Being a true city, Chicago has plenty of late-night food. On one of my nights there, a buddy took me to The Vig in Old Town after a few beers because it supposedly has an amazing fried chicken sandwich. The trouble is that they don’t have the full menu at night and that limited menu does not include the aforementioned fried chicken sandwich. There was, however, live music to make up for it and a chicken parmesan sandwich that would attempt to quench my hunger for fried fowl.
What do you do when you arrive in Seattle’s Belltown in the middle of the night hungry? Why, head to Hurricane Cafe of course! And why Hurricane Cafe? Because that’s the only place Yelp said was open in walking distance. Seriously, after eating there I can’t think of a better reason to go.
Hurricane Cafe is definitely not lacking in character. It has all the charms of a greasy spoon and with a bar attached has subtle, yet distinct scent of stale beer and vomit.
Shortly after moving to Pittsburgh, my friend and site designer alerted me to the existence of a hot dog place called The Original Hot Dog Shop in Oakland that had been around since 1960, which may not be old for Pittsburgh, but is damn old having come from LA. I like hot dogs and originals, but unbeknownst to me until showing up for lunch was that The Original Hot Dog Shop (also known as the Dirty O) is more of a late-night haunt than a lunch stop. Nonetheless, I wanted a good hot dog and was happy to eat it in a dingy spot with great late-night character in the middle of the day.
After Shanghai, we headed to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors. We landed at night and although it was pretty late, I was a hungry unvegan. I remembered Xi’an having some great late-night street food, but after four years so much had changed in China and I hoped this was not one of them. I took a quick stroll just south of the Bell Tower and found just what I was looking for. While Shanghai had some good street skewer food (none of which I actually had on this trip), it was nothing compared to what could be found in Xi’an.
On stop two of our late-night food binge (after Pommes Frites), we headed to a little pizza shop called Artichoke. Here they specialized in, wait for it, artichoke pizza. Apparently therseI felt uncomfortable just being there, but I was told that this was some of the best pizza in New York. That it quite a claim, and after a stern talking-to, I was convinced to try some of the artichoke pizza, even against my better unvegan instincts.
After a few drinks, our tour guide (aka the girlfriend’s bro) took us to a little hole in the wall called Pommes Frites. Here, they specialized in cones of Belgian fries served with some crazy sauces like Pomegranate Teriyaki Mayo, Irish Curry and more. These seemed all good and well, but I saw something on the menu that tickled my fancy even more: Poutine.
For the uninitiated and un-Canadian, poutine (pronounced pooh-teen) is a gloriously unvegan treat consisting of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. This combination creates something spectacular, yet rarely found south of the Great White North. It had been a long time since I was in Canada and I was with a couple poutine virgins, so we ordered a large one to split for six bucks.
In an area saturated with delicious sliders like Greene’s Hamburgers, I never felt any need to visit White Castle in Michigan. Yet, somehow, on my last visit to my homeland I was convinced to take a drive out to Grand River and 8 Mile Road (yeah the same one that Eminem is from) in Farmington Hills to pay a visit to White Castle. The adventure getting there wasn’t worthy of creating an entire film, but still felt like a hike.
Every once in a while, it’s good that the Taco Bell nearest to me isn’t 24-hours. If it weren’t for that, I never would have gone to Johnnie’s Pastrami and found one of the greatest sandwiches in the world. Located in Culver City, Johnnie’s is open 24 hours and ready to serve a hungry clientele.
I entered with a group of five and we squeezed into a four-person booth. The not-exactly friendly waitress handed us our menus, but I already knew I would be getting the French Dip Pastrami that is featured in Johnnie’s neon sign. I really only looked at the menu to see the price, which was a surprising $10.50 for the sandwich. I guess breaking out of the Taco Bell comfort zone also risks spending more money. I asked the waitress if the sandwich was just the meat and bread, and she said yes. Not even onions. Perhaps I had died and gone to heaven.
The truck isn’t nearly as shiny as Kogi or Nom Nom, but I’ve never felt the need to be served from a shiny establishment. In fact, when I did catch up with the Don Chow truck in Venice, the cheap sign had fallen off and it looked like any other generic taco truck. Good thing my girlfriend noticed a small sign on the front of the truck ensuring us it was Don Chow.
A long night of drinking compelled me to head to Norm’s Diner in West LA. Of course, this decision wasn’t the best I’ve ever made, but my decision of what to eat at Norm’s was a far worse one.
When I walked in the door, their specialty of the night/morning was on display and even a long look at their long menu couldn’t take my mind off of it. The special was a Filet Mignon, with eggs, hash browns and pancakes. Yes, pancakes. Whoever thought of this one was clearly on something that made him happy and delirious. Best of all, it was a whopping 10 bucks.