South Florida is filled with cities that never sleep, and these cities attract night owls who need to eat. As such, restaurants across the tricounty area keep their doors and/or kitchens open late to feed these folks. No fan of early bedtimes himself, SouthFlorida.com photographer Jim Rassol has set out with his camera and his appetite to document the late-night scenes at these eateries, beginning with spots in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Boca Raton. He’ll continue heading south in the weeks and months to come, so bookmark this page and check back for new images of hungry nightcrawlers and the people who serve them.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday
A chunk of SoHo chic sits on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach and goes by the name of Hullabaloo. Like its big-city kin, the venue is sophisticated, lowly lit and up late — 1 a.m. during the week and 3 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Framed portraits of dead rock stars hang on a matte-white brick wall that lines the restaurant from front to back. Diners can ponder the musicians’ legacies while looking over a late-night drink menu in which cocktails share names with song titles. Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me Baby” inspired a drink made of Buffalo Trace bourbon, pineapple rum, Pedro Ximinez, sherry, orange and cardamom bitters. Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down” loans its name to a drink consisting of Old Forester Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Bitter Truth Golden Falernum and Scotch Mist. No matter the artist, all drinks cost $13.
“We’ve gone through about 50 rock stars in the six years we’ve been open.” says chef Fritz Cassel, who prides himself on the menu’s fire-roasted Brussel sprouts and fire-roasted chicken meatballs. Portions come in medium and large sizes. Other interesting late-night menu items include roasted bone marrow, speck ham pizza, a roast pork sandwich, a charcuterie board and the Hullabaloo burger.
Hours: 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-5 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday
If a 1950s diner, an artist-driven coffeehouse and an Airstream travel trailer somehow had a love child, it would be Howley’s restaurant. Jalousie windows and putt-putt golf greet visitors walking up to the front door. Original terrazzo floors frame the open, stainless-steel kitchen inside.
Established in 1950 by Patrick J. Howley, the restaurant has had only three owners. Through the years, it has kept one soft foot in the era of Marylin Monroe, with a long Formica counter, layer cakes under glass and curved corner window seating.
New art is everywhere from local artists, some uplifting, some dour, some just plain odd. Hula lamps and star-rocket chandeliers light the conversations of young and old, local and tourist until 5 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 a.m. the rest of the week.
Acai bowls and fresh-squeezed celery and pear juices appear on the menu next to vintage cocktails such as Harvey Wallbanger, mai tai and boozy Pink Squirrel milkshake. Long gone is the greasy-spoon menu, replaced by organic ingredients prepared in a scratch kitchen without microwave ovens.
Howley’s is known for its daily specials modeled after TV dinners.
“We have a different TV dinner for every day of the week,” manager Kristen Morris says. “It takes people back to ones their mom used to make with the little tinfoil tray. They ask if it comes in a compartment tray, and it actually does.”
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday
No matter what time of day or night, lines of people form outside this 24-hour Cuban restaurant a little south of downtown West Palm Beach. While Havana’s dining room keeps normal hours, its walk-up window is always open and features a full menu. It’s an experience you’d expect to find 70 miles south on Calle Ocho in Miami’s famed Little Havana neighborhood.
The window draws a steady tide of locals, tourists and curious people who wonder over from the drug store across the street to check out the brightly lit, two-story building that looks right out of a Hemingway novel.
Some customers talk to one another. Most don’t. But they all listen to the hiss of the espressomaker as orders get assembled and put into boxes. A name is called, and white bags of Cuban cuisine head off into the night. The traditional dishes are all here: vaca frita, ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, lamb shanks in red wine, plus sandwiches and empanadas.
“We’ve been coming here for about 12 years,” says Americo Cateni, of Connecticut, who recently visited the restaurant with his son. “We stopped by on our way up from the movie theater in Boca Raton. Now we’ll head up to the hotel, and have some good grub.”
Hours: 10 p.m.-3 a.m Thursday-Saturday, 10 p.m.m-1 a.m. Sunday
Not feeling well and unable to leave her house to grab a bite, Dana Kippel took matters into her own hands. She opened a “ghost kitchen,” a delivery-only business that sublets the kitchen of a brick-and-mortar restaurant after-hours.
Kippel, who by day works as a marketing manager, said she got the idea while in California. After finding a kitchen and willing partners, she launched Nocturnal Eats through social media, acquired electronic-payment systems and began using Grubhub and Uber to deliver her food. Most of her customers are people who do not like or have time to cook, college kids, shift workers, first responders and people who can’t drive because they may be drunk.
The menu draws from Kippel’s roots growing up in New Jersey and screams comfort food. Popular items are the Workin’ Man Burrito with steak, tater tots, cheese, corn and gravy; Buffalo Dippers, chicken chunks with a side of homemade hot sauce; and the Sriracha and Bacon Dog, a fried hot dog wrapped in bacon with Sriracha sauce.
“I used to go to the movies and get a big cone of curly fries when I was a kid,” Kipple says. “So I had to put that on the menu. Our Disco Dippers are kind of like poutine.”
Operating late at night when it’s dark and most people are asleep is right in Kippel’s wheelhouse. “I’m kind of obsessed with Halloween and nighttime and everything ghoulish and creepy,” says Kippel, who is already preparing a special Halloween menu with feedback from her customers. “I like to take surveys on Facebook and see what they say and then kind of mix it with what I want. I’m thinking of maybe a pumpkin pie or a devil’s food cake.”
