Around last call at the bars is when the talk starts. Someone mentions that 24-hour diner down the street and before you know it, you’re halfway through a plate of french fries, hoping the carb overload will soak up some of the drunk. And yet, even though the greasy spoon’s food is mediocre at best, at that moment, it’s the best thing to hit your taste buds in days.
I’m not sure what propels us toward high-calorie food after a night of high-calorie beverages, but I do know that most of us tend to base our late-night eats on the same three factors—convenience, cheapness, and the greasier, the better. In the light of day, these choices might make us feel bad about ourselves (and worried about our cholesterol levels), but when the drunken munchies hits, all bets are off.
At 2 a.m., few things sound better than a hot slice of pizza on a white paper plate, doused in red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese. Simple and satisfying, plus it requires little effort or thought—very important at 2 a.m. Photo: su-lin (cc)
2. Hot Dogs
In San Francisco, hot dog vendors parked near bars wrap their products in bacon for that extra grease factor. But whether they come in hot dog, brat, or sausage form, meat tubes in a bun remain a popular drunken snack. Photo: inuyaki.com (cc)
I’m not talking a bowl of cereal or fruit and yogurt—I mean over-stuffed omelets, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, sausage and bacon, and other greasy brunch fare that hits the spot. Photo: adactio (cc)
A pile of starchy goodness is just what our bodies need in the throes of inebriation, or so we tell ourselves as we stumble toward that late-night ramen or pho joint. Pho’s also what many people opt to eat (if they can stomach anything) when hung over. There must be something magical in that broth … Photo: phigonggoi (cc)
There’s a reason fast food places get so crowded in the wee hours of the night (besides their late hours, of course). Their hamburgers are delicious—or taste that way to your liquored-up senses—and come with handy wrappers that prevent said burger from spilling on your lap. Photo: VirtualErn (cc)
Given the popularity of IHOP, Waffle House, and other breakfast-specific restaurants past 2 a.m., waffles deserve their own place on this list. Personally, sweets don’t appeal to me when I’m drunk, but I’ve heard enough people speak fondly of drunken waffle runs to include it on the list. Photo: pointnshoot (cc)
7. French Fries
If you’ve gone drinking with me, you’ve probably had french fries with me. Hash browns fall into this category, too. They’re what I crave the most after a night out and I know I’m not alone. To be honest, I never don’t want fried potatoes, but they seem to taste even better as a dessert after too many drinks. Photo: evelynishere (cc)
8. Burritos and Tacos
These require a little more skill to eat than the rest of the items, since one wrong bite spills the contents onto the plate or worse, the floor. But the combination of beans, rice, and hot tortillas is so satisfying to the stomach, it’s worth the addled brain effort. Photo: rick (cc)
9. Chips and Pretzels
When all else fails, a bag of chips or pretzels won’t do you wrong. It’s affordable, portable, and the salty flavor is especially enjoyable after a few beers (or in conjunction with them). Photo: Lars K. Jensen (cc)
10. Whatever’s in the Fridge
I’ve seen my friends work some amazing magic in the kitchen after leaving the bars. With a little open-mindedness and alcohol-fueled confidence, even the lousiest of cooks can pull together a late night snack with what he’s got on hand, even if it’s nothing but potato chips, Kraft American cheese, and hot sauce.Photo: Robyn Gallagher (cc)
After filling our bodies with poison for a couple of hours, it seems natural that we try to balance it with real food. Of course, whether hamburgers from Mickey D’s or pancakes from IHOP could be considered “real food” is debatable, but at 2 a.m., we have to take what we can get. Besides, after overdoing the alcohol, might as well hit up that greasy spoon and continue the poor-nutrition party. At least until someone opens a 24-hour salad bar.