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After Last Call: Food, Glorious Food

Friday, February 29, 2008

After a night of barhopping, you're going to be hungry. There's a detailed scientific explanation that involves alcohol and the body's production of glucose, but just trust me on this one. (How else can you explain the lines in Adams Morgan for a jumbo slice of pizza?)

Late-night food doesn't have to be something you wouldn't eat any other time of day. Here are suggestions for the best post-bar snacks in the area's most popular night-life areas. All are open well after last call on weekends, and some are even open late on weekdays.

-- Fritz Hahn

Adams Morgan

Lines for Amsterdam Falafelshop's sandwiches often go out the door, and crowds pack tightly around the "all you care to use" toppings bar, featuring spicy carrots, beets, eggplant and more sauces than you can experiment with at once. The Belgian-style fries are pleasantly crispy, especially when paired with Dutch mayonnaise or tahini sauce. The big problem is the lack of seats. (When it's warm, there are tables outside.)

Speaking of lines, we love the ever-popular Diner, but why wait for 30 minutes for a seat at 3 a.m.? One neighborhood eatery that's overlooked is the Old City of Jerusalem Cafe, just east of 18th Street on Columbia Road. Owned and operated by former Amsterdam Falafelshop chef Walid Abuelhawa, Old City has crispy falafel, a serve-yourself toppings bar and two things its rival does not: meat-based entrees and plenty of seating. It can take a while to get your well-seasoned kafta kebab (ground beef with onions and garlic in a pita) or beef shawarma, but at least you can sit while you wait.

AMSTERDAM FALAFELSHOP 2425 18th St. NW. 202-234-1969. Open Sunday-Monday until midnight, Tuesday-Wednesday until 2:30 a.m., Thursdays until 3 a.m., Friday-Saturday until 4 a.m.

OLD CITY CAFE OF JERUSALEM 1773 Columbia Rd. NW. 202-232-1322. Open weekdays until midnight, Friday-Saturday until 4 a.m.

Georgetown

Bistro Francais is the classiest late-night option in town, all warm wood and brass, with uniformed servers carrying platters of steak fries and eggs Benedict. It draws all manner of customers, from patrons in tuxedos to those in T-shirts.

Other popular places include the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory, which makes one of the best sandwiches this side of Passyunk Avenue, and Quick Pita, a hole-in-the-wall offering falafel, shawarma and gyros.

Five Guys is popular with the preppy crew, which descends on the place for burgers and fries after a night at Smith Point across the street.

BISTRO FRANCAIS 3128 M St. NW. 202-338-3830. Open Sunday-Thursday until 3 a.m., Friday-Saturday until 4 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA CHEESESTEAK FACTORY 3347 M St. NW. 202-333-8040. Open Sunday-Thursday until 2 a.m., Friday-Saturday until 4 a.m.

QUICK PITA 1210 Potomac St. NW. 202-338-7482. Open Sunday-Wednesday until 2:30 a.m., Thursdays until 3:30 a.m., Friday-Saturday until 4:30 a.m.

FIVE GUYS 1335 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-337-0400. Open Sunday-Thursday until 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday until 4 a.m.

U Street NW

Ben's Chili Bowl is the king of the neighborhood, and the hopping lines for late-night half-smokes are half the fun at this U Street institution. The soul-packed jukebox is fantastic, as are those heart-attack-inducing chili cheese fries, but there are other good eats nearby.

Florida Avenue Grill has been serving classic Southern cooking for more than 60 years, and the menu is full of pig's feet, sausage gravy, collard greens and some of the best grits in the city, alongside the usual eggs, ham and Salisbury steak. The servers are wonderful, even when the crowd jostles for seats at the long counter. Sugar Ray Leonard, Marion Barry and legions of other celebrity-signed photos attest to the power of this famed greasy spoon.

Oohhs & Aahhs satisfies soul-food cravings until 10 p.m. every day, but on Friday and Saturday nights, the small restaurant reopens at midnight and stays open "until," my server helpfully tells me. The fried chicken, catfish and mac and cheese are good at any hour.

It's easy to walk right by 24 Seven, thinking it's a convenience store. Do that and you'll miss one of the best late-night spots in the city. A clean, well-lit restaurant whose walls feature photos of such jazz greats as Thelonious Monk and Roy Eldridge, 24 Seven's specialty is Mediterranean snacks: shawarma, baba ghanouj, lamb kebabs. The winner, though, is the Combination Madness platter: A filling pile of falafel, hummus, chicken shawarma, rice and salad.

BEN'S CHILI BOWL 1213 U St. NW. 202-667-0909. Open Sunday until 8 p.m., Monday-Thursday until 2 a.m., Friday-Saturday until 4 a.m.

FLORIDA AVENUE GRILL 1100 Florida Ave. NW. 202-265-1586. Open Sunday until 4:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday until 4 a.m., Tuesday-Thursday until 9 p.m.

