Since launching registration for the 24-Hour Radio Race, we’ve made a lot of jokes about the suffering it entails — and about how crazy our contestants must be to take on such an ambitious project. But the truth is, we know the Radio Race is a ton of fun. And we actively want you to enjoy yourselves: meet interesting people, share a high-energy day with friends, and soothe your worries with some delicious food when the going gets tough.
The Radio Race is an international affair — for those of you keeping track, we’ve registered racers from six continents, seven countries, and 16 U.S. states — but a few major cities had major representation in last year’s race, and we’ve compiled a list of some critically acclaimed late-night eats for players in and around those cities.
I’ll admit that, in hunting for late-night dining in cities I’ve never visited, I was heavily biased toward restaurants with goofy names. Pancakes on the Rocks certainly qualifies, but a survey of their online menu has left me confident that this small chain has more than whimsy to offer the hungry late-night warrior. Most of their locations close between 10 p.m. and midnight — but if you live near their original restaurant in The Rocks, you can stop in 24 hours a day for pancakes topped with ice cream, grilled bananas, butterscotch sauce, and a veritable cornucopia of other delights. Instagramming these pancakes is required, if you visit.
Yelp reviews of the Infinity Sourdough Bakery typically include the charming directive, “Knock after midnight,” which in my book is enough to warrant a late-night visit in itself. Apparently, bakers working through the night are happy to serve fresh bread and pastries to after-hours passersby; but if you happen to catch them on an off night, you can head around the corner to Cafe Hernandez, where you’ll find horchata, espresso, and two-dollar churros. Cafe Hernandez is a 24-hour affair, so don’t worry about dropping by when your midnight oil has burned right out.
Los Angeles, California:
In my experience, the darkest moment of an all-nighter is the moment when you realize that a) you’re starving and b) you have no time to go out searching for food. LA Cafe understands, and they’re here to help. For a modest fee, you can get LA Cafe’s diner staples delivered to your door at any hour of the day. Keep in mind, though, that they aren’t the only all-night diner in LA by a long shot — Du-par’s Restaurant and Fred 62 are just two of the abundant options awaiting midnight scavengers.
BCD Tofu House has fifteen locations in Los Angeles and its surrounding kingdom; most are open late, and the two in Los Angeles proper (one on Wilshire, one on Western) operate 24 hours a day. If tofu soups and Korean barbecued short rib aren’t enough to lure you out of the house, we have evidence to suggest the Fort Lee location is equipped with a full-fledged playroom. It’s probably intended for diners’ kids, but there’s no harm in stopping by if you get stressed.
If you’re in a position to be visiting Beigel Bake, I assume you’ve already learned that, in the United Kingdom, “beigel” equals “bagel.” While its orthography may be baffling, the premise of Beigel Bake is crystal clear: people love delicious circles of boiled bread, and their appeal increases tenfold when they’re smothered with tuna, sweet corn, chopped herring, and hot salt beef (not all together, necessarily). If you’re looking for fewer thrills with your carbohydrates, you can get yours topped with butter, cream cheese, or smoked salmon.
Duck & Waffle is another restaurant that drew my attention with a funny name, but even a perfunctory glance at their website reveals some quirks worthy of in-person investigation. Considering the conventional expectations that have gathered late-night dining — quick and dirty encounters in a moment of desperation — the Cumbrae oysters, smoked eel, and foie gras creme bruée offered 24/7 at Duck & Waffle seem, frankly, rebellious. We don’t know whether anyone will have time to procure such delicacies in the heat of the competition; but if you do stop by, send us a postcard.
New York City, NY:
Mamoun’s Falafel is both a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Their cheap and utterly satisfying sandwiches confer all the spiritual benefits of a greasy late-night meal without leaving you sick from fried falafel ball residue afterward, and their hummus has rescued me from despair during more than one pathetic marathon paper-writing session.
Empanada Mama won accolades from both Huffington Post and The Village Voice, who agreed it was among New York’s best late-night eats. Founded by a fellow named Socrates Nanas (I know) and boasting more than forty different kinds of empanada (I know), the place seems worthy of reverence regardless of your enthusiasm for their namesake dish. If you’re feeling the “mama” theme and have the good fortune to get hungry early in the evening, you can also stop by Samurai Mama for some house-made udon; they close at 11:30 on Saturdays, but slurping a big bowl of noodles in the evening may still prove helpful in fortifying your soul against the middle-of-the-night blues.
As you may have guessed, I didn’t fly to all these cities to sample their cuisine. So, if you live in one of these cities, let us know: do you love the restaurants we chose? did we miss something amazing? And if your city isn’t represented, but deserves to be, tell us in the comments or on social media where you’ll be going for your midnight snack.