Good morning, sunshine. Did you have a long night? I hope not; it's only Thursday. Get ahold of yourself, man. Those long nights should be reserved for Friday and Saturday wee-small-hours-of-the-morning-type deals; mid-week debauchery is so 1990s.
Regardless of when you're staying up super late (or why), Houston's increasing number of late-night dining options are affording you more choices than ever in 3 a.m. pancakes or midnight po-boys. It wasn't so long ago that you had to pick from a short roster of places -- most of them with the word "House" in their name somewhere -- to satisfy late-night/early-morning cravings, but that's not the case anymore.
Of course, spots like Waffle House, House of Pies, the International House of Pancakes (see what I mean?) and Whataburger are still as great as ever when you really need to have a short stack and grits at 2 a.m. -- but if diner food isn't calling your name late at night, here are our 10 (okay, more like 16) picks for the best spots to satisfy that witching hour craving.
These two Montrose mainstays may not serve the best food in town, but they can't be beat for late-night people watching up and down Westheimer. The cheesecake milkshakes and noodle kugel at Katz's are terrific for soaking up booze, while an omelet from Theo's will shake out the cobwebs early in the morning.
This Midtown classic was many Houstonians' first encounter with Vietnamese food. And 34 years after opening, it's still the most reliable spot in the area to get a midnight meal of pho and spring rolls (or watch the girls spilling out of area clubs stumble around awkwardly on tired, be-heeled feet as their eyes readjust to the light). And on the other side of Midtown, relative newcomer Majorca is a fun change-up from diner food with its menu of tapas and other Spanish favorites (like the albondigas with a fried egg on top that will perk up even the weariest diner).
9. Copacabana Pizzeria Open until: 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 p.m. the rest of the week
It can be tough to find good late-night options this far outside the Beltway, but Brazilian-Italian joint Copacabana Pizzeria (formerly known as Friends Pizzeria before it relocated to its new home a few months ago) has everything from rum-soaked caipirinhas (now that it finally has its liquor license) to wonderfully messy X-tudo burgers. And -- of course -- pizzas, topped with anything from basic pepperoni to Brazilian specialties like soft, savory catupiry cheese. And if you go on a Saturday night, prepare to spend an evening surrounded by lively (and live) Brazilian music.
8. Max's Wine Dive Open until: 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, midnight the rest of the week
Max's would be higher on the list if only its 2 a.m. closing time extended to the rest of the week -- can you imagine being able to get chef Michael Pellegrino's fried chicken or beef belly meatballs on duck fat biscuits at all hours of the night? As it is, being able to dine at Max's past midnight on the weekends is still pretty cool.
These two GOOF-y spots (that's Garden Oaks-Oak Forest to the uninitiated) are located practically right next door to each other off Shepherd, and both offer great food and excellent craft beer late into the evening. Although it's too new to say how Cottonwood's food will ultimately fare, I was seriously impressed with a plate of late-night jerk chicken wings one recent night. And the slightly upscale pub grub at Shepherd Park Draught House -- especially the burgers -- is reliably good stuff.
6. Steak 'N' Shake Open until: the cows come home (it's a 24-hour joint)
I, for one, was excited to welcome Steak 'N' Shake to Houston when it opened its FM 1960 location earlier this year. Back when I had to travel a lot to for work to some very small, very unlikeable towns, the trim and chipper local Steak 'N' Shake was often my only bastion of sanity -- particularly late at night, when I was feeling lonely and bored in my Super 8 motel room. There are now four locations scattered throughout Houston (one in Katy, one in Pearland and one in Webster) and all are trusty spots to get a cheerful midnight milkshake or burger in parts of town where Denny's or IHOP may otherwise be your only options.
5. Genji Open until: 2 a.m. every night of the week
Genji recently relocated from the same Westheimer strip center that also housed Friends Pizzeria to a new Westchase spot, but kept the same late hours. It's still the most reliably awesome karaoke in town (complete with binder of songs that's labeled "Engrish songs by title" unironically) as well as the best spot to get a late-night meal of udon, katsudon or a Japanese omelet covered in ketchup. (Don't knock it till you've tried it.)
4. Onion Creek Open until: 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday, midnight the rest of the week
Onion Creek Coffee House, Bar & Lounge (its full Christian name) is practically open all the time, starting with breakfast at 7 a.m. and ending most nights at 2 a.m. It's the living room of the Heights, with a cozy interior that's reminiscent of a hipster hunting lodge and a sprawling patio that's usually packed at all hours, so you never have to drink (or eat) alone. The Frito pie is reason alone to go, however, topped with creamy squiggles of cool sour cream and spicy pickled jalapenos in addition to the cheese and chili.
Sometimes the only thing that will set you right is a plate of cheese enchiladas or a handful of fluffy flour tortillas with some sirloin steak stuffed inside. And both of these Tex-Mex stalwarts will take care of those cravings 24 hours a day. Chacho's has a drive-thru -- handy if you're on the way home -- and a remarkably pleasant patio that's akin to a Taco Cabana on steroids. Spanish Flowers, meanwhile, only takes one break a week from serving customers: It closes at 10 p.m. on Tuesday before reopening on Wednesday at 9 a.m.
2. Pho Binh by Night / Fu Fu Cafe (tie) Open until: 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, midnight the rest of the week (Pho Binh) Open until: 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; 2 a.m. the rest of the week (Fu Fu)
It used to be that the Chinatown go-to for late-night dining was Tan Tan. And while it's still a strong contender for the list, you can get far better food at both Pho Binh by Night and Fu Fu Cafe. Pho Binh is an offshoot of the immensely popular Pho Binh trailer in south Houston -- owned by the very same family, so you know the pho is still every bit as amazing -- while Fu Fu Cafe offers what many Houstonians consider to be the city's best soup dumplings...if there are any left at 4 a.m., that is.
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1. BB's Cafe Open until: 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday (Montrose location), 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday (Heights and Greenway Plaza locations), midnight the rest of the week
Whether at the original Montrose location or the conveniently located Heights spot across the street from Fitzgerald's, BB's Cafe currently has the market cornered on late-night dining. Where else in town can you get a po-boy this good this late at night? There are only a handful of places that rival BB's Cafe in the daylight hours as it is. And BB's knows that late-night diners are its bread and butter, offering amazing morning-to-night concoctions like breakfast po-boys like the Morning Glory po-boy filled with scrambled eggs, queso, fajita beef and BB's sauce. What else could any Houstonian ask for at 2 a.m. that doesn't come with a pillow and comforter?