A's List: Great Late-Night Fare Beyond Burgers & Pizza

Grilled catfish at Kingston Mines is one of many dishes guests may order late night. 
(Photo: Matthew Lowell)

By Audarshia Townsend

There was a time when dining out after hours meant your only choices were burgers, greasy slices of pizza or burritos as big as your head. But as Chicago’s culinary landscape continues to evolve, it’s extended to the late-night crowd. These offerings from trendy and classic establishments are made from scratch, creative and certain to satisfy your cravings.

Dorian’s. It was great to relive our younger years with Saved By The Max - Saved By The Bell Pop Up Shop Diner & Bar, the kitschy Bucktown/Wicker Park sensation that has since moved on to a permanent space in West Hollywood. But now it’s time to grow up again—especially those of us who watched the show in its prime—as the owners have created the more sophisticated Dorian’s in its space. To get to it, you must enter a record store selling the likes of Bessie Smith, David Bowie and Wes Montgomery on vinyl. Dorian’s is an effortless experiment boasting a Michelin starred chef (Brian Fisher of Entente) and incredibly talented music director (Joe Bryl of Funky Buddha Lounge, Sonotheque and Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar fame) kicking out rare groove, experiment jazz, Afrobeat and samba. Most dishes from the Asian-focused menu are shareable, including mushroom wontons, chicken bao and the short rib banh mi. The beverages are fun too, with large-format cocktails like the $70 Cookie Monster—which is served in a cookie jar-inspired container.

HopCat's gastropub menu complements its large selection of craft beers. 
(Photo: HopCat Chicago)

Furious Spoon. You’ll also find a Michelin-starred chef overseeing the menu at this hip-hop inspired ramen joint boasting locations in Logan Square, Wicker Park and Wrigleyville. Shin Thompson is behind the project and menu highlights range from the signature Furious ramen with chashu pork belly, spicy miso, white pepper chicken, "fury" sauce and a poached egg to Holy Cow ramen (chili-infused noodles, spicy beef bone soup, fresno chilies and ground beef and string bean stir fry). There are also cocktails on draft.

HopCat. The from-scratch, gastropub-style food from this Grand Rapids-based operation is meant to match the hundreds of craft beer selections. Most items are also meant to share. Pretzel Nuggz, for example, are flash-fried, salted and served with warm cheese sauce and spicy horsey mustard for dipping. Meat Head pizza rolls are filled with pepperoni, cherry smoked bacon, chorizo and mozzarella. And the signature Crack Fries—beer battered and sprinkled with HopCat's signature cracked black pepper seasoning—may be topped with chili, poutine or sloppy Joseph mix.

Kingston Mines. Since 1968, Kingston Mines has not only served as a Chicago blues institution, but as a worldwide phenomenon. Musicians and tourists from all over visit this Lincoln Park music venue for entertainment 365 days a year. The menu, served late night, offers soul food favorites, including barbecue ribs, fried chicken, red beans and rice, and jalapeno corn bread muffins. While many of the dishes are fried, guests have the option of ordering a few such as catfish and shrimp in other styles. They may order them grilled or blackened. There's a full bar menu.

La Josie's Mexican-focused menu features made-to-order guacamole, ceviche, oven-roasted Amish chicken and more. (Photo: La Josie)

La Josie. Updated Mexican fare is on offer at La Josie, a sleek West Loop lounge and eatery serving food late night. It's one of the area's most popular places to frequent for larger groups because many dishes are share-able. Guests should start off with one of the ceviches, which consist of camaron (tiger shrimp), huachinago (red snapper) and Mahi Mahi. Tacos are the most popular item to order at La Josie. Choose from al pastor (adobo pork), carnitas (baked pork shoulder), grilled Amish chicken or asada (grilled skirt steak). Other shareables include entrees like pollo rostizado of oven-roasted Amish chicken, black beans and Mexican rice or parrillada of grilled skirt steak, chicken breast, house-made chorizo, grilled veggies and rajas poblanos. The beverage menu ranges from a mezcal Old Fashioned to craft beers on draft.

Peach Pit After Dark. Ironside Bar & Galley is the latest Chicago establishment to jump aboard the pop-up restaurant/bar theme. For them, it’s the infamous hangout of the “Beverly Hills, 90201” crew, who turned the cheery diner into an after-hours hot spot during a few seasons of the series. Ironside’s recreation of Peach Pit After Dark features themed dishes and drinks (“Mrs. Teasley’s Mac and Cheese (Order it with lobster because you’re in Beverly Hills, after all!),” “Brandon Walsh Cherry Chocolate Manhattan”), life-sized cutouts of the characters, a deejay spinning music from the 1990s, “90201” episodes playing throughout the space and more. It’s open on the lower level of the bar seven nights a week.

See previous A's List columns right here.