by Richard Eber
It’s after hours. If residents want to find a place to eat that is not a drive-thru, there are only a limited number of restaurants that are open to those who wish to partake in a late evening or early morning meal. Outside of merely being able to take care of the needs of those who work graveyard shifts and odd hours, midnight munchers want decent food even if they are night owls. Even with limited dining options, (those who expect cuisine on the Michelin rated restaurant guide need not bother), it is possible to eat well after 10pm. I recommend when going to one of our late-hours restaurants, it is best to arrive as early as possible. Sometimes when the doors are about to be shut, the hired help priorities often change from customer service to going home.
Here is my list of the top late night local restaurants, separated for you by category: Diners, Mexican, Bar Food, and Asian.
Diners are ideally suited for late night meals especially for breakfast and burgers which can easily be made to order. My top two picks here are longtime favorites.
Denny’s:- Like an old shoe that has not been discarded Denny’s seems to always be there to meet the needs of those who are hungry. This stalwart of late night eating features a dependable menu of breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and numerous other options. Despite what many of their detractors might say, the food is good and we are lucky Denny’s is around to serve us. Open 24 hours. 1313 Willow Pass Rd, Concord.
The Original Mel’s Diner – Having just opened in the later part of September in Concord, this iconic chain was made famous from director George Lucas’s early film, “American Graffiti.” It resides in the same location that Coco’s and my past favorite late night haunt Bob’s Big Boy once stood. Decorated in a pleasing 1950’s motif this diner is a family favorite. They have a varied menu from prime rib to meat loaf. I recommend ordering breakfast, burgers made with fresh sirloin, fries, milk shakes, and items made fresh there. Prior to 11pm high school kids are especially attracted to this alcohol-free restaurant. Open till 10pm Sunday-Thursday ,12am Friday & Sat. 4391 Treat Blvd, Concord.
Mexican cuisine is excellent for late night dining because food prep can be done in advance allowing for fresh ingredients to be used even when kitchen staff is limited.
La Pinata 6 -a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar. This is a first-class restaurant with an excellent bar. They offer a full complement of south-of-the-border cuisine including an excellent chili rellano, tacos, enchiladas, shrimps, and other traditional dishes from this genre. The quality and presentation of the food served is a big step above local taquerias. This is an excellent for a late night dining experience. Open 9AM-3AM. Located 2301 Willow Pass Rd. in Concord.
Taqueria Los Gallos – Serving from 8AM to 12AM, This is my go-to place on those evenings when I am out at meetings and the home refrigerator is bare. Simply put, this restaurant provides the best value of any other restaurant opens late in the evening. This might explain why Los Gallops is always so busy. Most of their plates range in the $ 6.00 to $9.00 and include an entree, rice, beans, chips, and often a drink. They have a salsa bar with all kinds of sauces, peppers, cilantro, onions, and even fruit cocktail that is not to be missed. 1950 Grant St.in Concord. There is also Los Gallos Express in Park and Shop on 1747 Willow Pass 925-288-1503 and at 4530 Clayton Rd.
Bar Food– Being called “bar food” is not a disgrace but rather a culinary genre of restaurants that put equal emphasis on liquor and food. They are often open late at night which is a good thing when most of their competitors are closed.
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse – This chain features an electric menu with the normal fried calamari and burgers to Asian Thai Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, Ahab Poke made with chopped sashimi-grade tuna, and salads for those with lighter appetites. They also offer a wide variety of ribs, burgers, and pizza which has wide appeal to their bar patrons. Not to be missed is their large selection of beers which include some in-house product BJ’s produces. This is a good place to bring a date or to come with a crowd. There is also ample parking available late at night at the Sun Valley Mall. Open till 12am Sunday to Thursday 1am on Fri-Sat. Located at 385 Sun Valley Mall in Concord.
Tower Grille – 11AM–12AM. One of the best things that can be said for this restaurant-bar is that their food is always a winner. Tower Grille does not have a large menu but everything they serve is excellent. When I dine there, often I order one of their great sandwiches, split with an entree salad. No one goes hungry. Tower Grill’s trademark items are their sliders and meatballs containing their secret ingredient, pine nuts. On a recent Saturday evening, I just reaffirmed that their margaritas are pretty tasty there. It is fun to utilize Tower’s outside seating (for which they provide heaters at night). Located across from Todos Santos Park at 1950 Grant St. downtown Concord.
Eureka Café – Open until 11pm weekdays 12am Friday and Saturday. This restaurant, which is part of a small chain has brought new life to the late-night scene at the Willows since it opened. On the liquor side, they offer a full array of American Whiskeys and beers on tap. Much like Tower Grille, Eureka has a limited menu but everything they serve is a cut above. Their burgers which come in several combinations are arguably the best in the area. The garlic fries and onion rings are exceptional. I especially like their watermelon salad. This is a great place to go to impress a date or visit for a special occasion. 1975 Diamond Blvd. Ste C160 at the Willows Shopping Center in Concord.
Lazy Dog – Opened until midnight every day. Located in close proximity to Eureka Café, the Lazy Dog provides a one/two punch for late-night dinners at the Willows. They offer a full diverse menu from appetizers to specialized entrees that are of a higher quality than one would expect when Cinderella is scheduled to return home. No other restaurant in the region can provide comps for what Lazy Dog offers. In additional to traditional bar food they have such items as lamb shanks, Fettuccini Alfredo, and brick oven pizza. Lazy Dog also had a full bar and wine menu one would expect at a place like this. 1975 Diamond Blvd C160 (The Willows)
Asian Foods: There are few of these establishments open past 10pm but can be a good choice if one is not into burgers and fried foods.
OK Café – 11AM–11PM. Strangely enough, the OK Café is the only Chinese restaurant that is open until 11pm in Concord. Located in the Monument area they offer traditional Cantonese Cuisine that rocks. Standards such as Broccoli Beef, Chow Fun, Mein and Fried Rice are offered in several varieties. OK also has a wide array of seafood dishes they can cook up including bok choy with fresh fish filets and cashew prawns. Yearning late night Chinese food? The OK Café can provide just what the doctor ordered. 1500 Monument Blvd. in Concord.
Steamboat – This is one of several new restaurants to open in the culinary diverse world of Park and Shop in Concord. What amounts to a self-serve Benihana, Steamboat, as this cuisine is known in China, Korea, and Mongolia, consists of simmering different foods in a metal pot in the center of the dining table. Hot broth is provided to each patron to cook their food. As this process takes place, the soup takes on more flavor as it is being consumed by adding beef, pork, lamb, chicken mushrooms, and assorted vegetables to the steaming broth. Steamboat also has skewers of meat and vegetables to accompany the Hot Pot along with an assortment of noodle and rice dishes. For dessert, they offer a macaroon ice cream sandwich which completes the experience. Open 5pm to 12am. Located at 1845 Willow Pass Rd. Concord.