The phrase “late-night eats” has somehow become synonymous with “drunk food.” And while I can appreciate the need for a Chubby’s omelet or a three-pound burrito after a long night of ill-advised imbibery, intoxicated eaters are generally not the most discerning culinary crowd. Especially since one’s options are pretty limited after 9 or 10 p.m., particularly during the work week. Despite this fact, it is entirely possible to get good food in Kansas City at almost any hour.
During a recent, foolish foray into graduate school, I took evening classes several days a week and was not able to eat dinner until late into the night. After class I wanted something decent, fast and accompanied by a cold beer. I often wound up at Charlie Hooper’s in Brookside for a Guinness and a surprisingly delicious cheeseburger. Hooper’s serves its entire menu until 11 p.m. most nights and features some of the friendliest, most efficient bartenders around. While the food is certainly not highbrow, the menu is extremely varied and likely to appeal to any number of cravings. Recently the bartender Chad hooked me up with a tuna melt ($7.59) which is a tasty choice for dinner served on a surprisingly flavorful rye, and the chili, which is among the better in town.
Charlie Hooper’s Brookside Bar
12 W. 63rd St
Kansas City, MO 64113
Monday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sunday: Noon to 1 a.m.
After a menu tweak this November, ubiquitous Westport hotspot McCoy’s’ rowdy step-brother and immediate neighbor, The Foundry, decided to offer its full menu of preposterous burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and salads straight up until 1:30 a.m., seven nights a week. Manager James informed me that food sales have been very brisk late at night, so they opted not to offer a scaled-down menu after a certain hour. These folks serve up some decent 12-inch pizzas for between 10 and 12 bucks, and their fried pickles (“frickles”) which arrive on an unnecessary bed of french fries are seriously inspired (tip: get them with bleu cheese instead of ranch dressing). Until the menu was retooled, virtually nothing at The Foundry was very healthy but I’m happy to report the presence of some new, tasty looking entree salads and a few vegetarian (which can typically be made vegan) dishes among the current options. For instance I was able to procure a nice Mediterranean platter that was easy on the arteries and looked very pretty, indeed. Unfortunately the famed Juicy Lucy burger seems to have been axed.
The Foundry at McCoy’s
424 Westport Rd
Kansas City, MO 64111
4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. seven days a week
Up in the Crossroads, Nara Sushi has effectively tread the line between restaurant and night spot ever since it arrived on the scene a couple of years ago. Apart from sushi, it features a very nice menu of Japanese-inflected entrees, appetizers and cocktails. While the atmosphere can be a bit boisterous—particularly when a DJ is spinning—you can order a great meal of small plates from the late night menu until 11 p.m. or midnight on weekends. The late night menu is small but what Nara lacks in variety it makes up for in price, as every food item is $3 or $4. The yakatori ($3) are lovely little chicken skewers with an unbelievably tender consistency and a salty kick. You can get three quite nice makimono ($3) from the late night menu: vegetable, spicy tuna and the ubiquitous California roll. Nine other appetizers are available with the baffling inclusion of takoyaki, which are beautifully presented but odd-tasting octopus dumplings. Stick to the shumai or gyoza and you will leave happy. It bears mentioning that my server, Adam was extremely professional, knowledgeable and patient with my probing questions about the late night menu.
1617 Main St
Kansas City, MO 64108
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. to Midnight
Saturday: 4 p.m. to Midnight
Food service hours only. Nara’s bar stays open an hour later than above times
Around the corner from Nara on 18th street is YJ’s Snack Bar, an absolute gem of a little place that serves great food late wee hours of morning. For those unfamiliar with YJ’s, they offer a single meal for lunch and a different one for dinner every day. I recently made a late night dinner of their North African plate, a beautiful homemade assemblage of lamb patties, figged couscous, curried potatoes, grape leaves, fresh cucumber and Greek yogurt. The half portion is easily enough to fill up a normal human and will only set you back five bucks. If you get to YJ’s after the entree runs out, they also serve breakfast fare 24 hours Thursday through Sunday. There are only about four tables in this joint so it’s not for the faint of heart but apparently it is much more tolerable since the smoking ban went into effect.
YJ’s Snack Bar
128 W 18th St
Kansas City, MO 64121
Sunday- Wednesday: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday: Open 24 hours
Down on the Boulevard El Pueblito is serving up very fine Mexican fare until 11 p.m. on weeknights and 4 a.m. on weekends. The entire back page of the menu is dedicated to seafood, but I typically stick with traditional offerings like the tamales here. The consistency is perfect and the pork is well seasoned and delicious. Tacos are a sure bet too. For a couple bucks you can get a relatively authentic soft taco on a corn tortilla with onion and cilantro, one of the world’s perfect late-night meals. And if you are lucky, a roving duo of mariachi performers will be on hand emitting slightly out-of-tune but impassioned Mexican favorites.
810 Southwest Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
Sunday-Thursday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 9 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Town Topic is a very popular post-bar spot for its thin, onion-laden hamburgers ($2.40) served out of a shack that started life as a White Castle in the 1930s. I’m a big fan of this style of food and typically order a double or triple when I’m here. Most KC residents probably have their own opinions about the burgers, but perhaps everyone can agree that the milkshakes are fantastic. They are cold, thick and sumptuous, especially so offset by the salty crunch of french fries or onion rings. Each day Town Topic offers at least a half dozen different types of homemade pies as well.
2021 Broadway St
Kansas City, MO 64108
Open 24 Hours
Other late night options: Talk of the Town, Overland Park; Fred P. Ott’s, The Plaza; Chubby’s, Midtown; Harry’s Bar & Tables, Westport; Panchos, Midtown & Lenexa