive and businesslike—they'll have your order on the table fast and hot.

a Jeri's Grill4357 N. Western | 773-604-8775

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted| Cash only

Jeri's Grill at Western and Montrose might be the only place in town with a "jailhouse special"—fried bologna with eggs, hash browns, and toast. Menu standards include pizza puffs and Beefaroni. The patty melt is so greasy it all but slips out of your hands, but the bacon cheeseburger is juicy and happy making. Dessert specials often include bread pudding, which, the waitress says, "is what made my jeans tight." No credit cards, no checks, no lingering in booths for more than an hour.

a Kevin's Hamburger Heaven554 W. Pershing | 773-924-5771

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted| Cash only

Kevin's Hamburger Heaven is a 24/7 "city that works" diner in a light-industrial area a few blocks south of Sox Park. Early morning you'll find steel-toe-shod working stiffs fueling up on good-size portions of crispy hash browns, nicely spiced sausage, three eggs over, and toast. Burgers rule at lunch, and these are juicy, rich, flavorful patties, roughly formed and sizzled on the grill. But it's nighttime—more specifically, the hours after the bars close—that's given Kevin's its citywide rep as the ne plus ultra of greasy spoons. The sotted and soused come from far and wide for coffee, chili burgers with mounds of fries, or steak and eggs served with Kevin's house-label steak sauce. The late-night security guard sits at the counter as unobtrusively as a man tough as nails and armed can.

a Michael's North101 W. North | 312-642-5246

$ Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day

Utilitarian as the space may be, this long-standing Old Town diner serves "sufficiently yummy" food according to Raters. The extensive menu offers lots of eggs, omelets, burgers, and hearty sandwiches, plus mock sausage and a veggie sandwich that draws praise from vegetarians. It's all cheap, filling, and uncomplicated, though service is perfunctory at best.

a Tempo6 E. Chestnut | 312-943-4373

F 7.0 | S 7.8 | A 6.0 | $ (9 reports) Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted| Cash only

The huge menu at this 24-hour diner located on the edge of the bustling Water Tower district has practically everything under the sun, though not much of it is memorable. As with most diners, breakfast items like waffles and omelets seem most reliable; lunch and dinner choices range from simple sandwiches to full meals with soup, salad, beverage, and dessert included. A nicely set-up outdoor patio is excellent for checking out the passing tourists and well-to-do downtowners. Cash only, but there's an ATM in the breezeway.

indian

Ghareeb Nawaz2032 W. Devon | 773-761-5300

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 2 | Reservations not accepted | Cash only

Named for a benefactor of the poor, Ghareeb Nawaz has a reputation as an oasis for cheap and freshly made home-style Indo-Pakistani food. One of the few spots on Devon open for breakfast, it offers inexpensive paratha (griddled wheat flatbread) filled with egg or aloo (seasoned potato) and halwa puri, the traditional Pakistani breakfast, three crisp, puffy fried breads served with lightly sweetened sooji halwa (a semolina pudding) and aloo chole (curried potato and chickpeas). Biryanis here are among the best in town, and the thali is an amazing deal: $4.35 gets you a veggie combo with a choice of bread, a generous portion of rice, an achar (pickle) of some kind, and servings of four or five dishes such as chana masala, dal, aloo palak, and bhindi masala; meat thali are a scant 50 cents more. You order at the counter here, and the restaurant's two brightly lit rooms are spartan, but there's cricket on the TV in season and a prayer room for the devout.

a Hyderabad House2225 W. Devon | 773-381-1230

$$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted| Cash only

Hyderabad House is a home away from home for cabbies who want to shoot pool, watch Bollywood musicals, and grab some good grub, all halal, before beating it back to the beaded seat. A fixture on the changing menu board is lush mutton in a thick sauce; chicken lagan comes in a fluorescent magenta-colored sauce. Dhai ki kadi, a delicious veggie dish, is wheat gluten in a blindingly yellow curry. To drink try Limca, lemon-based Indian cola. Sometimes there's a man offering paan—a potent mix of fennel, betel leaf, and herbs—which makes a pleasing, stomach-settling wrap to a meal.

