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The 8 Best 24-Hour Restaurants In Chicago That Aren't Diners

By Staff in Food on Feb 12, 2014 8:30PM

In the no man's land between midnight and sunrise one can always rely on diners to fill up on food. But diners are a dime a dozen and often too bright for bloodshot eyes when you've closed down Carol's Pub or Green Mill.

In those moments when regret can spiral into an extended depression without some sustenance, you need more. We've picked eight of our favorite restaurants that are open 24 hours that don't necessarily specialize in hash browns and salty coffee any time of day.

Lawrence's Fisheries (Photo via Facebook)

Lawrence’s Fisheries
Calumet Fisheries gets most of the love and all of the James Beard recognition among local fish shacks. But they aren’t open 24 hours a day. When I’m feeling peckish after a night on the town and looking for something that will both sustain me and soak up any residual alcohol without leaving a place with grease in my hair and clothes, I head to this restaurant overlooking the south branch of the Chicago River where Pilsen, Chinatown and Brigeport intersect. Originally a commercial fishing venture specializing in smoked fish caught in Lake Michigan, Lawrence’s Fisheries now serves an array of fried fish, oysters, chicken, clam strips, frog legs and some of the best fried shrimp and catfish in Chicago. If you don’t want to partake in 3 a.m. carbo loading they also have boiled shrimp (one of their signatures) and salads that will set you straight before the sun rises and bores like a drill into your head. —Chuck Sudo

Lawrence’s Fisheries is located at 2120 S. Canal St.

Duk’s Red Hots
If you’re on that “deep fried everything” diet, it’ll be hard to keep your fluttering heart still upon walking into this West Town hot dog and burger shack. Everything here goes into the fryer—the tacos, the polish dogs, the shrimp. And it’s all delicious. Duk’s, formerly named Donald Duk’s until a gentleman named Walt took issue with it, is the epitome of “no bells and whistles, just good food.” Plus, they have milkshakes. I’ve always argued that if there’s one thing that Chicago does not have enough of, it’s milkshakes. While they’re only open until 2 a.m. on weeknights, Duk’s is a 24-hour joint on Fridays and Saturdays, so the next time you stumble out of Beauty Bar or The Cobra Lounge past closing time on the weekend, stumble on over. Fair warning: keeping in line with most classic Chicago greasy spoons, the seasoned staff behind this counter will only answer your drunk antics with a generous helping of sass. — Katie Karpowicz

Duk’s Red Hots is located at 636 N. Ashland

Markellos Baking Co.
If your fantasy is freshly baked breads, cookies, pastries and churros, on demand, 24/7, then you need to know about Markellos Baking Co. This Albany Park storefront keeps their ovens going round the clock to provide customers with fresh product every 20 minutes. And they really mean 24/7. I’ve stopped in at 2 a.m. on a Saturday to find ovens blasting, and I’ve been saved with an emergency bread run on Thanksgiving. You’ll find everything here from traditional Greek pastries, hot dinner rolls, M&M cookies, churros and on weekends, banana leaf tamales and chile rellenos. You can walk out with a bag full of treats for under $10, but they don’t take credit cards. So the next time you have the genius idea to stock up on baked goods at midnight, take yourself to the end of the Brown Line and grab a pair of tongs at Markellos. — Jennifer A. Freeman

Markellos Baking Co. is located at 3520 W Lawrence Ave.

Photo credit: T.B. Manning

Jim’s Original and Express Grill
Most of us are quite experienced with the 2:30 a.m. dilemma of being dead tired and/or drunk and desperately needing some kind of sustenance, usually in the form of quick and cheap grilled meats with fixin's. While there's no shortage of chain fast food restaurants in the city, there's little point in bothering to pass through a drive thru when options like Jim's Original and Express Grill are available. Both joints, located on Union Street just south of Roosevelt Avenue, offer up the most traditional Chicago fare - Polish sausage, pork chop sandwiches, Vienna hot dogs and a few other quick and easy delights anyone with a couple of crumpled dollar bills still in their pockets can afford. The Polish, which has been a staple synonymous with Chicago dating back to the late 1930s, comes swimming in a sea of onions and mustard with a side of sport peppers. Even if you have a hankering for something more beefy, both Jim's and Express have cravings for cheeseburgers, chicken and fish sandwiches covered. Nearly everything comes with a free side of fries and one can wash it all down with a quick can of pop for under a dollar. —Aaron Cynic

Jim’s Original and Express are located at 1250 S. Union and 1260 S. Union, respectively.

