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Late-Night Dining Options, Manhattan (mostly below midtown)

(This is another in a series of notes to myself.)

Original articles at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/18/dining/18lbox.html and

Saved behind the cuts because the NYTimes expires its articles.

Late-Night Dining Options

Published: October 18, 2006

FOLLOWING are some recently available late-night dining opportunities in Manhattan, and some standbys:


DITCH PLAINS 29 Bedford Street (Downing Street); (212) 633-0202. Try the lobster roll.

LA ESQUINA 106 Kenmare Street (Cleveland Place); (646) 613-7100. The taqueria is open until 5 a.m. daily; the restaurant is open until 2 a.m., but the last reservation for the restaurant is at 11:30 p.m.

LANDMARC 179 West Broadway (Worth Street); (212) 343-3883. Try the hanger steak, bloody.

MARU 11 West 32nd Street; (212) 273-3413; open until 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 3 a.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

MOMOFUKU SSAM BAR 207 Second Avenue (13th Street); (212) 254-3500. Late-night menu from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Try rice cakes with pork sauce, an Asian answer to pasta bolognese.

PASTIS 9 Ninth Avenue (Little West 12th Street); (212) 929-4844; Friday and Saturday until 2:45 a.m.

SPOTTED PIG 314 West 11th Street (Greenwich Street); (212) 620-0393. Try the pickle plate if you’re nibbling, the burger for a bit more.


’INOTECA 98 Rivington Street (Ludlow Street); (212) 614-0473. Try the Italian tea sandwiches called tramezzini.

SAKE BAR HAGI 152 West 49th Street, lower level; (212) 764-8549.

SUSHI SEKI 1143 First Avenue (62nd Street); (212) 371-0238. Closed Saturdays and Sundays. Try the omakase, and eat whatever you’re served.

THOR 107 Rivington Street (Essex Street); (212) 796-8040. Open until 3 Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Try crispy cod sticks with malt vinegar foam.


BLUE RIBBON 97 Sullivan Street (Spring Street); (212) 274-0404. Try beef marrow and oxtail marmalade.

EMPLOYEES ONLY 510 Hudson Street (Christopher Street); (212) 242-3021. Try the “Staff Meal,” a special that may be goulash one night and a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup the next.

FATTY CRAB 643 Hudson Street (Gansevoort Street); (212) 352-3590. Open until 4 Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Try watermelon pickle and crispy pork salad.

MAS (FARMHOUSE) 39 Downing Street (Bedford Street); (212) 255-1790. Try as much American hackleback caviar as you can afford.

NEW YORK NOODLETOWN 28½ Bowery (Bayard Street), (212) 349-0923. Open until 4 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

RESTAURANT FORTE BADEN BADEN 28 West 32nd Street, second floor; (212) 714-2266. Open until 3 Monday through Thursday nights; to 4 Friday and Saturday nights; to 1 Sunday night. Try sautéed pig’s feet with vegetables.


SAM TALBOT’S PUSHCART Southeast corner of Stanton and Ludlow Streets, Lower East Side, 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Try the kalbi burger with kimchi.

Dinner, With Dawn as a Chaser

Published: October 18, 2006

UNDER a nearly full moon, a small crowd was clustered around a street cart that spewed charcoal-scented smoke into the night air. It was 4:30 in the morning, and customers were clamoring for the kimchi hot dogs, kalbi burgers and other Korean-accented bites that Sam Talbot, the cart jockey, was dishing out on the Lower East Side.

Once the glassy-eyed gentleman in line ahead of me had secured a marinated and grilled short rib sandwich, agreeing enthusiastically to Mr. Talbot’s offers of additional kimchi, he turned to his more lucid companion and asked, “What is this?”

But such late-night revelers, out to blot up the evening’s sins with whatever sustenance is at hand, aren’t the only ones looking for dinner after dinnertime. Scores of more sophisticated diners — many of them the cooks, waiters and workers who make the city’s restaurants run — are out on the streets around midnight and later.

Some notable restaurants that have opened in the past couple of years keep hours that cater to the late, late crowd, and this fall even more places will let you sit down to dinner well into the morning.

Momofuku Ssam Bar, which opened in the East Village last month, serves a full dinner menu from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. five nights a week. When Marc Murphy opens Landmarc in the Time Warner Center he will stay open until 2 a.m., just as he does at his downtown restaurants Landmarc and Ditch Plains. And Columbus Circle diners won’t be limited to just one late-night option when Bruce and Eric Bromberg’s first uptown venture, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill, opens on West 58th Street.

Each restaurateur has his own reasons for drizzling the midnight oil. But all share an affinity for the crowds, customs and vibe of the late-night scene.

Sam Talbot said he left restaurant kitchens for street corners to get closer to his customers and because he’s a “super-late-night type of guy.”

Thomas Wilson said he and his partners at Mas (farmhouse), a luxurious little new American nook of a restaurant in the West Village, wanted to open a place that offered fine dining until 4 o’clock every morning.

“What happens when the prep cook, who has been working over a hot stove all night, finally works up the courage to ask out the beautiful hostess, and she says yes?” he said, sketching out a romantic, if hypothetical, reason to keep his restaurant open so late. “We wanted there to be an elegant place for them to go.”

A few weeks ago a friend and I tried to hash out which of the restaurant’s American caviar offerings we preferred. A moment after we had settled on the hackleback, our waiter visited the table and cheerily concurred. Then, with the same white-gloved grace he had shown during the entire meal, he told us that since it was nearly 4, it was our last chance to order another glass of the wine we had been drinking, which was far too nice for the hour.

Beyond hypothetical line cooks and well-heeled waiters, Mr. Wilson said, the late-night crowd is made up of musicians, travelers just in from Los Angeles and “all kinds of people who don’t have to wake up at 8 a.m.”

