You could be headed out of a club in Shockoe Bottom, tired of singing karaoke at Barcode or Penny Lane, or on the street after a seeing a band at the National, but one thing’s for sure: There’s been a whole lot of partying and you’re ready to eat. Problem is, it’s after midnight — or worse, after 2 a.m. Before selling your soul to the fast-food industrial complex, consider this: Your late-night food dollars would be far better spent supporting a local business that contributes to the dynamic food scene over a cookie-cutter, chain-restaurant experience. If walking into one of these places after a full night of music doesn’t get your booze-addled brain spiking dopamine, you may as well call it a night:
Shockoe Bottom: Cafe Verde
The key here is what night you’re looking to find food. On Fridays and Saturdays, Cafe Verde stays open till 2:30 a.m., meaning just enough time to stay for the final encore and last call and still get fed. The little bright green cafe in the Bottom serves two things — tacos ($3 each, 4/$10) and cupcakes ($2) — with a counter and stools on two sides for eating. At that hour, though, most people just grab and go, inhaling the life-restoring tacos while they meander home.
It’s true, everything in this place is vegan, which many people don’t notice at this point in the night, especially given that the chalkboard menu lists beef, barbecue, carnitas and fish — the latter well-spiced with enough horseradish to clear your sinuses, plus cayenne, dill, red onion and cabbage along with mushroom and potato tacos. The potato taco’s Indian spices make it a standout. Even in the wee hours, don’t miss the dessert case, where this butter lover was wooed by the frosting on a mandarin chocolate cupcake. Ditto a pumpkin spice whoopee pie oozing cream and tasting of nutmeg and cinnamon. Butter-free never tasted so good.
1810 E. Main St.
Thursday 5 p.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m., Sunday noon-8 p.m.
Carytown: Doner Kebab
The simple menu consists of shawarmas, essentially gyros, with lamb and beef or chicken, a falafel sandwich, chicken or beef steak strombolis, and hummus. If satisfying your buzz requires deep frying, there are fries ($2). Both shawarmas feature house-baked pita bread, but it’s the chicken shawarma ($6) that owes its sunny quality to sliced lemons, pickled turnip for crunch, lettuce and a white garlic yogurt sauce that tames the robust seasoning of the chicken.
Whether you’re married to meat or wouldn’t touch it, the falafel sandwich ($6) is impressive. Served in the same pillowy pita bread, the fried patties of ground chickpeas announce themselves with a satisfying crunch and ample but not overdone spices balanced by sliced lemon, parsley and tahini sauce. Bright and noisy with a few tables inside and limited seating outside, with Middle Eastern techno music pumping, Doner epitomizes what fast food can be.
3459 W. Cary St.
Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday 3 p.m.-3 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-3 a.m., Sunday noon-9 p.m.
Downtown: 3rd Street Diner
Grandfathered into the Richmond scene is the one restaurant that’s always there, no matter what day of the week or how late: 3rd Street Diner. No, the décor hasn’t improved and yes, there’s still an ATM inside the door, but damned if you can beat its 24/7 hours, much less the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet ($9.95) on Friday and Saturday, from midnight till 6 a.m. On the other nights, a better morning after starts with a bacon cheeseburger ($7.50) that gets a boost when you request grilled onions on the hand-shaped patty. It comes with your choice of onion rings (pass) or crispy fries (please).
Italian sausage with sautéed green peppers and onions does the same duty with pig instead of cow. The brilliant way to sop up those margaritas that seemed like a good idea at the time is with the diner breakfast club ($7.50), a protein behemoth stacked three layers high with turkey, ham, bacon, cheese and scrambled eggs. It’s what Superman would want to eat to feel better after he accidentally did a Kryptonite shot.
218 E. Main St.
Open daily, all day and all night