Lazo’s Tacos
It’s a safe bet that after a night of drinking in Chicago, assuming you aren’t someplace where a blue or red (pick your preference) cooler stops by, you’ll be ending your evening with some sort of meat wrapped in a tortilla at your favorite local taqueria. Everyone has their favorite spot close to home, a short stumbling distance from your apartment and warm bed. For me, that spot is Lazo’s. First off, yes, I’ve tried Arturos and while it is good, I still prefer Lazo’s. If you frequent the corner of Armitage and Western, you usually have allegiance towards one or the other. Second, Lazo’s isn’t my favorite taqueria in my neighborhood (that honor goes to Taqueria Moran) but it is my favorite taqueria to end up at around 3 a.m. surrounded by my inebriated friends and frozen daiquiris. The service is friendly and swift, the room is spacious, the people watching is always on point and the food is solid. I usually stick with a chorizo burrito or, if I’m truly seeing double, a chimichanga. Because a deep fried burrito full of greasy meat is totally the best idea at this time of night/morning. My significant other always gets their roasted chicken, creating a DIY taco full of juicy meat, salsa, beans and rice wrapped in a warm tortilla. I usually throw caution to the wind and get a fruity strawberry daiquiri to go with my meal as well. Lazo’s is reliable, the food consistent and the people always nice, which is exactly the comfort you crave when dining during the morning twilight. — Lisa White

Lazo’s Tacos is located at 2009 N. Western Ave

El Gallo De Oro
Bring plenty of cash—this Marquette Park restaurant doesn’t accept credit—and a healthy appetite as you choose from a hearty menu of tacos, tostadas, tortas, soups (I’m a huge fan of the caldo de pescado here) and the burritos which were good enough to make our best burritos list last year. If you’re nice enough they may even serve you breakfast at 3 a.m. —Chuck Sudo

El Gallo de Oro is located at 2952 W. 63rd St.

Susie’s Drive Thru
Susie’s might look like an ordinary hot dog stand on the outside, but fans of this establishment are wise to the creative concoctions that lie within. Susie’s dreams up creations that, while tasty sober, is the stuff dreams are made of for those folks that had one too many beers. Perfect enough, since Susie’s is within walking distance to Finch’s Brewery. We highly suggest their brewery tour followed up by a visit to Susie’s as a perfect Saturday adventure. Make sure to bring cash, no cards are accepted, but you should have some leftover crumpled up change at this point. Most things here are unhealthy and portions are huge, but that shouldn’t matter if you have already committed to eating at Susie’s. First off, get the cheese fries. The fries are done well to begin with, but these cheese fries are served in an edible bowl. Also known as a taco shell. Even though your brain will want to, do not get the cheese ball cheese fries. We can assure you its overkill. Order the gyro cheese fries instead. They come wrapped in a plastic bag, let out the steam and then dig into mounds of liquid cheddar, meat and potato. The cheese fries are usually a two person job but we’ve seen one human conquer them before. Grab a milkshake as well. They have a massive list of crazy flavors, my favorites have been the caramel apple and banana rum. And if you are still hungry my favorite entree is the pizza dog, a hot dog served with some red sauce, a slice of green pepper and a huge slab of melted mozzarella cheese. Let melted cheese drip down your face and regret nothing. — Lisa White

Susie’s Drive Thru is located at 4126 W. Montrose Ave.

Three Happiness
This Chinatown mainstay (from which the popular local culinary website LTHForum takes its name) has long been an oasis for foodies, revelers, drunks and others in the wee small hours turning out some of the best Chinese cooking in the area, with a focus on seafood. The salt and pepper shrimp—shell on— has a kick with ample amounts of five-spice powder. Deep fried crab dumplings have that perfect balance of a crispy exterior wrapped around moist, tender meat. Then there are the standbys—fried rices, egg foo youngs and Szechuan dishes—that provide sustenance, contentment and warmth as you wait for a Red Line train back to your abode. —Chuck Sudo

Three Happiness is located at 209 W. Cermak Rd.