No more drive-thrus: Better late night eats for the weary and famished

THE Flameburger.

THE Flameburger. Star Tribune

No shade (at all) but Taco Bell can't be the only Fourth Meal out there. Lots of people get done with work in the wee hours and are hungry.

It’s lovely that Bar La Grassa serves its incomparable orange gnocchi so late, and Nightingale offers oysters until the wee hours… but lots of people need meals at that hour, day after day. They’re not looking to dine. Outside Lyn-Lake's clutch of bar-restaurants that can spiral into chaos at any given moment, and grabbing a Heggie's from Super America Speedway, where do the hungry masses turn? 

After years of practice, this contingent of the Twin Cities has developed its own way of staying fed consisting of local, non-chain gems many folks don't even consider. Everyone else, It’s time to broaden those horizons beyond your average drive-thru. 


Flameburger / Mickey’s Diner

Columbia Heights’ greasy spoon has a cult following among certain restaurant industry folk who love a pilgrimage. Some would argue its cuisine is a cut above St. Paul’s legendary diner immortalized by Emilio Estevez and a young Joshua Jackson in a hockey film we won’t bother naming. Both serve burgers, fries, pancakes, hashbrowns, and pounds of butter. Both make patrons feel like they’ve warped into a Rockwell or Hopper painting, depending on the temperature of the room. We’re not going to make you choose a team because, in all likelihood, you probably already have. Mickey’s Diner: Open 24 hours daily, 36 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; Flameburger: Open 24 hours daily (except closed from 2 p.m. Sunday through 6 a.m. Monday), 4800 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights.

A Slice of New York

Whittier’s underrated by-the-slice pizza shop is so much more than anyone could expect from the outside. It’s a temple of affordable red sauce comfort—and the perfect dessert. Tables are decked out in those quintessential plasticized red-and-white checkered tablecloths found in all 1970s Italian joints, walls are lined in Godfather movie posters, and televisions blare a sport re-run or (literally) The Godfather. Slice’s tired, huddled masses leave carrying pieces of ‘za ranging from pepperoni to buffalo chicken, plus calzones and stromboli, gyros, wings, baklava, and more. Open until 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, closes at midnight all other nights, 2407 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.

Peking Garden

Crouching alongside the Office Max in the strip mall behind Allianz Field, Peking Garden is open late and has what you’ll need to survive the night—whether it be that particularly rough shift you just finished, or whatever show you abandoned at the Turf Club. Their spicy Singapore Rice Noodles and variants on chicken wings come highly recommended, no matter whether you choose to dine in or house them while sitting on a curb under a streetlight, before riding bike home in the last of these gorgeous autumn nights. Open until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, closes at midnight all other nights, 1488 University Ave. W., St Paul.

A specialty hot dog from Tilt featuring tzatziki sauce, roasted red peppers, and chickpeas on pita.

A specialty hot dog from Tilt featuring tzatziki sauce, roasted red peppers, and chickpeas on pita. Instagram / Tilt Pinball

Tilt Pinball Bar

Tilt wants to meet all your dietary restrictions with their deep menu of quick, easy, fancy hot dogs slung from the bar. The Herbivorous Butcher provides the option to sub in a vegan sriracha brat for an all-beef dog or pork brat, which makes vegetarian and vegan options proliferate well into the witching hour. Need a gluten-free bun? They’ve got that department covered, too. Build your own fancy dog, or fall in love with the Don Pickles (pastrami spice, cream cheese, and sliced dill pickles) all over again before dunking your chips in some Super Bowl-worthy dips. Tired of being around people? Grab your feast to go, no questions asked, and be out the door in mere minutes. Kitchen open until 1 a.m. daily, 113 E. 26th St #110, Minneapolis.

Taqueria La Hacienda

Here’s the thing: To get to Taqueria La Hacienda, you’ll have to face Taco Bell staring at you from right across East Lake like a dare. And sure, TBell doesn’t make you get out of your car, but only La Hacienda has both horchata and three made-to-order variations of Tacos Arabes—Puebla’s specialty version of tacos involving kebab-style meat roasted and shaved atop small flour tortillas and dressed with grilled onions, melted cheese, and chipotle sauce. Choose chicken, steak, or (the original, best) al pastor varieties. Open 24 hours Friday through Sunday, close at midnight on weekdays.

Insomnia Cookies

You know what makes everything awful feel better? Milk and warm cookies. Even more so? Milk and warm cookies brought to you in the dead of night. Insomnia Cookies’ audience is squarely the fledgling youth attending the University of Minnesota (whose campus constitutes their entire delivery area), most of whom are strung out on either knowledge or… miscellaneous substances, and simply crave something a little sweet in the wee hours, okay? Insomnia Cookies quite literally delivers what they’re jonesing for, but anyone from any walk of life can trek to their Dinkytown headquarters to get a fix should your mixer or stove or internal give-a-shit happen to be broken. Open until 3 a.m. daily, 402 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis.


Okay we lied. We’re going to make one exception to the drive-thru rule, and it’s because 24 hours a day, Hardee’s is there for you with its smiling, glimmering star, beckoning from I-94 with promises of a milkshake and curly fries whenever you need either. Well, technically the breakfast menu makes curly fries and milkshakes off limits for a few hours starting at 6 a.m. But if you haven’t eaten or gone home by then, you’ll probably be in some kind of trouble. Secondly, a multitude of breakfast options has just become available to you. Open 24 hours daily, 369 Hamline Ave. N., St Paul.


Seriously… go to bed already. When you wake up? Make (or find) some eggs.