(Guest post by The Better Half)
I struggled with a title for this post.
“Drunk Food,” though apt, is too crass.
Yet however you label it, you’ve probably found yourself in the situation on at least a few occasions during your adult life. It’s the weekend. Maybe you don’t have specific plans for the evening, but you feel like celebrating the end of the week, and you just want to get out of the house. So you end up having a few rounds with your significant other and/or friends at your favorite watering hole.
In brief: You’ve been out drinking all night.
It’s now 1 a.m., and you’re hungry. More specifically, you’re craving grease and carbs.
A couple of weeks back, I decided to do a Friday Five list dedicated to this very specific ultra-late-night weekend dining. It turned out not to be as easy as I thought.
- The first hurdle was finding establishments that are reliably open past midnight on weekends. In Cincinnati, this can be no small task. Julie has written more than once about the relative lack of late-night dining options in the area. Most kitchens have begun shutting down by 11 p.m. at the latest. Some places may switch to a special menu of “bar bites” for another hour or two. But by midnight, pickings have become pretty slim.
- Establishments must either be within walking distance or no more than a manageable cab ride away (unless someone in the group has accepted the role of designated driver). Since Julie and I live in OTR, this limits the options to downtown Cincinnati, Clifton, or just across the river to Newport/Covington/Bellevue.
- Since Julie writes very sparingly about chain restaurants, I couldn’t load the list with chains, except for small, locally-based chains. The wmdm editor-in-chief limited me to one non-local chain.
With the aforementioned caveats in mind, following (in no particular order) is my list for post-imbibification sustenance…
- Shanghai Mama’s. God bless Mama. This is my go-to option if I’m seriously hungry. Always open until 3 a.m. on weekends. Extensive menu. I’ve never eaten a bad meal there. My favorite late-night option, especially if the fried-food bug has bitten, is to string together two or three appetizers. At the top of my mix-and-match list are the shrimp tempura (a former “Best Damn Dish” winner at Taste of Cincinnati), fried wontons, spring rolls, and Shanghai dumplings. There are even healthy options available, such as the big brothy noodle bowls, for those who don’t want to totally kill the diet.
- Cafe de Wheels. Food trucks are the greatest, and Cafe de Wheels is my favorite. Lately, CdW can be found most Friday and Saturday nights somewhere in the OTR/downtown area, usually parked just outside or somewhere near popular bars such as Neons or The Drinkery. (It’s not hard to find. Just do a quick check of CdW’s web site via smartphone.) Really good burgers and sandwiches, including a few veggie options. And it’s French fry heaven: regular, sweet potato, feta, and “Funky Fries” (regular fries covered with cheddar and barbecued pork).
- Dixie Chili. This is a favorite for Julie and me. We ate there regularly when we first started dating, and, as a result, it has become our Valentine’s Day dinner choice. In addition to their chili and coney selection, they also do killer waffle fries (my favorite: the chili cheese fries). We’re also fans of their Greek salad with creamy house dressing. Deli sandwiches are also on the menu. The Monmouth Street location in Newport is open until 3 a.m. on weekends and until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.
- Joe’s Diner on Sycamore. Something that fits nicely under the umbrella of this post is breakfast food. Sometimes I want eggs and pancakes rather than burgers and fries. When Joe’s first opened last summer, Julie and I thought the menu was too expansive, that while the food was certainly OK, the place didn’t do anything extremely well. Since then, I’ve warmed up to Joe’s, especially the breakfast items. The pancakes, eggs, and hash browns are actually pretty good. And for late night dining atmosphere, nothing beats a diner. Open until 4 a.m. on weekends.
- White Castle. (My one non-local chain option.) You saw Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle? Remember what those guys went through for a sackful of White Castles? Enough said.
So what are your choices for post-imbibification sustenance?