By Frank Sabatini, Jr. / Photos by Paul Body
Even when it's late, you gotta eat great, no matter where the night takes you. So, as the witching hour approaches (as it's bound to do at some point in October), check out the county's bounty of full-service restaurants keeping their stoves ignited into the wee hours.
Night & Day Café
847 Orange Ave., Coronado
(Kitchen open all night on Fridays and Saturdays; until 1 a.m., Sunday through Thursday)
This teeny café has been feeding islanders griddle grub well into the night since 1927. Thanks to its graveyard menu, Coronadoans need not growl across the bridge into San Diego for a late meal. The Garbage Omelet is a doozy. It's made with four eggs, ham, chili, veggies and two types of cheese. Another, called The Porker, envelops the big three: bacon, sausage and ham. In addition to breakfast fare, the fryers come alive for Buffalo wings, zucchini sticks and other victuals that go crunch in the night.
Turf Supper Club
1116 25th St., Golden Hill
(Kitchen open until 1 a.m., daily)
Passing through Turf Club's campy, green, windowless façade means entering an indoor cookout, where customers unite around a central gas grill that burns past midnight. Steaks, chicken breasts and spicy sausages arrive raw from the kitchen before patrons put their spatula skills to work. The meals are consumed at the bar or in Naugahyde booths, oftentimes to resurrected jukebox tunes by The Yard Birds, Etta James and Bob Dylan.
3843 Richmond St., Hillcrest
(Kitchen stays open until 3 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays; until 2 a.m., Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; until 10 p.m., Mondays and Tuesdays.)
Located one door away from The Alibi bar, where nary a nibble is served, Amarin fills the void with an array of Thai specialties served late by hospitable waitresses dressed in tailored silk. Common to these linen-draped tables are flaming hot pots of Tom Kah soup, minty pork larb and large filets of swai fish mantled in herbs, apples and spicy chilies. The menu also spotlights the usual suspects such as colored curries, drunken noodles and pad Thai.
828 6th Ave., Gaslamp
The lights never go out at Brian's 24, which greets late arrivals from downtown bars and nightclubs with sobering doses of house-made corned beef hash, pesto chicken wraps, tuna melts, egg dishes, you name it. If your sweet tooth nags, look no further than the s'mores pancakes; or the outrageous triple-decker PB&J cream cheese club made with peanut butter and two types of preserves, all layered between thickly sliced sourdough toast.
2900 El Cajon Blvd., North Park
With fish-bowl windows, folksy waitresses and entrées that many assumed had tumbled into restaurant extinction, Rudford's is a museum to its time. Since 1949, the diner has accommodated customers around the clock with all-American fare touted as "home-cooked." In the dead of night, find such classics as poultry croquettes with creamed peas, breaded veal with gravy, and grilled liver with bacon and onions. For better or worse, here marks the spot.
4701 Ruffin Rd., Kearny Mesa
For insomniacs craving New England fried clams, patty melts or chocolate egg crèmes, a visit to this chrome wrapped diner with a Hollywood theme is the next best thing to getting some sleep. Located on a commercially empty road next door to Stu Segall Productions movie-television studios, Studio Diner offers a 24-hour menu featuring an abundance of East Coast-style fare, which means patrons can also gorge on stacked Reuben sandwiches, beer-battered haddock and plump cheese blintzes in preparation for sunrise.
3175 India St., Mission Hills
(Kitchen open until midnight daily)
A sunken cocktail bar under a chandelier that mimics twinkling stars, and an outdoor patio that opens up to real ones set the stage for flame-broiled hanger steaks and ice cream sandwiches. For those opting to drink more and eat less, the late-night menu treads lightly with olive bowls, red lentil veggie burgers and fruited cheese plates. But when barreling toward midnight with a bellyful of gin, equilibrium is gleefully restored with Starlite's heavier dishes, which extend to Brandt Beef burgers and grilled cheese made with Gruyere.
1660 India St., Little Italy
(Tapas menu available from 10 p.m. until midnight, nightly)
After stillness descends upon India Street in the heart of Little Italy, the second-floor Prepkitchen serves as a passport to Spain, with a late-night tapas menu boasting mussels with chorizo, Catalan-style shrimp, olive bowls, salmon skewers and more. Confections such as Meyer lemon cheesecake and whoopie pies also start flying around the night sky. The victuals, available only in the bar lounge, extend sometimes past midnight, depending on customer traffic.
Yes, full meals are still served in these necks after 10 p.m., even though Jack's La Jolla disappeared from the landscape a couple years back. The Spot actually beat most other restaurants to the late-night chase, as it's been around since the 1970s. Cozy and casual, it features big sellers like lamb burgers, garden paninis and Chicago-style pizzas. To end the evening with a gustatory bang, look no further than the lobster tails, filet mignon and local halibut.
Saigon on Fifth
3900 5th Ave., Hillcrest
(Kitchen open until 3 a.m., daily)
Saigon on Fifth's tranquil atmosphere, marked by Buddha statuary and darkred draperies, is like feng shui for a brain that's been steeping in the bustle of nearby bars. The wind-down is advanced by an ambitious menu of Vietnamese favorites such as piping-hot pho and various proteins doused in sweet or spicy sauces. If dexterity still prevails, try the sugar cane shrimp, which requires wrapping into rice casings frilly lettuce, fresh mint leaves, squiggly noodles and ground shrimp that's cleverly conformed to sticks of sugar cane.
The 3rd Corner
2265 Bacon St., Ocean Beach
897 S. Coast Highway, Encinitas
619.223.2700, 760.942.2104, the3rdcorner.com
(Kitchen open until 1 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday; until 11 p.m., Sundays and Mondays)
Amid rivers of wine hailing from vineyards across the planet are culinary match-ups that afford night owls braised short ribs, pan-seared scallops and a newly revised Cuban sandwich accented with arugula and chimichurri sauce. In addition to the full menu, customers can graze from late-night happy hour bargains that kick into gear at 10 p.m. (Tuesday through Saturday), when dishes such as duck confit mac-n-cheese, farro with lemon butter and charcuterie boards cost on average $10 apiece.
Zel's Del Mar
1247 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar
(Kitchen open until 11:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; until 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; until 9:30 p.m. on Sundays)
Call them radical, but Jenn Powers and her husband, Greg Glassman, say they keep their kitchen open after most Del Martians hit the hay because of the live music featured at Zel's Del Mar a few days a week. And nobody's complaining. The restaurant is named after Glassman's late grandfather, Zel Camiel, who owned the city's first liquor store and endeared himself to the local residents. In Grandpa's honor is a full menu that includes Porterbraised short rib poutine over hand-cut Kennebec fries, venison meatloaf and quinoa burgers. The best part is that customers who stroll in and place orders even five minutes before the kitchen closes aren't sent to Denny's.
300 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad
760.434.1900 (no web site)
(Kitchen open until 1:30 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays; until midnight Sunday through Thursday)
The late-night menu at this sporty gastropub compliments dozens of craft beers on tap. Dishes range from healthy beet salads and roasted bruschetta to munchies that your doctor would advise against eating after the evening news (or anytime, for that matter): bacon-wrapped corn dogs, pork belly tacos and wild boar sliders. Even still, the offerings raise the bar compared to everyday burritos and nachos from nearby taco shops.