The Best Late-Night Food in Boston
By GRETA BJORNSON and SOPHIE NUNNALLY
We may be the Hub of the Universe, but—with our early last calls and even earlier subway-service shutdowns—Boston will never be confused for the City That Never Sleeps. Still, for those in need of late-night revelry (and a second dinner to go with it), there are plenty of spots that stay open serving food until midnight and beyond. You just need to know where to look. Ahead, our guide to the 20 best late-night menus in Boston, whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or fluorescent lighting.
Alden & Harlow
Hailed by the likes of Bon Appétit and the Wall Street Journal, Alden & Harlow caters as much to night owls as it does to gourmands with chef Michael Scelfo’s kitchen turning out award-winning small plates until 1 a.m. most nights. You’ll find lighter bites like charred broccoli with butternut squash hummus alongside heartier fare like chips and Scelfo’s addictive three-onion dip. Even after the witching hour, the kitchen maintains its locavore flavor, with such menu mainstays as pickled-corn pancakes (made with produce from Concord’s Verrill Farm) and chicken-fried local rabbit adorned with blue cheese and chili oil.
40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-864-2100, aldenharlow.com.
Freshly made cannoli are always delicious—but for some reason, they taste even better at 4 a.m. Unlike other North End bakeries (and most Boston businesses), Bova’s stays open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with rainbow marzipan cookies, red velvet whoopie pies, and more. The cases can sate savory cravings, too, with options like Buffalo chicken cheese calzones and Sicilian slices. Best of all, you can still snag most pastries for under $4—making this place great for your wallet, but deadly for your diet.
134 Salem St., Boston, 617-523-5601, bovabakeryboston.net.
Cambridge’s only 24-hour restaurant fully commits with both a late-night menu (served between 11 and 11:59 p.m.), a later-night menu (served between midnight and 4:59 a.m.). Breakfast starts at 5 a.m. for the all-nighter crowd. Snack on sides like rosemary fries and falafel made with organic, New England-grown chickpeas, or go in on an Impossible Meatball sandwiches; and sip on drinks like ginger soda or $5 beers.
496 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, cloverfoodlab.com.
Don’t let the rather drab façade of this old-school Southie joint fool you—inside awaits a glorious rainbow of frosted carbs, served up 24/7. Rocking everything from tie-dye purple-and-blue icing to crunchy fruity-pebble cereal, classic Boston cream and jelly-filled doughnuts are here, too. Doughboy keeps the coffee brewing at all hours, and has iced flavors like vanilla and peanut butter. In a city where Dunkin’ occupies nearly every corner, this classic coffee shop holds its own.
220 Dorchester Ave., South Boston, 617-269-7560, doughboydonutsanddeli.com.
It’s not hard to see why this Kenmore Square brasserie is a reliable industry hangout. Second-shifters, tourists, and Sox fans crowd into red-leather booths to soak up the lively ambience, top-notch craft cocktails, and next-level comfort food, from a full-on ribeye to taleggio-smothered fries, served nightly until 1:30 a.m. For added entertainment value, if you time your visit just right, you might catch the staff laboriously hand-writing the late-night specials on the bar mirror.
528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-9100, easternstandardboston.com.
Once upon a time, burrito options south of Washington Street were pretty bleak. So it’s no surprise that SoWa denizens have heartily embraced El Triunfo, where the kitchen stays open as late as 4:30 a.m. some nights, serving up flautas, pupusas, and enchiladas. Detect a distinctly Middle Eastern accent amid the Mexican fare? Indeed, this South End spot is the sister venture of next-door Turkish restaurant Ali Baba—which means you can conclude an evening spent chugging pints at Foley’s with a restorative meal that includes both steak fajitas and baklava.
