Lori’s Diner (credit: Randy Yagi)
With the diverse collection of gourmet restaurants spread all over the Bay Area, one would think there are also plenty of late-night dining options, and then some. In reality, there are not nearly as many as one would think, whether it’s due to insufficient demand or the added expense to operate a few more hours. While several Bay Area restaurants stay open beyond 11 p.m., the number thins out considerably after 2 a.m. and even more so if national chains are omitted. Here are just five of the best after-hours restaurants in the Bay Area.
336 Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
With two convenient locations within minutes of Union Square, Lori’s Diner is a throwback to the 50s, featuring retro booths with bright red cushioned seats, a vintage jukebox playing all the hits, nostalgic memorabilia and even a 1959 Edsel. Open 24 hours, both locations are popular late night spots after a theater performance from places like the Curran Theatre and A.C.T.’s Geary Theater or trendy nightclubs like Ruby Skye and Biscuits and Blues.
With full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, the local business established in 1986 offers 1950s food favorites like burgers and shakes, as well other favorites such as American breakfasts, soups and salads and dinner entrees. In addition to the Mason and Sutter Street locations, another Lori’s Diner with shorter hours can be found in historic Ghirardelli Square, featuring the extraordinary Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square and the newly opened Waxman’s Restaurant.
Bob’s Donuts & Pastry Shop
1621 Polk St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
Despite the likelihood of seeing a line of hungry customers waiting to get in, particularly on weekend nights, most will say Bob’s Donuts is well worth the time. That’s because the payoff is being able to enjoy arguably the Bay Area’s tastiest donuts and one of the best after-hours spots. Featuring a no-frills interior with a small counter and a few tables, this very popular family-owned and operated business first opened in 1960 and is routinely described as a San Francisco landmark, serving generations of locals and number of tourists along the way.
In addition to its famous (some say infamous) giant version, all donuts and pastries are offered old school style, with traditional favorites like its raised glazed, raised chocolate, apple fritters and chocolate bars. Not everyone will want to try Bob’s Big Donut, also referred to as the Big Kahuna and Belly Buster, among others. But it’s certainly one of the most popular items on the menu, and Bob’s Donuts Challenge encourages hearty customers to consume the entire thing within two or three minutes, with payoffs like the refund of the original $8 cost or a Bob’s Donuts T-shirt. One of the best times to visit is after the popular nightlife on Polk Street has quieted down, long after bars like Vertigo, Hemlock Tavern and Lush Lounge call it a night.
1941 S. El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94403
Not to be mistaken for a similarly named national chain, Heidi’s Pies is a family-owned business open 24 days a week, 365 days a year. Established in 1970, the San Mateo diner is best known for its award-winning pies with fresh fruit and made from scratch without any preservatives. But the popular Peninsula family style restaurant also offers a large number of menu items for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which includes popular dishes like breakfast platters and omelets, burgers, salads, steaks and seafood. Heidi’s Pies Family Restaurant has plenty of seating in the dining area in addition to a classic lunch counter. Once honored for serving the Bay Area’s best pies, Heidi’s Pies is a popular after-hours destination for Peninsula bars and lounges like O’Neil’s Irish Pub, McGovern’s Bar and the Swinging Door.
29 N. San Pedro
San Jose, CA 95110
Other than national chain restaurants, there are many late night restaurants to choose from in the South Bay. But a better alternative to these greasy spoons is Peggy Sue’s, a family-owned business on San Pedro Square in the heart of downtown San Jose. It’s not an all-night restaurant, closing at midnight Sundays through Thursdays. But that’s late enough for people to get something to eat after a San Jose Sharks hockey game or world-class music concerts at SAP Center. And Peggy Sue’s stays up until 2 a.m. on Saturdays to accommodate the bar crowd filtering out of drinking holes on San Pedro Square. As would be expected, this classic American diner features red vinyl seats, a black and white checkered floor, milkshake counter and all sorts of 1950s nostalgia adorning the walls. In addition to the burgers and shakes once voted the best in San Jose, the 50’s style restaurant also a full line of breakfast items, grilled entrees, soups and salads, and hockey-themed specials like the “Hat Trick” and the “Sharks Special.” Another spot nearby that stays open until 3 a.m. is La Victoria, near the entrance of San Pedro Square on Santa Clara Street.
401 Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Just footsteps from the original Lori’s Diner on Mason Street is another popular 24-hour eatery in the heart of San Francisco’s theater district. Known as the “oldest standing 24-hour diner in Union Square,” Pinecrest Diner has been owned by the same family ever since it first opened in 1969. With its prime location one block from Union Square, the no-frills diner attracts tourists from all over the world, in addition to celebrities, business professionals and a sizable group of loyal regulars.
Many of the food items are served all day, such as bacon and eggs, pancakes, burgers, sandwiches and salads, along with dinner entrees like New York steak, deep fried jumbo prawns and several pasta dishes.