Where to Go Next for Chef-Spotting | New York City; Philadelphia; Chicago; New Orleans; Los Angeles
New York City
Blue Ribbon The country's top chefs have been known to stop for nightcaps at this raucous 10-year-old SoHo institution when they should probably have gone to bed. On a typical evening, you might see Craft's Tom Colicchio or Olives' Todd English. It's not just the full-on party vibe that brings people in; it's also the surprisingly good raw bar and a kitchen that serves fried chicken, matzo-ball soup and fondue until 4 a.m. (97 Sullivan St.; 212-274-0404).
The Mermaid Inn At their Chelsea restaurant the Red Cat, Jimmy Bradley and Danny Abrams worked Sundays, feeding countless cooks who had the day off. The pair's new East Village seafood place is turning into a late-night destination for chefs, bringing in Aquavit's Marcus Samuelsson and Washington Park's Jonathan Waxman for deep-fried oysters and seafood pasta topped with arugula salad (96 Second Ave.; 212-674-5870).
Sushi Seki The Upper East Side isn't a draw for late-night dining. But Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Jean Georges and 66 and Laurent Gras of San Francisco's Fifth Floor swear by the sashimi at this brightly lit spot, which amazingly stays open until 3:00 a.m. Head sushi chef Seki generally takes a dinner break at 10:30 p.m.; regulars wait until he's back to sit down and order (1143 First Ave.; 212-371-0238).
Bar Veloce This slim Manhattan wine bar is a favorite stop for chefs like WD-50's Wylie Dufresne and L'Impero's Scott Conant. On busy nights at the Mermaid Inn, just a few blocks south, Jimmy Bradley and Danny Abrams send customers here to wait for a table—and drop by themselves for after-work drinks (175 Second Ave.; 212-260-3200).
The Continental Outfitted to look like a Rat Pack hangout (the lights that hang over the martini bar look like giant olives skewered with metal toothpicks), The Continental serves an international menu until midnight on weekends (11 p.m. on weeknights). Vetri's Mark Vetri comes in regularly for the crab pad thai, lobster spring rolls and a chopped salad big enough to feed six (138 Market St.; 215-923-6069).
Monk's Café This dark little Belgian-style tavern has an impressive list of 200 or so beers and a kitchen that serves food until 1 a.m. Late at night, expect to find Le Bec-Fin's staff in one corner and Striped Bass's in another, dining on Monk specialties like boudin blanc sandwiches and frites with bourbon sauce (264 S. 16th St.; 215-545-7005).
Geno's Steaks Philadelphia star chefs like Georges Perrier of Le Bec-Fin have stood on line at the city's iconic 24-hour cheese-steak joint; so have out-of-towners like TV celebrity Emeril Lagasse. Even Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, who owns Morimoto in Philly, has reportedly paid his respects. A sign describes a choice of cheese toppings, but most knowledgeable customers get "whiz with" (cheese whiz and sautéed onions). If you try to specify anything else, the counterman will say "Next" (1219 S. 9th St.; 215-389-0659).
Diner Grill Gamblers talking to their bookies sit alongside chefs talking food and admiring cook Butchi Torgeon's economy of motion: He can simultaneously grill burgers, brew extra-strong coffee and ring up checks at the register. Customers, who include Dean Zanella of 312 Chicago and Atwood Café's Heather Terhune, will also tell you that everything at this 24-hour spot—especially the Slinger, two cheeseburgers topped with hash browns, eggs and chili—has the perfect amount of grease (1635 W. Irving Park; 773-248-2030).
Kamehachi Chefs consider themselves lucky when they find a quality sushi house that's open late; this one serves until 12:30 a.m. Spring's Shawn McClain has been coming to this Old Town restaurant since he discovered it several years ago. He can down as many as eight of the oyster shooters (a mixture of oysters, raw quail eggs, ponzu and scallions), with cold sake on the side (1400 N. Wells St.; 888-835-9098).
Korean Restaurant Also known as 24-Hour Korean, this small, restorative restaurant never closes. Blackbird's Paul Kahan drops in frequently, as does former Pump Room chef Michael Gaspard. Kahan usually orders bibimbop, the fried egg—topped rice and vegetable classic; pay an extra dollar and get your food in a sizzling-hot stone bowl (2659 W. Lawrence Ave.; 773-878-2095).
Le Bon Temps Roule With Commander's Palace just down the street and doors that stay open until 3 a.m., the 24-year-old Le Bon Temps Roule—a New Orleans institution—enjoys steady traffic from the Palace staff, including chef Tory McPhail. Specialties include the chicken-combo quesadillas, which pair perfectly with a cold beer from the huge list (4801 Magazine St.; 504-895-8117).
Port of Call The freshly ground burgers at this French Quarter restaurant, which serves food until 1 a.m., are routinely voted the city's best and are popular with the crews at Nola and Peristyle. The Neptune Monsoon cocktails, bright red and served in 32-ounce cups, are packed with fruit juice and a potent mixture of rums (838 Esplanade Ave.; 504-523-0120).
Vic's Kangaroo Café Before Emeril Lagasse's schedule got so busy, the star chef would buy his staff a round of drinks at Vic's, and this is still the hangout for Emeril restaurant's kitchen crew. Owner Vic Norman pays homage to his native Australia with his signature shepherd's pie, and in season he'll boil crayfish. The Ugly Dog Saloon, owned by a former Vic's bartender, is another favorite stop for Emeril's alumni crowd, who come by for the excellent barbecued brisket (Vic's Kangaroo Café, 636 Tchoupitoulas St.; 504-524-4329; Ugly Dog Saloon, 401 Andrew Higgins Dr.; 504-569-8459).
El Carmen This groovy Mexican place is best known for its energetic bar scene and the velvet wrestling posters on the wall. The restaurant pulls in the staff from A.O.C. and the Little Door, thanks to a 2 a.m. weekday closing time, shelves full of tequilas and addictive tacos. For an even later Mexican food fix, taco aficionados, including Jar's Suzanne Tracht, hit the no-frills El Taurino, which is open until 4 a.m. (El Carmen, 8138 W. Third St.; 323-852-1552; El Taurino, 1104 S. Hoover St.; 213-738-9197).
Cobras and Matadors Conveniently located next to a liquor store, this BYOB tapas place stays open past midnight. On the walls: sepia photographs of 1920s Los Angeles. On the menu: black mussels with white wine and lentils pan-fried with Spanish ham, which is what Neal Fraser usually orders after he gets off work at Grace (7615 W. Beverly Blvd.; 323-932-6178).
Pacific Dining Car For most of the evening, this restaurant, in a renovated train car, is a high-priced steak house. But after 11 p.m., the 24-hour kitchen starts serving breakfast to chefs like Campanile's Nancy Silverton. The roast beef hash is a top seller, as are eggs Blackstone—poached eggs with sautéed tomato slices and hollandaise (1310 W. 6th St.; 213-483-6000).
Sanamluang Cafe A whole section of the menu at this perennially popular Thai restaurant is dedicated to late suppers, which are served from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. Pinot Bistro's Octavio Becerra is a fan; so is Fred Eric (of Vida and Airstream Diner), who loves the duck salad and crispy fried pork with Chinese broccoli. Because the place doesn't serve alcohol, it's usually the last stop of the night (5170 Hollywood Blvd.; 323-660-8006).