Wednesday, March 02, 2011

midnight snack

Look, first let's make it clear that Atlanta has really grown on me, OK?  First off, the weather is pretty nice here.  Second off, people are charming and say cute things.  Third off--well, today I was taking care of a patient who just so happened to be an "ambassador" (his word) for Chick-Fil-A, and he had such a nice time talking to me that he gave me a personal business card which could be redeemed for one free chicken sandwich.  Free Chick-Fil-A!  How was your day?

But one thing that drives me crazy about Atlanta is the restaurant hours.

OK, so forget the fact that no non-fast-food restaurants open before 10:00am, like, ever.*  I like to get an early start on my day but whatever, I can deal with having to stand outside a self-proclaimed brunch establishment at 9:00am on a Sunday morning waiting for them to wake up.  But what really kills me, especially in my line of work, is the fact that no restaurants stay open past 10:00pm.  It's ungodly.  Don't people get hungry at night down here?  More importantly, don't people want to make money selling food to people like me?

Back in New York (oh, not this again) I would often get off work late.  Obviously.  Being a resident means working weird hours, and by "weird hours" I mean all the hours.  Many days I'd get in before the sun rose and leave work at 10:00pm, midnight, sometimes 2:00am, knowing I'd have to be back in to work the next day.

After a certain point of the night (I'd put that cutoff at around 9:00pm I guess) there was really no point in me hurrying home anymore, since I knew everyone there was already asleep and therefore there was no one to see.  So sometimes, on my way back downtown, I'd stop for a very late dinner by myself.  And if this sounds pathetic, it absolutely is not--eating alone in restaurants is awesome.  You get to order whatever you want and you don't have to share it with (or feed it to) anyone, and you can eat your whole meal while reading a book or listening to "This American Life" on your iPod.  And for someone who always felt like she was at the beck an call for other people (kid, patients, attendings, spouse), these occasional late night dinners were the ultimate indulgence.

I don't know how your tastes run, but when I'm up late at night, especially after a long night at work with limited sustenance, my appetite runs towards the hot, the brothy, the spicy, the comforting.  Korean food was always a good default--relatively inexpensive, lots of food, and restaurants in Koreatown (the only redeeming feature of the Herald Square area, in my opinion--please don't counter with "Macy's," you'll just depress me) are open all night long.  And everyone goes there.  There were many nights that I'd be grabbing a quick late-night meal on my way home, past midnight at some Korean restaurant that I didn't even know the name of because nothing in the restaurant was written in English, and the restaurant would just be packed with people.  Old couples grimly gumming down their hot pots, not speaking to each other.  Masses of young teenagers oozing booze and karaoke.  Single people like myself at many of the smaller tables, sitting alone but looking utterly contented.  It was so busy and alive, even at that hour.  And that made the food taste really good.

You'll forgive me this lament because obviously we're happy in Atlanta and we love the people here, but that last part is the key to why I miss New York so much.  And it's not just because I'm a creature of habit, or because everyone I've ever known in my life up until this point is in New York.  No, it's because in New York, you don't ever feel like you're just you.  You always feel like you're part of something bigger.  And that's fun.

There's a Vietnamese pho place up the street from where we live now in Atlanta that has some decent food.  But when I drove past it tonight, at 10:00pm, it had long since closed.  The lights were off, the parking lot was empty.  So instead I came home and made some instant noodles and sat in my dark house eating them by myself.

It wasn't the best late-night dinner I've ever had.  But it was all right.

* I already know what you're going to say.  "Something something The Flying Biscuit."  Right?


  1. Does your Pho have cilantro in it? Cilantro tastes like death. I mean, if I had to give death a flavor it would be cilantro.

  2. Aww, sadness! If this is any consolation (but it's not...yet, I am still typing...), restaurants in Washington, DC close really early too. I think I have two options after 10 p.m. within walking distance of the med. school. It's so depressing! I always watch the clock and feel compelled to order food (to stow away until I am ready to eat it later) because it's just not worth it to have to scrounge around at 7-11 for food at midnight.

  3. Anonymous12:01 AM

    haha, you really are chinese! the chinese are famous for midnight eating/snaking. and they have really good places open to cater to these midnight eaters...

  4. I know! I wish more places were open late, or 24 hours. Shoot, even the cafeterias at the hospitals close, which is silly to me! I mean people work there ALL the time.

  5. Outre1:09 AM

    I’m really really hungry now and have no food. :( Solo dinning is awesome and I love it when restaurants are welcome to the idea. If I lived in the city I’d probably gain weight (or maybe not, I’d be walking so much more) from all the food available at all hours of the day.

    I wouldn’t mind being able to walk into woorijip now.

  6. Anonymous1:29 AM

    I don't know, your ramen (Neoguri?) looks pretty darn good to me at 1:30am. But yeah, it's unfortunate that ATL closes down its dining establishments so early.

  7. Anonymous1:59 AM

    It has been a few years since I lived in ATL but I LOVED Rias Blue Bird Cafe in Cabbage town and West Egg along Howell Mill (although I think it moved locations). I liked it and it is 24 Hours (I think) Ok-Cafe along ...I forget but its easy to get to. There may also be someplaces open later near Midtown and GA Tech for the students. Not sure if those help at all. But I am so glad you are settling in. Its such a great place in the spring

  8. That ramen looks really really hot and spicy and yummy at 11:34. now i'm craving some =/

  9. I don't know... but that ramen looks pretty darn good to me!

    I think it's an Asian thing, the late night dining. Because out here in Asia, it's quite common to find eating places that are open late or even open 24 hours, whether it's China or Singapore or Malaysia or Hong Kong. And NYC, with its large Asian population, you have that demographic to cater to so it makes more sense for businesses to stay open late AND make money.

