One of the best parts about living in Capitol Hill is the surplus of food and drink options (actually, that might be a negative, at least from my wallet’s perspective). And while other parts of the city might shut down for bedtime, Capitol Hill keeps pushing through the early morning hours. Since I first moved here three years ago, there’s been so many awesome new spots that have opened in addition to the established staples. And luckily, some of the best places stay open pretty late. Craving a slice of pizza or some tacos at 1am? Not a problem. Drunchies finally kicked in at 3? Not a problem! Whether you’re looking for something gourmet or cheap and on-the-go, there’s a slew of places that have got you covered. Here’s a basic guide to some of the late night Capitol Hill essentials.
There are two main pizza-by-the-slice places in Capitol Hill that are open late, and both have their own devoted fans. I am a firm supporter of Hot Mama’s, but I have found myself scarfing down a slice of Big Mario’s on plenty of occasions. Both places serve big, thin New York style slices, and they both have their own specialties and quirks. I think the pizza at Hot Mama’s tastes better, but Big Mario’s has some pretty great and creative topping combos, like pineapple, goat cheese, and red pepper flakes or pear gorgonzola or their infamous pineapple, jalapeno, and pepperoni slice. It’s not just your boring slice of pepperoni (although they have that, too). That being said, Big Mario’s is overpriced (a slice will cost you about $4 on average, often more–almost twice as much as a slice at Hot Mama’s). Ultimimately, it often comes down to whichever is more convenient…or open; Hot Mama’s is open Thursdays and Fridays until 2, and Saturday until 2:30, but Big Mario’s stays open until 4 am Thursday through Saturday, which makes it one of the only options after 3. But seriously though, the pesto and Hawaiian pizzas at Hot Mama’s are what dreams are made of.
While it certainly isn’t one of the cheaper options, Cafe Presse is open until 2am every day, which makes it a late night option if you’re craving croque madame or just a serving of their always-popular fries. Cafe Pettirosso is also open until 2 on weekends. I’ve stopped by late a few times to grab something to go from their pastry case (they have a pretty great selection, everything’s good). You can’t get espresso drinks in the evening, but drip is still available and the bar is open. I’m not sure how late the full menu is available, but worst case you can at least pick up one of their awesome ginger muffins.
Anyone that’s been to Capitol Hill in the evening knows that there are about a million hot dog stands in the Pike/Pine area (if you walk up on 12th, Mad Dawgs serves until around 3 outside the Chieftain). Most of them are cash-only and are open until around 2:30 am. My two personal favorites? Neighbors Dog, as we affectionately call it (the one located in the Shell parking lot, near Neighbors) is great if you like a lot of toppings. A hot dog there costs $5, and they have pretty good veggie dogs. If you’re more of a hot dog purist and like to keep things simpler, stop at the stand outside Comet.
If you don’t know what fry bread is, you should probably make a pit stop at Off the Rez next time you’re in Capitol Hill on a weekend after 10. Off the Rez is a food truck that parks right next to Big Mario’s (in a little alleyway, so it’s not directly on the street) on weekends from roughly 10 – 2am. For roughly $4, or $2 if you get it plain, you can try Native American fry bread (which is exactly like it sounds: fried, soft bread) topped with either sweet or savory options. Some of the toppings get pretty messy, but it’s perfect as a late night snack regardless (plus, they do take credit cards, which makes this a good option if you’re out of cash). The truck also sells tacos and burgers, and combination deals if you want to try more than one thing. Personally, I think the best option is to get one sweet and one savory fry bread (I’d recommend the chili topping and either the cinnamon sugar or strawberry jam).
If you find yourself on Broadway, Dick’s is open until 2am. It’s cash only, but a burger is pretty inexpensive. If you’ve got the cash, it’s worth splurging on the Deluxe burger (and a chocolate shake, because why not?). Personally, I skip the fries though…they’re always soggier than I’d like them to be. Another option if you’re hungry for a burger is Off the Rez. Off the Rez mainly serves fry bread, but they make a pretty tasty burger with bacon, cotija crema, and cheese for $4.50 (add fries and it gets pricier at $8).
Rancho Bravo is a bit of a notorious late night stop for us Seattle University students. I have plenty of memories from freshmen year of treks to Rancho Bravo for a fourth-meal burrito or quesadilla. It’s open until around 3 on weekends, and has a menu with all the basic taqueria staples. If you aren’t looking for a big meal, there are smaller plates, but if you’re famished, they’ve got you covered, too. Everything is pretty reasonably priced. It’s certainly not the best Mexican food (I’m a bit of a taqueria snob, being from California) but it does the job, and it’s better than people give it credit for. Try a chorizo quesadilla or chicken burrito.
Sure, you can get expensive (but quality) Japanese food at Momiji until 1am, or questionable discount sushi at Genki on Broadway, but there’s a far better option if you find yourself over in the 15th/E. Olive direction. Kedai Makan hasn’t been open for very long, but I am already a big fan of the tiny Malaysian take-out stop. It’s located right by Montana (on E. Olive). They’re open until 2:30am Thursday through Saturday and it’s take-out only, but they conveniently offer the choice of paying and ordering there and eating at Montana. Food ranges from roughly $5-$10, and portions are definitely generous enough to satisfy your evening/early morning hunger.
Fish & Chips
It’s more expensive than a slice of pizza, and you’ll probably be facing the crowd at Neumo’s, but Pike Street Fish Fry is open until 2:30am from Thursday to Saturday. Their fries are great, and I’m not a big fish and chips person, but when I do get the craving, I always come here. My personal favorite options on the menu are the catfish and shrimp. All of the sauces you can get on the side are good, but I usually get harrissa or the salsa verde. If you aren’t feeling fried fish, you can get it grilled instead, or try it on a sandwich. And if you’re vegetarian, they also have some pretty good options that are meat and fish free.
If you’re craving something sweet, both Cupcake Royale and Bluebird are open until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Definitely not as late as the other places on this list, but if you plan ahead, you might still have time to grab that vegan chocolate cupcake or scoop of Elysian stout in a waffle cone.
After 4 am
If you’re still up after 4 and totally starving…well…there’s always the 24-hour IHOP across from Seattle University. And hey, the servers there are super friendly, and they’ve got pancakes! It could be worse, right? But come April, there will be a new, super-exciting option. That’s right…a 24-hour diner is FINALLY coming to Capitol Hill. It’s called Lost Lake, and it’s going in on 10th ave by Comet. It’s owned by the same people who run the 5-point, so you know it will be good breakfast and diner food. Lost Lake is set to open this April, fingers crossed. Meanwhile, there’s always still Glo’s, of course.