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The Top 12 Fast Food Places That Are Open Late

Our favorite fast food restaurants to eat at when we want a late night meal.

By far, the best thing about going out is getting food at the end of this evening. There is just something special about getting stuck into some greasy fast food past midnight, and the fast food that you eat at the end of your night out is some of the best fast food you will ever eat.

Who knows whether this is because the late-night chefs are more talented, or if it’s the booze (let’s face it, it’s definitely the booze). But fast food just tastes so much better when you eat it at nighttime.

Burger and fries on a wooden board.

The best thing about ordering late at night (and after one too many cocktails), is that you will find yourself ordering food that you never would have tried before. Suddenly everything on the menu seems appealing, even the stuff that you wouldn’t normally like, and that is why you will often find yourself ordering a lot more than you usually would. 

But fear not, in this guide we’ve compiled a list of the best places for late-night fast food, and even given some suggestions of the best things to order. So, if you want to find out more about late-night fast food, keep on reading.


What is Considered “Open Late”?

Now, before we take a look at the best venues for late-night fast food, let’s dive head-first into a much-debated topic, and that is ‘what is “open late”?’

The word ‘late’ is something that can be debated because it is subjective, it does not state a time, and because of this what is considered to be late depends entirely on your personal views. One person could consider late to be anything after 7, or you might consider late to be the early hours of the morning. 

Generally speaking, it is accepted that a fast food restaurant is “open late” if they are open, and serving food, past 12 am. Midnight is generally a cut-off point for many restaurants, and because of this, it is a great way to differentiate between the restaurants that are open late and the restaurants with regular opening hours. So, for the purpose of this guide, and the sake of continuity, we are considering “open late” to mean open after midnight. 

Before we look at the restaurants, it is worth noting that opening hours are not universal to a company. Many of the chains which we will look at have franchise stores as part of their company, and these stores are able to set their opening hours.

So, just because a chain is on this list, it doesn’t mean that all their stores are open after midnight. But, in most cases, the majority of their stores are. So, with no further ado, let’s dive right in.

Best Late Night Fast Food Places

  1. Denny’s
  2. Jack in the Box
  3. Dunkin’
  4. Carl’s Jr./Hardees
  5. IHOP
  6. Burger King
  7. Whataburger
  8. Arby’s
  9. Waffle House
  10. Sonic
  11. Del Taco
  12. McDonald’s

White Castle

white castle drive thru open late

The first place that we would recommend for late-night fast food is White Castle. They might not be your first choice for late-night fast food, and that is why we would recommend them. While everybody else is rushing off to McDonald’s or Taco Bell, you should make a b-line for White Castle, and you’ll miss the queues! 

White Castle is notorious for its small portions, and this is often why they aren’t the first choice for late-night snacks. But, there is one easy way to solve this problem, and that is to simply order more food. Order your favorite slider, and then another one on top (we would recommend the jalapeño cheese slider), with at least 2 portions of fries. Finish it off with a milkshake, and you are guaranteed to be satisfied with your order. 


Denny’s 

Exterior view of Denny’s restaurant on an early morning in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Somewhere else that you might not have thought of is Denny’s. But, this is another one of the places we would always recommend visiting at the end of the night. Sure, you might not fancy pancakes after a night filled with alcohol, but Denny’s has loads of other options on their menu, and that is what makes them so good. 

If you are looking for a greasy meal to soak up the alcohol, we would recommend opting for their all-day breakfast. When Denny’s added all-day breakfast to their menu, they really meant all day (and all night too). Pair it with a side of pancakes and a gigantic coffee if you want to set yourself up the right way for the next day. 


Jack in the Box

jack in the box drive thru

If you prefer a burger at the end of the night, then you should head on down to Jack in the Box. Jack in the Box is renowned for its unique and creative flavor combinations, and while this isn’t for everyone, it has proven to be a huge success with their most loyal patrons. This is why so many people find themselves at Jack in the Box at 2 AM. 