  10. thanks for putting into words an idea this southern girl has been trying to explain to her friends about why new york is awesome.

  11. Eating alone is one of life's simple pleasures (if you aren't having to do it all the time).

  12. I have only recently entered a restaurant to eat a meal all alone. I sit at the bar and will order maybe a drink or two to help me forget that it is "just me". I don't think I could sit at an actual table to eat a meal all alone.

    Also, working late hospital cafeteria closes at like 1800!! I guess the food is unheard of after dark around here. When I worked in PA we had access to a pretty good hospital cafe 24/7 including icee machines and soft serve ice cream.

  13. Animal9:33 AM

    This is so sad. You make 6 figures and deserve better food than ramen, though ramen is mega tasty. Have you ever been to these Japanese ramen places before? They taste completely different from the instant ramen, but I still prefer instant ramen myself.

  14. Anonymous9:34 AM

    BOJANGLES!!! not flying biscuit i have no idea what that is, but bojangles opens at the buttcrack of dawn and has all kinds of delic southern foodage. try it :)

  15. Anonymous9:44 AM

    I miss NY food too, as I'm sure most people miss the food they grew up eating. While there are some places open late in my "new" city, I really miss diners.

    "'s because in New York, you don't ever feel like you're just you. You always feel like you're part of something bigger." Well put. I struggle to explain why many NYers would never want to live anywhere else, even though there are many benefits to NOT living in NY.

  16. First of all - love the ChickFilA fairies. I live on the southside (close to CFA headquarters) so I get hit fairly often by the fairies. Love it.

    Second of all - you just need to adapt your cravings from spicy and brothy to greasy and cheesy. Waffle House will cure what ails you at any time of day.

  17. I would think the closest Southern equivalent of the "late night diner" would be Waffle House- of course, it's not the same as Korean food, but it's open all night AND it's cheap!

  18. Ah yes, you live in America now. Hee. I think it's OK to miss NY even though you're happy in Atlanta. I've never lived in NY, but I visit it once a year because I miss it. :)

  19. Anonymous12:05 PM

    It doesn't even have to do with being Chinese... I also grew up in NYC and I was in IL for several years. There was a pizza place near my apartment and one night I drove past it after a late clinic (meaning patients until 8 and then paperwork had to be done before you left) so it was about 9:30. They were mopping the floors and had already cashed out the register because they closed at 10! They stopped delivering by 9! Jeez, really? No one wants pizza brought to their house after 9 pm? Ridiculous!

  20. I feel your pain. I did my undergrad in Montreal and that's a culture that understands late-night dining well.

    Also... is that a poached egg in your ramen? Be still my heart! Yumm...

  21. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Majestic Diner on Ponce doesn't have any Korean food, but it's good, open 24 hours, and it's never empty. Flying Biscuit is overrated--Java Jive is better, and they open at 8:45 on the weekend. i'm a former Nyer, now a VaHi/Poncey partisan! :)

  22. Anonymous4:06 PM

    you just HIT ON THE NOSE why i want to do residency in NYC. It seems like you can have a relationship with the city itself, when you're feeling a bit lonesome or tired. Listen to Under the Bridge by RHCP. Also sums it up nicely (minus the heroin references, of course)

  23. The Majestic is always great late night food. It's just a tad pricey in my opinion. WaHo is always great at any time of day. The West Egg is still on Howell Mill. It just moved up to a new spot like 100 yds from it's previous location (believe me. I used to live like RIGHT there up until 2 months ago). I think The Flying Biscuit is nasty so don't even get me going. Besides that I can't think of anywhere I ate late at night that may have been after midnight.

  24. Thank you for explaining to me why all of y'all come down here and dis our city because we aren't New York. So from now on I won't roll my eyes when I'm eating alone and I here two Manhattan princess' whining about not being able to find a decent nail salon, shoe store, butcher shop or news stand. If you want to eat late in Atlanta, you will have to go to IHOP, Steak and Shake, Waffle House or fast food. And you'd better be wanting breakfast, because that's what they are serving. Flying Biscuit is over priced and not that great, even if it is organic and Bojangles is fast food fried chicken. I wish I could suggest a better restaurant to you, but I don't think it exists. I'd tell you to check out Buford Highway, but it is Buford Highway and late at night. I wouldn't even hang around there after dark when I was growing up there in the 70's. If you ever find a place, please, please, please share it with us.

  25. Oh good lord does this resonate with me. I sadly, have worked "all" the hours too, overnight on-calls, day calls, blah blah blah. Living in NYC, the only way I actually get fed is by having access to food at any time (food that get delivers mind you). My aunt and uncle moved to Atlanta and even though the lifestyle is so much more relaxed there, I could never live in a place where you can't get a meal after 9pm. Someone mentioned the Flying Biscuit and I have to say it's delicious. Whenever I visit though, I have adamantly refused to set foot in a WAHO (aka waffle house).

  26. Spencer12:50 AM

    Not sure whereabouts you live in ATL, but as a fellow Chinese who has that craving for a late night treat, I have also been on the hunt for a late night snack of the Asian variety. They recently opened a new 24-hour pho place up on Buford highway, right by the airport. Check it out on Yelp:

    Pho Dai Loi #2 is still my favorite, though they close at 8PM. You may also try Saigon Cafe (multiple locations), they close at 10PM. Shout outs also to Quan Ba 9 and Com Grill (both also on Buford Highway). Lee's Bakery does Viet sandwiches at $2.50/sandwich AND if you buy 5, you get a sixth one free! They generally keep well and have been good at keeping my uncontrollable evening Asian food cravings at bay. And if you're in the mood for some Herald Square-esque Korean...I still think the best bet is So Kong Dong. If you, or anyone, has found decent dim sum in this city, please holler, because that has continued to be elusive!

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