I met a member of the last category, a 20-something blonde named Kitty Lyons, during a late dinner at the Spotted Pig. She had left her job at Condé Nast the week before and was hanging out at the Spotted Pig because she found that dining alone at the bar allowed her to meet “some of New York’s most interesting people.”

We left and drank and ate our way through a couple of more restaurants, and she eventually carried on her evening in the company of a man named Spanky Van Dyke. They ended up, I later learned, at the original Blue Ribbon in SoHo, where they drank Veuve Clicquot and downed oysters.

Some restaurateurs have less romantic reasons than Mr. Wilson’s for getting into the late-night game.

David Chang, for example, recently opened his second restaurant, Momofuku Ssam Bar, where he offers a limited quick-serve menu until 10 p.m. Then, from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. the restaurant turns into a chefs’ collaborative of sorts, where he and his co-chefs serve an odd but rewarding mix of dishes that might include a whole roasted pork shoulder Korean style, a veal’s head terrine and an uppity take on the corn dog.

Why wait so late to roll out the good stuff?

“It’s a built-in better clientele,” Mr. Chang said.

“You don’t have the tourists, the babies crying, the people who need their food cut up for them,” he continued. “You get people who like to eat. Gourmands, industry folks. The only drawback is you might get the drunkards, but then again, I’m one of them.”

Mr. Chang went on about how it’s not unusual for Korean-Americans to go out drinking and eating until all hours. Mr. Talbot came up with his Korean-accented menu because he associates Korean cooking with “being up all night, with drinking and everything.”

A cursory late-night stroll through Koreatown does plenty to confirm that association: the sidewalks are as crowded with young people smoking at 1 in the morning as they are with office workers at 1 in the afternoon. Restaurants like the beer-hallish Forte Baden Baden and karaoke lounges like Maru — places that are a flight or two above 32nd Street in Midtown and are closed during the day — are quiet at 8 and bustling after midnight.

Bustling late-night dining is, of course, not limited to Korean restaurants or fancy downtown spots. A number of restaurant industry folks frequent the Cantonese restaurant New York Noodletown in Chinatown for its late scene. Mr. Chang likes it because, he said, “It’s the only place you can see little kids eating snails at 3 in the morning.”

Snack Dragon Taco Shack, which recently moved around the corner from a shanty attached to a deli on Avenue B to a permanent space on East Third Street, dishes out Americanized Mexican food until 4 on Friday and Saturday nights. Many Japanese izakayas, like Sake Bar Hagi, do a brisk business in 1 a.m. dinners. Sushi Seki, a top-quality sushi restaurant on the Upper East Side, stays open until 3 to serve late-night customers looking for a raw-fish fix, occasionally including the chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

And unlike the patrons at the Spotted Pig and La Esquina — which are bursting at the seams until they kick everyone out at 2 — the bulk of the late-night customers at these places are eating, not just drinking.

La Esquina claims to keep its street-level taqueria open until 5 a.m. nightly, although on one recent Sunday morning I found it shuttered at just after 4. At the time I thought it was understandable: it wasn’t busy, so it closed early.

But to the proprietors of other late-night spots trying to cultivate a crowd of regulars, closing early is the kiss of death.

Jason Denton, whose restaurant ’Inoteca is routinely packed with people guzzling Italian wine and picking at cheese plates until it closes at 3 a.m., said he spent countless nights alone from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at ’Ino, his first restaurant, when it opened, but that he never, ever closed early.

“When I moved here 12 years ago I was so enamored with Blue Ribbon’s consistency,” he said, referring to the SoHo restaurant that is the 800-pound, 45-seat gorilla of late-night eating. (Nearly everyone interviewed for this article is or has been a regular at Blue Ribbon.) Even if the restaurant was empty, Mr. Denton said, it was open. Blue Ribbon taught him that if he wanted diners to count on his restaurants in the small hours, he had to keep them open consistently.

Beyond staying open, there doesn’t seem to be a formula for the kind of menu that draws diners late at night. Raw oysters are consumed in prodigious quantities across the city after midnight: in towering fruits de mer platters at Blue Ribbon, with watermelon gelée at Momofuku Ssam Bar, alongside caviar at Mas. It seemed that every other table had a dozen of them at Pastis at 2 in the morning one recent weekend. (Pastis is, by the way, a far saner, more enjoyable and romantic spot after 1 a.m. than it is anytime earlier in the evening.)

Some places offer an abbreviated version of the regular dinner menu, often rounded out with a few comfort food dishes. One of them, Thor, which added late-night hours, serves an almost entirely different menu after 11 — one heavier on the ranch dressing and chicken pizza than its more hoity-toity regular dinnertime offerings.

Jason Kosmas, an owner of Employees Only on Hudson Street, where he also tends bar, said he serves mostly oysters and steak tartare around midnight, when postdinner drinking might have sparked a hunger for a light bite at night’s end to take the edge off morning. But as the evening pushes on, the party winds down and the threat of tomorrow becomes all the more tangible, heavier dishes like the restaurant’s tinga — poached chicken in a tomato-chipotle sauce — are the most popular.

And though some places, like Mas or Fatty Crab, are only sparsely populated at closing time, Employees Only is frequently packed with a roomful of people who wouldn’t mind one more for the road. So Mr. Kosmas and his partners have devised a plan to help them leave quiet and satisfied: a 4 a.m. coffee cup of chicken soup on the house for, as Mr. Kosmas calls them, “all the survivors.”

“They get something for free, which keeps them from complaining,” he said. “And then they leave happy.”

And if not, they still have a hour to get over to the Lower East Side and grab one of Mr. Talbot’s kimchi hot dogs before he packs up shop and rolls his cart off into the morning light.
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