Like most any place, South Florida takes on a completely different look and feel late at night. In cities like West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Delray Beach, the bustling happy hours give way to dancing and drinks, and then the streets are filled with hungry patrons looking for a place to sit, tuck a napkin into their shirts, and find some grub to soak up all the booze.
The best options always seem to be the ethnic spots, tiny pizza joints, retro diners, or hipster dives. Occasionally, it's a sit-down restaurant touting a special after-hours menu — or that thing of beauty, the reverse happy hour.
Need help finding a spot near you? Here you go: Our top picks for Palm Beach County's best late-night dining spots.
11. The Irishmen
1745 NW Boca Raton Blvd., Boca Raton. Call 561-368-1129, or visit irishmenpub.com.
What's better than a pub open and serving food until 2 a.m.? An Irish pub that's open and serving good food and pouring good beer until 2 a.m. You can't go wrong with an order of shepherd's pie, potato soup, or a pub burger. You could also go for the Irish-American menu items and try an order of the Irish sliders (corned beef and pickled cabbage topped with a homemade Guinness mustard), an Irish Cuban (all the trappings of a traditional Cuban but with corned beef instead of pork), or the Irish nachos (a pound and a half of pub fries loaded with melted cheese, chili, bacon, jalapeños, and sour cream).
10. Keese's Simply Delicious
540 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Call 561-328-9100, or visit keeses.com.
Keese's first opened its doors in 1953 in Broward County. Back then, the family-owned café was known as a great spot to grab grub on the go. Now, with a second location open in West Palm Beach, it's a great spot to grab takeout grub late at night. The restaurant off Clematis Street serves food until 3 a.m., which means a long line come the wee hours of the morning, when everyone's done drinking at the bars and clubs. If you're a picky eater, you won't have a hard time finding something you like here. There are more than 50 items to choose from, from award-winning fried chicken and falafel to char-grilled kebabs. Also on the menu: burgers, wraps, subs, salads, and gyros — and most everything for under $10 a pop.
6801 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach. Call 561-547-9799, or visit havanacubanfood.com.
West Palm Beach's late-night scene includes Havana, the Cuban-style restaurant where the walk-up counter is open until the early-morning hours. There's no need to schlep all the way down to Miami to get authentic Cuban sandwiches — ham, marinated pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles between two slabs of fresh-baked Cuban bread. Pair with one of the natural fruit milkshakes or juices made from papaya or mango, then end your pig-out session with a steaming cup of café cubano, cortaditos, or café con leche and a jiggly serving of caramel or coconut flan. Havana's main, two-story dining room isn't open after hours, but the 24-hour walk-up window is open all day, every day, for those of you who get the craving after midnight. We know there's nothing like feeding that 3 a.m. Cuban craving with a steaming box of smoky croquetas, vaca frita, and sweet plantains.
8. Tacos al Carbon
4420 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth. Call 561-432-8474, or visit tacosalcarbon.com.
We've given it plenty of top spots in the past few years — it made it onto the Best Tacos in Palm Beach County and Best Tortas lists. But Tacos al Carbon also deserves a spot on this list mainly because it's still one of the best spots to get good grub late, late at night. Although the main restaurant at the corner of Military Trail and Lake Worth Avenue closes around midnight, the food truck stays open 24 hours, serving all manner of Tex-Mex fare, from soft corn tortilla tacos to burritos and enchiladas to one heck of a torta sandwich.
7. Don Cafe Restaurant
136 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach. Call 561-684-0074, or visit doncaferestaurant.com.
From mofongo and sancocho to fricase de pollo and ropa vieja, Don Cafe Restaurant offers some of South Florida's best (and most extensive) Latin dishes all day long, every day. The restaurant itself is open 24 hours, which means you can find great meals at any time of day, any day of the week. Here, happy hour extends from 6 to 10 p.m., and you can order filling fare like rabo encendido — lean oxtail cooked in a red wine sauce and served over a bed of rice and beans — at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m.
6. The Blue Boar
1306 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach. Call 561-686-3865, or visit blueboartavern.com.
