Even in a city as large and as vibrant as Boston, it is difficult if not seemingly impossible to find a place to eat after midnight. The heyday of the 24-hour diner has come and gone in Boston, but there are a few places that have kept the round-the-clock kitchen tradition going, even if some only do so two or three nights a week. While only one is a true, old-school diner, two other spots, an Italian bakery and a donut shop – which serves a lot more than donuts – come close to qualifying, and at 4 a.m. are a welcome relief to the hungry and the hung-over. There are a few other places open late night, but precious few. Here are five of Boston’s Best 24-Hour Diners, or a close proximity thereof.
Chocolate Fantasy French Toast. That one menu item alone should be enough to attract any diner-fan to the South Street Diner, even those who know nothing of this authentic 1940s era establishment or the part it has played in the community and in movies. Kevin Spacey and his co-stars shot a scene here for their beat-the-house gambling movie, 21, as did Jon Cryer in Hiding Out, and Steve Martin in House Guest, just to name a few. A gathering place for students, artists, locals and up-all-night workers since it opened in 1947, the South Street Diner is steeped in history and legend. It also serves up real Malted Egg Creams, and generous real ice cream Root Beer Floats, and even makes a mean Raspberry Lime Ricky. The food is classic burgers and breakfasts and beer, plus the usual surprise specials – and, of course, that insanely sinful Chocolate Fantasy French Toast. It is also one of the last true 24-hour, 7-days-a-week diners left in the city.
From home-made chili to spicy hot wings, and, of course, donuts, the menu at Doughboy Donuts & Deli on Dorchester Ave is meant to satisfy every late night food craving, as well as meet the needs of those seeking a hearty lunch, a filling dinner or a solid breakfast. A prime take-out spot as well, Doughboy Donuts & Deli has everything from clam chowder to calzones, and is a grand mix of classic American dinner and Italian family restaurant traditions, with a bakery and donut shop thrown in as a double bonus. They may not have a website, but they are on almost every dining site in town – and on Facebook, and they are, bless them, open 24 hours a day.
Although it has scaled back its round-the-clock service to Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Victoria’s is still one of the city’s top and few remaining 24-hour spots, even if only for those three days a week. It is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. the rest of the week, and it serves a mighty meal that will satisfy even the hungriest of the horde of students who frequent this local landmark. Victoria’s offers food and cocktails, has a function room and even does catering, and is famous for its biscuits and gravy as well as such signature combinations as the “Rehab.” A traditional combo of pancakes, eggs and breakfast meat or meats to which can be added a bagel, English Muffin or toast, it is a hearty repast sure to help those who have been up all night partying face the morning.
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In a city where few eateries stay open past 10 PM, Daryl’s is a welcome late-night haven for the hungry. It may not be open all night, let alone 24 hours, but it does come closer than most others in its class. Darryl’s Kitchen’s kitchen serves until midnight four nights a week, and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights (or, technically, 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday mornings). It does close early on Sunday (10 p.m.) but that is still a lot later than most other restaurants or diners. Daryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen is also more than just a place that serves diner-style food; it is also a jazz and blues club, bar and brunch spot, and one which serves up soul food.
A North End tradition for more than 80 years, Bova’s is not just a bakery – it is a 24-hour source for pizza, subs, calzones and many other Italian favorites. Although famous for its Whoopee Pies, lobster tails, cannoli and Neapolitans, Bova’s is more than just a place to go to satisfy a craving for sweets at three in the morning. Although perhaps not a diner in the traditional sense, it is one of the few remaining 24-7 eateries left in Boston, and as such deserves to be counted with its younger cousins in the trade.