a Zaiqa Indian Restaurant858 N. Orleans | 312-280-6807

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted

Considered by many cabdrivers the most authentic of the Indian-Pakistani places on Orleans, this tiny counter-service joint is more of a snack shop and pool hall than a restaurant. A small steam table in the back offers the four or five dishes the cook's chosen for the day. But despite the paper plates and plastic trays, the fare is definitely worth a try. On one visit it included vegetarian dumplings swimming in a slightly sweet cilantro-curry sauce, whole fried fish pleasantly spiced with cumin and coriander, lamb curry with a serious kick, and some of the tastiest warm paratha around.

mexican

a Arturo's Tacos

2001 N. Western | 773-772-4944

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day

Open round the clock, this inviting, brightly lit corner storefront draws Anglo and Hispanic locals—twentysomethings sopping up a night's drinking with the Tex-Mex standards (tacos, tortas, fat burritos) and workmen huddled over cups of coffee at the counter. But it also offers more authentic fare, most notably, posole: squeeze some lime and add shredded cabbage and white onion to the hominy and tender chunks of pork in a flavorful chile-infused stock and it's a perfect winter meal in a bowl.

El Charo2410 N. Milwaukee | 773-278-2514

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted Cash only | BYO

Plants line the windows of this Logan Square taqueria most notable for serving 24/7. In addition to a menu of Mexican and Tex-Mex standards, there's a killer horchata, the perfect belly warmer for a chilly morning or bitterly cold late night.

Fiesta Mexicana2423 N. Lincoln | 773-348-4144

F 7.3 | S 7.3 | A 7.7 | $ (6 reports) Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 2, other nights till 1

rrr The friendly, attentive waitstaff make dining at this Mexican restaurant a pleasant experience. Raters agree that the lunch specials—between $5.75 and $6.75 including a soft drink—are the best bargain. The menu features the usual suspects—tacos, burritos, quesadillas; more challenging offerings such as lengua and brains are available at the other location at 4806 N. Broadway. There's live entertainment on weekends.

Flash Taco1570 N. Damen | 773-772-1997

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 4 | Cash only

"Satisfies that late-night postparty craving," says one Rater. "There's a certain camaraderie among patrons who have been out and are now brave enough to try a burrito." Actually you don't have to be that brave to eat at this shrewdly situated Mexican fast-food stand—the food is cheap but pretty good, the place is clean (compared to, say, the Big Horse), and the people watching is superb. The menu includes all the Mexican-American standards, plus horchata to drink.

a Lazo's Tacos2009 N. Western | 773-486-3303

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day

For drunken denizens of Logan Square, the corner of Armitage and Western offers two 24-hour taquerias, Lazo's and Arturo's, their beacons shining. It's tough to pick a favorite, but Lazo's rustic stone wall, thrift-store portrait of Pope John Paul II, and orange plastic and wood laminate bench seats recalling KFC circa 1983 make it tough to resist. Mexican telenovelas from a wall-mounted LCD TV blare as you crunch down on a hangover helper of camarones rellenos, meaty shrimp wrapped in ham and crispy fried mahogany-colored bacon. Lazo's airy masa-wrapped chicken tamales beat the Tamale Guy's; their spicy, tangy tacos al pastor are also notable. The vintage revolving dessert case decked out with gooey strawberry-topped cheesecake and wobbly flan is mesmerizing, but if it's early enough, your sweet tooth is better served across the street at Margie's Candies.

a El Presidente2558 N. Ashland | 773-525-7938

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | BYO

Though other low-priced Mexican places seem to get more attention, El P. is consistently better in almost every respect. Sure, it's just a homely little cafe, but the kitchen believes in flavor as well as value. The "small" menudo was a big bowl full of tripe; huevos with chorizo came with well-spiced sausage, stirred into the eggs in small bits. The extra effort is especially reflected in the sides: the rice seems cooked with chicken stock, and the refried beans have exceptional flavor. Plus, they're smooth and soupy and don't stick to the roof of your mouth like library paste.