OOHHS & AAHHS 1005 U St. NW. 202-667-7142. Open Friday-Saturday from midnight "until."

24 SEVEN 1408 U St. NW. 202-232-7108. Open Sundays until 3 p.m., Monday-Thursday until 3 a.m., Friday-Saturday until 5 a.m.

Dupont Circle

A fixture on 17th Street NW since the '40s, Annie's Paramount Steak House seems like it will never change. The servers can be funny or nonexistent, the endless mix of dance music lends itself to a "keep the party going" vibe and the tables are so close you can hear the guys next to you getting catty about the drag queen who just walked in the door. The steaks are good; the omelets are tasty. And Annie's is open from Friday morning to the wee hours of Monday.

Challenging Annie's for supremacy in the around-the-clock stakes is Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. Both the cafe and the bookstore are open all night Friday and Saturday.

Alberto's has the jumbo slices that even foodies can grudgingly respect, because if a stone-oven-baked pizza has chicken and pesto on a crispy crust, it must be good, right? The pies sell out and are replaced fairly rapidly, and the pumping dance music will keep anyone from falling asleep while they're waiting.

ANNIE'S PARAMOUNT STEAK HOUSE 1609 17th St. NW. 202-232-0395. Open Sundays until 1:30 a.m., Mondays until 11 p.m., Tuesday-Wednesday until midnight, Thursdays until 1:30 a.m., Friday-Saturday 24 hours.

KRAMERBOOKS & AFTERWORDS CAFE 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-387-3825. Open Sunday-Thursday until 1 a.m., Friday-Saturday 24 hours.

ALBERTO'S 2010 P St. NW. 202-986-2121. Open Monday-Wednesday until midnight, Thursday-Saturday until 5 a.m., Sundays until 1 a.m.

Downtown

In Paris, I can't get through a late night without a visit to my favorite crepe stand. Crepeaway, a cheery shop on L Street NW near Foggy Bottom, is the easiest way to flash back, especially when I'm munching on the Dino (cheese, tomato, bacon, egg and ham). Crepes are available until the wee hours, all cooked from scratch. The Daisy (Nutella spread with slices of banana) seems to be popular with the college students sitting in the restaurant's 20 marigold-colored egg-cup chairs.

For convenience, you can't beat Julia's Empanadas, just steps from Lucky Bar, Play and Eighteenth Street Lounge. The line for the stuffed pastries moves pretty quickly; it's a shame there are no seats.

CREPEAWAY 2001 L St. NW. 202-973-0404. Open Monday-Saturday until 9 p.m., Thursday-Saturday reopens at midnight until 4 a.m.

JULIA'S EMPANADAS 1221 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-861-8828. Open Sunday until 7 p.m., Monday-Tuesday until 2 a.m., Wednesday-Saturday until 4 a.m.

Arlington

At Mario's Pizza House, a decades-old institution, the thing to order is not the pizza, which can resemble a piece of cardboard. Instead, order one of the subs or cheesesteaks. Lefty's Special is my favorite: chopped meat with cheese, pickles, mayo, mustard and the house slaw. There's no indoor seating for customers, though you can play the old-school Galaga arcade game while you wait for your order.

Bob & Edith's Diner is a classic, from the home fries and eggs cooking on the griddle to the Willie Nelson on the jukebox. The walls are covered with Dallas Cowboys memorabilia and faded photos, but once your two-eggs-and-scrapple is front of you, you won't notice anything else. Parking is limited to just a dozen spaces, though you can find a spot in the supermarket parking lot across the street.

The antithesis of Bob & Edith's is the Silver Diner, a chain of gleaming, '50s-ish diners with jukeboxes in every booth (not working) and a menu full of burgers and milkshakes. It's open for a few hours after the bars close, though, and they have more seats than the other two Arlington spots combined.

MARIO'S PIZZA HOUSE 3322 Wilson Blvd. 703-525-0200. Open daily until 3 a.m.

BOB AND EDITH'S 2310 Columbia Pike. 703-920-6103. Open 24 hours daily.

SILVER DINER 3200 Wilson Blvd. 703-812-8600. Open Sunday-Thursday until 2 a.m., Friday-Saturday until 4 a.m.

Bethesda and Silver Spring

Bethesda is a city packed with restaurants, but I'm willing to bet there's only one with chipped beef on the menu and waitresses who call you "Hon." Looking at the classic interior of the Tastee Diner, you'd never know the place suffered a devastating fire in 2002, and perusing the menu, from hot cakes and corned beef hash to the blue plate special, you know you're in a very special place.

The historic Silver Spring location retains much of the original greasy spoon's charm. Although the buzz is that Silver Spring has sprung, this is the only place where people can dine on chipped beef, tuna melts and egg breakfasts around the clock.

TASTEE DINER 7731 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-652-3970. 8601 Cameron St., Silver Spring; 301-589-8171. Open 24 hours.

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