If you've ever been to the Blue Boar Tavern in West Palm Beach, then you probably already know it's the type of place you go for three things: (1) a cheap drink, (2) a good time after all the other places have shut down, or (3) good food past 2 a.m. It's all these reasons (and more) that keep a lot of people coming back for more. Blue Boar purveys homemade chicken noodle soup, lasagna, baked penne, beef quesadillas, char-grilled cheeseburgers, fries, and a full lineup of classic greasy bar bites right through the wee hours of the morning. Try comfort food at its finest with AJ's Super Grilled Cheese, a supersized sandwich that sports three kinds of cheese (mozzarella, American, and cheddar), bacon, tomato, and sautéed onions. The Blue Boar Tavern serves food until 4:30 a.m., seven days a week.
5. El Camino
15 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach. 561-865-5350, or visit elcaminodelray.com.
Craving a light bite late at night? If so, look no further than El Camino in downtown Delray Beach. Even though the kitchen stops serving the full menu at midnight, the late-night, reverse happy hour menu goes into full effect when the clock strikes 12, which means you can order filling fare like tacos, chips and salsa, guacamole, and tamales all for less than $6 a pop. Of course, all this sounds even better when you pair it with a $5 classic margarita.
4. Pat's Wine Bar
409 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton. Call 561-430-5352.
Six months ago, Pat's Wine Bar owner Tom Hennessey took over this Mizner Park wine bar and decided to add a kitchen. Now, this is the place to be past midnight, when you can pair a glass of red or white wine with any of the kitchen's bar bites menu items, dishes like adobo chicken tacos, steamed clams with crostini, and a meat and cheese charcuterie board. While these plates are perfect for sharing or late-night nibbles, if you've got a real appetite, Hennessey also offers several bowls of homemade pasta and larger, entrée-sized selections. That means pesto and tomato spaghetti, pork chops, or a half-roasted chicken. The best part: This kitchen stays open until 1:30, so you winos don't have to sacrifice good vino for good food.
52 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-330-3232, or visit dadaofdelray.com.
While most places that open their doors late are serving the type of food you can hold in one hand and drive with the other, Delray Beach standby Dada serves sit-down diners until 2 a.m., Monday through Sunday. That means you can get a full plate of some of the best food — from one of the area's greatest chefs, Bruce Feingold, a multiwinner of the Delray Beach Garlic Festival — well past midnight. We're suckers for popular menu items like his bacon-wrapped dates, Cointreau-glazed roast duck, and that butternut squash ravioli. Or how about new dishes from the recent menu boost, like "dirty" roasted Mexican-style street corn with sriracha yogurt and a Parmesan-chili powder dust (pictured here)?
2. La Perrada Del Gordo
2650 S. Military Trail, West Palm Beach. Call 561-968-6978.
La Perrada Del Gordo sits in the back corner of a secluded shopping center off Military Trail in West Palm Beach, near invisible save for neon glowing signs hovering above the door and in the window. It's how you'll find it late at night when you're craving Colombian fast food. Here, you'll find the Perro Huevon, a local's approach to the colorful street food fare of Colombia. The dogs served here are the real deal, where more toppings equal more hype. At first glance, the menu's biggest, baddest specialty perro caliente (that's hot dog in Spanish) appears garishly overdone with a total of ten colorful toppings. We also love the burgers — chicken or beef patties — topped with your choice of a haystack of shredded chicken or beef, then a colorful finish of mayo, pink sauce, pineapple purée, potato chips, and chopped bacon. La Perrada Del Gordo has two locations in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Thursday and 6 a.m. on Friday.
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1. Lemongrass Hot Pot
21073 Powerline Road, Boca Raton. Call 561-609-2200.
When it's late, you're hungry, and there aren't many healthy options for late-night grub — let alone good-tasting options — look no further than 8-month-old Lemongrass Hot Pot in Boca Raton. This Taiwanese import is the first of its kind to make it stateside, a Chinese version of the country's popular hot pot restaurants, a name that refers to several East Asian varieties of do-it-yourself stew where simmering metal pots of stock are used to cook everything from meats and seafood to fresh vegetables. At Lemongrass, choose from several broth bases including the organic lemongrass, chicken, or beef for $23.50 to $25.50 per person. Then chow down on all-you-can-eat veggies delivered via a rotating conveyor belt. Still hungry? Belly up to the meat and seafood bar for heartier fare. It's all included, right up until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Who said eating late at night had to be boring — or bad for you?
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.