147 E. Berkeley St., Boston, 617-542-8499, eltriunfo-boston.com.
Boston’s unofficial afterparty headquarters, Tim and Nancy Cushman’s rock-and-roll izakaya serves up munchies and mayhem until 2 a.m. every night. Their flair for high-low comfort food manifests in snacks like the formidable Doggzilla, a cheese-and-jalapeño-laden smoky hot dog fully loaded with bacon, bonito flakes, and kabayaki sauce. Chase away winter chills with bowls of Funky Chicken Ramen (which diners can make as spicy as they please) and warming shots of Japanese whiskey. Rolling with an entourage? Hojoko’s large-format “For The Band” cocktails keep the evening lively.
1271 Boylston St., Boston, 617-670-0507, hojokoboston.com.
This sleek downtown spot adds extra metropolitan polish to Legal Sea Foods—starting with its late-night menu, available until 2 a.m. Post-theater crowds can opt for such New England classics as clam chowder and lobster rolls. But the menu caters to more-progressive palates, too, with Asian-inspired dishes like seared tuna sashimi and smashed cucumbers tossed in a sesame chili vinaigrette. Lest you need an excuse to linger, keep that nocturnal buzz going with a round of “adult profiteroles” made with Eagle Rare bourbon ice cream.
558 Washington St., Boston, 617-692-8888, legalseafoods.com.
Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar
Brought to you by the same folks behind Yvonne’s and Ruka, Lolita’s penchant for drama shines through in dining rooms dripping in chandeliers, red wallpaper, and stained glass. As you take in the gothic décor, order a drink from the impressive array of margaritas, mojitos, and sangrias, while housing sirloin tacos and pork belly carnitas. Prepare to be charmed when the check arrives with a complimentary cotton candy cloud speckled with Pop Rocks—it might even sweeten the blow of the bill.
271 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-369-5609; 253 Summer St., 617-369-0931, Boston; lolitamexican.com.
Lone Star Taco Bar
Don’t mess with Lone Star patrons’ deep and abiding love for the walking taco, that so-wrong-it’s-right combo of spicy beef, cheese, and crema served up in a Fritos bag. After all, exciting things tend to happen when tequila is your muse. Not only does this Tex-Mex hot spot serve its full menu until closing time, but it also busts out some special additions in the later hours, like the epic Sonoran dog: a bacon-wrapped, chipotle-mustard-doused frank with refried beans. Truly, no better midnight meal exists.
635 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 857-285-6179; 479 Cambridge St., Allston, 617-782-8226; deepellum-allston.com/lonestar.
Slay hunger pangs with Moonshine’s internationally inspired street food, served until 1:30 a.m. It includes steak frites; a grilled avocado stuffed with crispy sushi rice, green papaya salad, and honey roasted peanuts; and jalapeño crab rangoons drizzled in spicy honey. Keep the party going with chef Asia Mei’s signature cocktail: Ka-Lychee’s Game, a refreshing mix of calamansi-lemon simple syrup, homemade apple soda, lychee juice, and Żubrówka Bison Grass vodka—with the option to upgrade the fun factor by adding popping lychee boba.
152 Dorchester Ave., Boston, 617-752-4191, moonshine152.com.
For anyone winding through the streets of Fort Point in search of sustenance (or one last round), the warm glow of Pastoral’s dining room is a welcome sight. At this neighborhood favorite, the massive wood-fired oven burns the midnight oil, turning out piping-hot, perfectly blistered pizzas until 1:30 a.m. Be sure to check out what’s on tap—their deftly curated beer list can include rare draft pours from next-door Trillium, and far-flung Italian imports.
345 Congress St., Boston, 617-345-0005, pastoralfortpoint.com.
One surefire way to find a great late-night meal is to figure out where chefs go when their shifts end. Take a cue from Boston’s culinary crowd, and make a beeline for Chinatown, where post-midnight dining options abound—with Peach Farm at the top of the list. Boasting a fan club that includes the likes of Tim Maslow and Ming Tsai, this ever-bustling neighborhood stalwart is celebrated not only for its massive menu featuring hundreds of authentic dishes, but also for its 3 a.m. closing time.