El Ranchito2829 N. Milwaukee | 773-227-1688

$ Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday-Sunday till 5, other nights till 2

This cozy Mexican restaurant a few block from the Blue Line stop at Kedzie offers a great boon: it's open till 5 AM Friday through Sunday and till 2 AM other nights. House DJs spin nightly and there's a mariachi band on weekends. The food's nothing to sneeze at either, from a full range of huevos and omelets at breakfast to an even fuller range of Mexican standards—not just burritos and tacos but huaraches, gorditas, and tortas and fillings that include brains and tripe as well as the more standard carne asada, pork, and chicken. Carnitas, pastor, and barbacoa are available by the pint, and El Ranchito delivers.

Restaurant y Pozoleria San Juan1523 N. Pulaski | 773-276-5825

$Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday 24 hours, other nights till 1 | Reservations not accepted | BYO

At Restaurant y Pozoleria San Juan in Humboldt Park, one of the few remaining posole places in Chicago, the hominy soup ($7.75 for a large bowl) is available in the three colors of the Mexican flag: red, the sort seasoned with guajillo chiles and typical of Jalisco, and the green and white varieties more typical of the neighboring state of Guerrero. (If you want pig's foot in your bowl you have to ask for it specifically.) Pedro Aguilar, the owner and sometime cook, serves the hearty dish with baskets of crispy chicharrones (fried bits of pigskin). Apart from the namesake dish, there's classic Mexican from breakfast (huevos rancheros) to dinner (carne asada).

pizza

Chicago's Pizza and Pasta1919 W. Montrose | 773-506-8888

$$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: every night Till 1

Many people opt for delivery, available till 5 AM from this minichain's location on Sheffield, but the Chicago's Pizza on Montrose is bright and comfortable, with outdoor seating that's both dog and kid friendly. Inside the room has nice lighting and a faux artsy ambience. The pizza's just OK, but there are lots of enjoyable and affordable alternatives, like the Mediterranean Chicken Salad, with crispy vermicelli and fresh cilantro, or the pesto veggie sandwich; most come with your choice of soup, salad, or fries. Overall, a pretty good value and decent service and food. The late-late-night location's at 3006 N. Sheffield, 773-755-4030.

Congress Pizzeria2033 N. Milwaukee | 773-235-4455

$Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 2, other nights till 1

Who can resist a cheap, dim, fake-plant-packed hideout that's half bar? Congress charges a pittance for irony-free dishes like steak pizzaiola, marinated in red wine and topped with tomato sauce and a mound of mozzarella; it comes with a perfectly baked potato (scorched on the bottom and still moist inside), soup, and a trip to the salad bar, which serves fresh fruit and cold pepperoni on top of the standard offerings. Service is warm and tailored: young ladies dining alone might be served by a gruff handsome charmer in a three-piece, while moms can expect relief from i bambini in the form of a matron bearing so-so pizza. The pies—in varieties that include taco pizza and the Siciliano Special—come thin, pan, or stuffed, and there are plenty of chicken, pasta, fish, and veal dinners as well, all of which are available for delivery.

Nancy's Original Stuffed Pizza2930 N. Broadway | 773-883-1977

$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 3, other nights till 2

The sign outside says "Originators of the Stuffed Pizza," a claim made by more than one Chicago institution. But who can argue with success? The pie is slow baked ("Please allow 40 minutes," as the dining room's lone server points out every visit) and has a sturdy, straightforward crust and fresh toppings, and the thin crust is no slouch either. But the jewel of the establishment is the chicken tetrazzini, a beyond-hearty assemblage of spaghetti, cream, ham, peas, mushrooms, and chicken that's baked to a golden brown crust on top. Service in the cozy dining room is brusque but attentive, and there are several beers available by the bottle as well as a suitable house Chianti.

Pie Hole739 W. Roscoe | 773-525-8888

$$Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 5, other nights till 3

Pizzas are well crafted at this Boys Town haunt, with fancy-pants toppings on a thinner crust, sort of like at California Pizza Kitchen, only better. Red pesto with sausage is probably most popular—deservedly so—and you can request fresh basil and garlic on top at no charge (the wild mushroom pie is also a good candidate for the garlic). For dessert, if you can still face 'za, there's an apple-and-Brie version that ain't bad.

