Restaurants that stay open all day, and all night.
Clarke’s on Damen Is there a greater comfort in the world than a waitress who ends every sentence with hon or dear? Who arrives, like magic, each moment your coffee mug nears empty? That’s the unmistakable charm of Clarke’s, the throwback diner whose fourth location on a late-night stretch of Damen ensures that Bucktown’s finest will be taking full advantage of its greasy eggs, un-crisp hash browns and pancakes that, no matter how much butter and syrup you pour on them, still cling to the roof of your mouth. 1704 N Damen Ave (773-661-1492). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Average main course: $10.
El Presidente The rather average offerings at this late-night Mexican restaurant are made more attractive by both their value and their round-the-clock availability. From 11pm–5am, six entrées ranging from burritos to burgers to seafood are offered for the paltry price of $6.75 apiece. And from 5–11am, you can plop down into a colorful booth and partake of huevo-heavy breakfast items and Mexican sausage. 2558 N Ashland Ave (773-525-7938). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs), Red to Fullerton. Bus: 9, 74. Average main course: $8.
Elly’s Pancake House The room is big and wide-open, and yet thanks to the homey design (the mismatched chairs, the collection of plates on the wall), this diner feels more like a small, charming café. But don’t let that fool you: The menu has all the diner staples, from plate-size omelettes to hearty Monte Cristo sandwiches to the signature: oven-baked pancakes almost the size of the room. 101 W North Ave (312-643-2300). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Sedgwick. Bus: 9, 11, 22, 36, 72, 73. Average main course: $9.
Huck Finn Restaurant This mini chain (there are three scattered throughout the South Side) has a all-encompassing menu, but the focus is really on two major food groups: ice cream and doughnuts. This is not to say that the savory food isn’t perfectly solid—tuna melts could feed three; burgers are charred on the outside and juicy within—but the real deal is what comes next. For most people, that’s a doughnut topped with ice cream. But for our money, an apple fritter does the job better. 3414 S Archer Ave (773-247-5515). El: Orange to 35th/Archer. Bus: 35, 50, 62. Average main course: $10.
Jeri’s Grill There is a bevy of 24-hour greasy-spoon diners in this city, but none of them offers anything as curious as Jeri’s “jailhouse special,” a plate of fried bologna, eggs, hash browns and toast. Kind of makes you wonder what Jeri was up to before the grill, doesn’t it? Get there before 2pm for the biscuits and gravy; the rest of the cheap eats are served all day and include fries and patty melts. 4357 N Western Ave (773-604-8775). El: Brown to Western. Bus: 11, 49, 78. Average main course: $6.
Three Happiness Restaurant The first thing to know before heading for this Chinatown gem is that it’s not the giant Three Happiness on the corner of Wentworth and Cermak, and the difference is monumental. Ignore the far-from-spotless decor and skip the so-so appetizers in favor of black pepper beef with rice noodles (ordered “crispy”), stir-fried Dungeness crab in chile-seafood XO sauce, crispy salt-and-pepper shrimp and Cantonese-style crispy-skin chicken. 209 W Cermak Rd (312-842-1964). El: Red to Cermak/Chinatown. Bus: 18, 21, 62. Average main course: $8.