The best thing about the menu at Jack in the Box is that it is seemingly designed for people who have spent the night drinking. They saw this gap in the market, and they set out to cater specifically for those who are 8 pints in, to the point where they even designed an entire post-drinking menu.

Packed with delicious cheese sauce, greasy chicken wings, and a wide range of burgers, there is something on this menu for everyone. But, we would recommend the Chick-n-Tater Melt Munchie meal with a large Coca-Cola. 


Dunkin’ 

An exterior view of a Dunkin Donuts coffee shop in New Jersey.

Dunkin’, formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts, might not be your first choice for a late-night snack. But, it is actually one of the best places to visit. While your mind thinks it is nighttime, your body will actually be ‘waking up’ for the morning, and in the morning, you eat breakfast. This is why Dunkin’ is actually one of the best places for late-night fast food. 

If you’re heading down to Dunkin’ in the early hours, the first thing you need to order is a massive coffee. This will wake you up, and set you in good stead to eat the rest of your order. Pair this with a breakfast muffin of your choice, and inquire if there are any leftover donuts available. If there are, add these to your order, and you will have the perfect late night Dunkin’ order right at your fingertips. 


Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s

carls jr exterior

Alternatively, you should head on down to Carl’s Jr or Hardee’s (depending on what it is known as in your area). Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s are great for late night ordering because they were the original restaurant that made ordering a burger as a side dish a thing. So, at Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s, you can order a cheeseburger with a cheeseburger on the side, and so on. 

You can create your own meal at Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s, but the best options are the meals that the company has created themselves. This is the easiest way to order when you have had a couple of drinks, and they are totally delicious too. We would recommend opting for the Double Cheeseburger and Chicken All Star Meal so that you can satisfy the part of you that wants a burger, and the part of you that wants chicken too. 


IHop

ihop exterior

A store that you can always rely on to be open at 2 AM is IHop, so if you are feeling peckish in the early hours, this is the place to go if you want a guarantee that it’ll be open. IHop might not be your go-to place for fast food, but there’s no denying that they serve some pretty delicious dishes, and let’s face it, at 2 AM you will probably be happy to eat anything

You could always play it safe at IHop and order pancakes, but in the early hours of the morning, we would recommend ordering something meaty instead. In particular, we would recommend the classic Steakburger or the Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. When it’s early in the morning, there is nothing that your stomach wants more than meat (and sleep, of course), so it is always a good idea to head to IHop at the end of your night out. 


Burger King

burger king exterior sign

Speaking of meat, if you fancy a good ol’ meaty burger, then you should make a trip to Burger King. Burger King is renowned for its flame-grilled burgers, and there really is no denying that they are some of the best on the market. Not all Burger King stores are open in the early hours, but quite a lot of them are, and that is why it is such a great place to head to. 

If you want a burger, then look no further than the Whopper. This is Burger King’s most famous burger, and it is easy to see why because it is delicious. You could choose to pair your burger with some regular fries, but we would recommend the chicken fries at Burger King instead. There isn’t much better than beef with a side of chicken, and that is what makes this order so great when it’s the early hours of the morning.  


Whataburger

whataburger drive thru open late night

But, if you aren’t a huge fan of the burgers at Burger King, you should check out Whataburger. Whataburger does some outstanding burgers, but they do a lot of other great items too, most notably their taquitos. These are packed with flavor and are on a whole new level compared to the burgers at Whataburger, so they are definitely one to try (if you haven’t already). 

You only need to take a brief look at the history of the humble taquito to understand how great it is. These items were added to the Whataburger menu as a limited edition special, but they were so popular that they were added to the menu full time. These tortillas packed with cheese, egg, and chorizo have become so popular that Whataburger should rename themselves Whatataquito instead because this is undoubtedly the best thing to order on their menu! 


