If midnight is the witching hour, then 1 AM is the incredibly-hungry-after-a-long-night-of-work-and/or-partying hour. Since we at Squid Ink believe that ignoring an empty stomach is a sin, no matter what the time of day, we offer you this list of Top 10 late-night eating spots in Los Angeles. Are they in any particular order? They are not. Late-night eating is seriously subjective, governed by illogic and hunger and gin, not Letterman-style countdowns. Happy eating, nocto-gourmets.
1. El Chato Taco Truck; On the busy corner of Olympic and La Brea, El Chato has been serving bite-sized, one-dollar tacos, quesadillas, and burittos to famished cross-town drivers and taco aficionados way before Kogi was even a concept. Be sure to try the el pastor, carne asada, and lingua tacos. Parks on the corner of La Brea and Olympic .
2. Pacific Dining Car: A steakhouse that's open for twenty-four hours a day? That may seem like crazy talk to early risers. But for overnight hospital staff and the twilight crowd noshing on steak and eggs, brioche French toast, and a juicy rib eye in the renovated dining car—it's just what the doctor ordered. Literally. 1310 West 6th St., Los Angeles; (213) 483-6000 and 2700 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 453-4000.
3. Animal: Want to spot your favorite chef and food celebrities shamelessly gorge themselves on pork products after a long day of service? Swing by Animal after 1 a.m. on any Saturday night and you'll be sure to witness starved restaurant pros gobbling from plates of poutine (fries drowned in oxtail gravy and cheese), basalmic glazed pork ribs, and melted petit basque with chorizo. Numerous bottles of beer and tres leches cakes will be consumed. Don't expect good manners. Open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 pm Sunday through Thursday.435 N Fairfax Ave.; (323) 782-9225.
4. Damiano's Mr. Pizza: Considering Los Angeles' recent pizza revolution, Mr. Pizza isn't necessarily the place you patronize in order to taste a gourmet Italian pie. But when it's 2 am and you're craving carbs, this Fairfax pizza joint is the place to be. Gourmet nighthawks can take the edge off with one of the many imported beers in their locked case. Pizza dough can be made thin or thick. Pick your toppings or stick to the classics. Open until 3 a.m.. 412 North Fairfax Avenue; (323) 658-7611.
5. La Estrella: Thank God for the twenty-four hour joints. Were it not for their staff's sheer stamina and ability to face a constant loop of service (no small feat), many of our city's nocturnal men and women would never get fed. It could be estimated that the most appreciative souls of this unending commitment to service are fellow restaurant professionals. Maybe that's why many of LA's chefs stop by La Estrella for BBQ pork after a long night at the stove. 6103 North Figueroa Street; (323) 982-0179.
6. Palms Thai: Home to the famed Thai Elvis, Palms Thai serves dishes like barbeque squid, red curry with coconut milk, spicy beef tripe soup, Kee Mao noodles, and main entrees that showcase exotic meats like deer, frog and wild boar. Once a favorite location of our own Jonathan Gold for giving out-of-town guests a ringside seat to the clash of Thai traditions and Hollywood culture. Serving until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 5900 Hollywood Boulevard; (323) 462-5073.
7. In-N-Out: There are so many reasons to love this burger chain. In-N-Out's hand-cut potato fries, thick shakes, and well-packaged double doubles make eating on the cheap seem downright gourmet. But what we love most—especially after a long night of drinking—is In-N-Out's ability to maintain a sense of pride in their product no matter how many drunken customers, hungry clubbers, and graveyard shift workers burst through the doors for a late night dose of grease and meat. Open Sunday through Thursday 10:30 a.m.-1:00 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Chose your location.
8. Canter's Deli: It takes a lot of chutzpah to keep a restaurant open for twenty-four hours. Ever since moving to the Fairfax neighborhood in 1948, Canters Deli has fed their customers breakfast, lunch, and dinner at any time of the day. Scan the menu for comfort foods like stuffed kishka, Matzo ball soup, Reuben sandwiches, or a Thanksgiving Dinner plate with turkey and all the trimmings. Oh, and if you've had an extremely long night of debauchery, be sure to avoid stealing glances at the patterned ceiling tiles. The view is trippy, regardless the hour. 419 N Fairfax Ave.; (323) 651-2030.
9. Pink's Famous Hot Dogs, Travel the La Brea corridor through Hollywood and you have more than likely done a double take to see the epic line that wraps around this 70-year old hotdog stand. Join the late night hotdog crowd until 2 a.m. during the week, and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Blocked screenwriters happily join the late night procession for bacon chili cheese dogs in search of good dialogue. 709 North La Brea Avenue; (323) 931-4223.
10. SK's Donuts: While the fad of the speakeasy is nearing the edge of passé, there remains an undeniable sexiness about the locked front door and side alley window where smiling employees slip pink boxes filled with warm donuts into eager hands. A 24-hour donut shop may not be revelatory, but the donuts at SK's are. A haunting example of fried perfection, the plain donut showcases its billowing interior and fried golden crust. A sugar-dusted and simple glazed donut have a wispy dough that's crush-between-your-fingers satisfying. Who needs dinner when there are donuts like these? 5850 W 3rd St.; (323) 935-2409.