Pizano's

860 N. State | 312-751-1766

$$Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Saturday till 2, other nights till 1

The pizza at this River North joint was picked by USA Today as one of the nation's top, though locals might easily overlook the place as just another outpost of the Pizzerio Uno dynasty, where owner Rudy Malnati Jr.'s father and brother Lou got their starts. The coolest thing about the room is a bizarre mural that integrates Frank, Marilyn, and Elvis with Jerry Seinfeld, Dennis Miller, and an unrecognizable sixth figure. (So this is where David Lynch gets his pizza.) The dough for the pies is made by octagenarian Donna Marie Malnati, who reportedly devised a special recipe that would distinguish Rudy's pizzas from those of his brother. I couldn't tell the difference, but our deep-dish was much shallower than a Malnati's pie, and the more balanced combination of butter crust, sausage, and tart crushed tomatoes made it less heavy while every bit as tasty.

Pizzeria Due619 N. Wabash | 312-943-2400

F 7.6 | S 6.4 | A 5.6 | $ (5 reports)Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 2:30, other nights till 1:30

This basement-level pizza joint, the smaller of the two Ike Sewell originals, still dishes out hearty deep-dish pies that please locals and tourists alike. Waits can be long and service surly, but the pizza keeps bringing 'em in. Don't bother with anything else on the menu except for the vinegar-heavy salad, which somehow works well with the salty, cheesy pie.

vegetarian friendly

Ambrosia Cafe1963 N. Sheffield | 773-404-4450

$mediterranean | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 3, other nights till 1 | BYO

By day this Lincoln Park spot is an Internet cafe offering smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and house-made soups; by night, a hookah bar with the option to BYO. House specialties show a Mediterranean influence; for example, the toshka, spicy ground beef served on pita or in panini form, or the labne, a yogurt spread seasoned with the spice blend zaatar and served with olives. Sides include hummus, baba ghanoush, and pickled vegetables along with standards like potato salad and chips. Delivery and catering available.

Kafein1621 Chicago, Evanston | 847-491-1621

$Coffee Shop | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 3, other nights till 2| Reservations not accepted

Despite the influx of chain coffee shops in Evanston, this cozy storefront has remained popular with locals and students alike. The room is a hodgepodge of mismatched couches and art-covered wooden tables, and there's a raised area up front for open mike on Monday nights. Its proximity to the Northwestern campus works in its favor, as does the nice assortment of salads, melts, soups, and ice cream concoctions (floats, shakes, sundaes). Multiple vegetarian offerings include chili, a garden burger, and a hummus sandwich.

a Mataam al-Mataam

3200 W. Lawrence | 773-463-0600

$middle eastern | Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours every day | Reservations not accepted | Cash only

Mataam al-Mataam ("Restaurant of Restaurants") has a huge television on the back wall, frequently tuned to Al Jazeera and flanked by pictures of New York (pre-9/11) and Elvis. Breakfast here might be a morning meal of cheese and olives or perhaps "thick cream" (cream on the cusp of curdling into butter, excellent spread on bread). The hummus and baba ghanoush look like identical twins, beige with rivulets of red-brown paprika; both make tasty smears for fresh pita. Vegetable-and-bean soups are hearty and tasty. To drink try yogurt-based laban, a thin, kefirlike beverage. The baklava here is especially good with some of Mataam al-Mataam's strong Middle Eastern tea, thick as a barrel of light, sweet crude.

Pick Me Up Cafe3408 N. Clark | 773-248-6613

$coffee shop | Breakfast, Lunch: saturday-Sunday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: 24 hours Friday & Saturday, other nights till 3 AM | Reservations not accepted

Open nonstop from Friday afternoon through the wee hours on Monday, with shorter hours the rest of the week, this homey cafe serves a varied menu that includes a whole page of coffee drinks; vegan sundaes, shakes, and cakes; and lots of vegetarian options—tofu burritos, a hummus plate, stir-fry. Breakfast is always available, including vegan French toast ("It tasted like a big sticky cinnamon bun, but fluffier," says a Rater) and a dish called the Humboldt County: tofu, mushrooms, spinach, and potatoes. The mazelike layout of the place creates lots of cozy nooks, and there are a few kitschy knickknacks on each table.

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