Arby’s 

crowded arby's counter

Or, if you have a craving for roast beef, then you really should look no further than Arby’s. Arby’s as a restaurant is entirely dedicated to their roast beef sandwiches, and they have built their entire brand around this humble food. With a load of different variations to their roast beef sandwiches, Arby’s has managed to dedicate their entire restaurant to this type of sandwich, so you already know what you should order!

As well as a huge range of roast beef sandwiches, Arby’s also sells chicken wings, chicken pieces, and other treats. One of the best is their mozzarella dippers. Cheese is great no matter how it is served, but mozzarella dippers really are top tier, and that is why so many people love them. So order a classic roast beef sandwich and pair it with some mozzarella dippers for the ultimate late-night meal at Arby’s. 


Waffle House

waffle house sign lit up late at night

We mentioned at the beginning of this guide that not all of these chains will have every single store open late at night. But, with Waffle House, it is guaranteed that all of their stores are open 24/7. The chain stops at nothing to ensure that they are open all the time, ready for customers, and they have been known to brave the elements to ensure that those doors do not remain closed. Ever. 

There is a huge range of items on the Waffle House menu, and this is great if you have spent the night drinking. No matter whether you fancy an all-day breakfast, or a massive steak, Waffle House will have the menu item for you. Their food is outstanding, and their service is even better. So, even if it is an ungodly hour, you can guarantee that you will be treated like a King at Waffle House. 


Sonic

sonic drive in spots

There are some food chains that you simply link to late night snacks, and Sonic is one of them. Most Sonic stores are located off of busy highways, so they aren’t always accessible after a late night drinking alcohol, but they are great if you have driven through the night, and simply want to stop for a snack. Sonic specializes in snacks, and this is why they are an excellent place to go, no matter what time it is. 

Sonic has something for everyone on the menu. From greasy burgers to scrumptious tater tots, and a huge selection of drinks to choose from. Our go-to order would always be a cheeseburger paired with tater tots, mozzarella sticks, and a Blast of your chosen flavor. Sonic’s food might not be the best on the market, but it is incredibly satisfying. Especially when you eat it in the early hours. 


Del Taco

Exterior shot of Del Taco restaurant.

Easily one of the best cuisines for late-night snacking is Mexican, yet not that many Mexican fast-food chains stay open past midnight. But one that does stay open is Del Taco, so it is a good thing that their food is so delicious.

The best thing about Del Taco is that they serve traditional Mexican food, alongside American dishes, such as burgers. So, even if you have friends who are fussy eaters, they are guaranteed to enjoy the food at Del Taco. 

Almost all Del Taco stores will stay open into the early hours, so they are a safe bet if you are wanting to cure your drunken hungriness. But their big menu can make it difficult to know what to order from this store. We would always opt for a stuffed quesadilla taco paired with loaded nachos and a large Sprite. So, if you are passing a Del Taco after your night out, you should definitely consider popping in. 


McDonald’s

outside picture of a mcdonalds and the drive thru

It would be criminal to leave McDonald’s off of this list because, let’s face it, when it comes to fast food, McDonald’s is the best. They have an outstanding reputation, and they are solely responsible for making fast food what it is today. No matter what you order at McDonald’s, the food is always of great quality, and that is why it is so satisfying when you visit them in the early hours. 

But, it isn’t the quality of their food that makes McDonald’s such a great place for late-night fast food. Instead, it is the food that they offer. Ever since McDonald’s added their 20 chicken nugget share box to the menu, they declared themselves the best place for eating out after midnight. So order this box with large fries, a McFlurry, and a large Coca-Cola, then chow down. You are guaranteed to not be disappointed. 


Final Thoughts

When it comes down to it, these are really the best places to eat late at night when you’re craving some delicious fast food. Hopefully, this guide will help you on your next long night out when it’s 3 AM and you’re trying to figure out where to get food.

If you’re more of a morning person, you might like this list of the fast food places with the best breakfast!

Which place is your favorite late night dining destination? Let us know in a comment below!

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Written by Erin B.

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.