4 Tyler St., Boston, 617-482-3332, peachfarmboston.com.
Your Faneuil Hall crawl doesn’t have to end at the Black Rose. Ravenous weekend revelers can join the raucous scene at Saus, which is ready with superlative fries and more until last call at 2 a.m. The Belgian-inspired menu elevates the humble frite, and no order would be complete without a generous dollop of one (or two) of the 15 signature house-made sauces: Whether you slather those spuds in truffle ketchup, cheddar-ale cheese dip, or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos mayo, you’re on the fast track to drunk-food nirvana.
33 Union St., Boston, sausboston.com.
South Street Diner
What do rock bands, late-shifters, night-owl office workers, and tipsy college students all have in common? They all go to South Street Diner, where the short-order cooks are firing orders 24/7. Inside the neon-swathed confines of this midcentury holdover (originally built in 1947 to serve the hungry workers pouring out of nearby factories), patrons slurp down towering milkshakes, burgers, and platters of griddled French toast morning, noon, and midnight.
178 Kneeland St., Boston, 617-350-0028, southstreetdiner.com.
In a remote corner of Somerville, chef Peter Ungár and crew whip up an ever-changing tasting menu of cutting-edge dishes. For a more impromptu (and less expensive) taste, visit the wine bar between 10 p.m.- 1 a.m. most nights to dazzle your palate with $8 pours of natural wines paired with creative small plates like foraged mushrooms, squab wings, and cherry clafoutis.
14 Tyler St., Somerville, 617-299-6362, tastingcounter.com.
Once upon a time, late nights in Harvard Square meant double cheeseburgers at the Tasty. Though it shuttered in 1997, its passing mourned by many Cantabrigians, there’s another burger joint picking up the mantle. Of Tasty Burger’s five local locations, its Cambridge outpost keeps the latest hours, dishing out mouthwatering patties until 4 a.m. on weekends. Order up! The night’s not over until you’ve scarfed down a Hubba burger, loaded with chili, cheese sauce, and scallions, and a side of tater tots—and maybe a house-made raspberry lime rickey or two.
40 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-425-4444, tastyburger.com.
The Hen House
This South End spot slings Southern fare until 4 a.m. on weekends. While some come for the famous fried-chicken-and-waffle combo, others go for a full spread like a pulled-pork sandwich with homemade coleslaw, a side of cornbread, and an order of collard greens. As the industrial neighborhood is now home to not only the nearby Bully Boy tasting room but also Dorchester Brewing Company and Backlash Beer, a platter of late-night Southern comfort will be an especially welcome sight.
1033 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617-442-9464.
The Tip Tap Room
Back when Beacon Hill was the more-sedate stomping grounds of the Boston Brahmins, you might’ve had trouble snagging a late-night snack in this neighborhood. Luckily, those days are ancient history, with chef Brian Poe’s Tip Tap Room serving up such upper-crust comfort foods as baked Brie, lemon-pistachio risotto, and lamb burgers until 1:30 a.m. nightly. Find your next round here, too, with much-lauded draft options, an intriguing cocktail list, and a deep bench of bourbons. Makes the thought of stumbling up those cobblestone hills in the wee hours of the morning more bearable.
138 Cambridge St., Boston, 857-350-3344, thetiptaproom.com.
Longtime local noodle connoisseurs no doubt remember the early days of Uni and its cult-favorite bowls of late-night ramen. Even now that it’s our top restaurant in the city, Uni hasn’t lost its taste for those umami-laden bowls—nor its night-owl tendencies. Dedicated to its late-night traditions, the restaurant has whittled down its menu to a few crowd favorites served weekends until 1:30 a.m. The ramen is, of course, ever-present, but don’t sleep on the shishito peppers or the foie gras bratwurst.
370A Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-536-7200, uni-boston.com.