Business has been brisk in the two months Nocturnal Eats has been delivering to Boynton Beach and nearby cities.
“People tell me that I should be proud that we’re getting 25 to 30 orders a night,” Kippel says. “I’m very hard on myself, and I think we should be around 50. I’m satisfied, but I’d like to do better. I definitely think we need to stick with this location and perfect everything first and not make the mistake of going too big too quickly.”
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 am. daily, late-night menu available midnight-2 a.m.
The artwork of celebrated South Florida artist Ruben Ubiera is unmistakable on the outside of the El Camino restaurant in downtown Delray Beach. The nostalgic urban murals of Mexican culture soar and glow in golden-russet tones around a depiction of the car-truck hybrid that shares the restaurant’s name.
El Camino offers a late-night menu that is far from the pared-down ones normally offered to people who get hungry after midnight. The restaurant’s combination of a scratch kitchen and bar, vintage warehouse-cantina decor, $2 street tacos, $4 drafts and $3 bottles has kept their late nights hopping, especially on weekends, when wait times can exceed 45 minutes. Late night at El Camino mostly attracts a young crowd and people who filter in from nearby Atlantic Avenue.
The menu offers four tacos, including Barbacoa with brisket, queso fresco, onions and salsa borracha; carnitas with queso fundido, serrano salsa and white onion; gringo with ground beef, Colby Jack, sour cream, shaved lettuce and pico de gallo; and veggie with sweet potato, carrots, mushrooms, pickled onions and epazote pesto.
Margaritas cost $5 and include the Classic, Hibiscus, Kiwi-Mint, Cactus and Tequila Sunrise. Spirits cost $5, and wine costs $3.
One of the best values on the menu is the chips and salsa for $2. It comes in a giant metal pan with charred tomatillo (smoky) salsa and morita salsa.
Hours: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. nightly
It seems as if Dada has been on the corner of Swinton Avenue and Northwest First Street since long before 2000, when the restaurant opened.
That’s because it has been. Dada resides inside the historic Tarrimore house that was built circa 1924. The original house is basically intact, with a second story added in 1939. As with most homes, the living room is a hub of activity. On any given night, aspiring poets, musicians and artists preform in front of a brick fireplace as guests watch from the bar and tables in nearby, semi-private rooms. Vintage wavy glass windows next to the mantle shimmer and light the bar. In the back-room dining area, classic cult films are projected on a wall, creating an arthouse experience. “Dr. Strangelove” with tabbouleh? No problem. Front yard dining is available under a banyan tree or on the porch, weather permitting.
Dada offers a full menu until 2 a.m. and a wide variety of flavored mojitos. Late-night appetizers include Dada Dates (bacon-wrapped Medjool dates, goat cheese and tomato confit); tuna tartare (sushi-grade tuna, soy-sake vinaigrette and wasabi aioli); and the Mediterranean Plate (beet hummus, baba ghanoush, grape leaves, cucumber salad and tabbouleh).
Death or Glory
Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. nightly
Death or Glory resides in the historic Falcon House built in 1925. The eatery prides itself on being a home for locals and people passing through who wish they were.
A handwritten note on the front door directs “friends” to a side entrance and asks them to “stay awhile.” Sofas and velvety lounge chairs lure guests from the bar to just relax and sip their drinks. The vibe between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. is like a speakeasy where only cool, mellow kids remain. From the street, it is easy to think Death or Glory is closed if no one has parked out front — local camouflage.
Death or Glory’s late-night happy-hour menu is available from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m., and includes vegan barbecue sliders ($7), vegan chickpea curry ($10), veggie egg rolls ($5) and veggie burgers ($15) alongside their meat counterparts. The bar offers late-night drinkers classics such as the Sazerac, the Dark and Stormy, gimlets and an old-fashioned. Each drink costs $6.
Hours: Open 24 hours seven days a week.
After flying for 7 1/2 hours, Bob and Gina Sablo landed at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and drove straight to the Flashback Diner.
“I said before, ‘We go home, we’ve got to get a good meal,’ ” says Gina Sablo, of Delray Beach. “It’s good here no matter what time of day you come. We come for breakfast after church. It’s good for groups, and the customer service is very good.”
Located in east Boca Raton and only a few minutes from I-95 and Florida Atlantic University, the diner attracts a wide variety of people looking for late-night eats. Students cramming for exams, people driving home late from airports, comedians done with their gigs, staffers from other restaurants, first responders and shift workers at nearby hospitals ebb and flow through the shiny and bright dining room well after midnight.
This isn’t a greasy spoon by the tracks in a sooty steel town. It’s in Boca Raton, after all, and that means the nicer the better. Like a hermit crab that upgraded to a beautiful new shell, the Flashback Diner has reaped the rewards of the building’s previous incarnation as a luxury Italian restaurant. Thick Carrara marble tables fill the dining room. Formica and plastic is nowhere to be found. There is a waterfall wall on the way to the kitchen and a grand piano in the foyer. What diner has a foyer?
Known for fried chicken, hamburgers, full bar, omelets, giant slices of cake and a menu that doesn’t seem to end, the Flashback Diner does exactly what diners are supposed to — provide good comfort food no matter what time it is.