Every city has its shadow self.
By that, we mean the places where the night people congregate after they're done doing whatever they were up to earlier (including heavy drinking, dancing, loitering, running around, and/or drugs), but aren't quite ready to call it a night. The kinds of spots where you can wind down or drink coffee or use complex carbohydrates, or all three, to absorb alcohol in a room devoid of judgment or prying eyes.
Given the insane number of amazing bars and restaurants in the city, it's no surprise that there are plenty of late-night hangouts where you can get a final bite before you hide from the sun like a vampire. Whether it's burritos, Korean and Japanese food (under one roof), or jukeboxes and donuts, you will find it in San Fran. You just need to know where to look. So read carefully.
Don't forget to check out the complete MUNCHIES Guide to San Francisco for the best places to eat on a budget, grab a coffee, or feel fancy, too.
Silver Crest Donut Shop: It's a donut shop, bar, and diner, all in one. Expect pretty mediocre food, but the sometimes surly owners tend to soften up and do shots of ouzo with customers—especially if you're the only ones in there. The newest songs on the jukebox are from the 1980s. Note the sign outside that says "We Never Close!"
Taqueria Cancun: A formidable contender in the Mission burrito game since 1993, forever full of people who got kicked out of Beauty Bar (Mission and 19th St location) and members of garage bands (Mission and Fair location), Taqueria Cancun makes a mean shrimp quesadilla that's their best-kept secret. It heals any and all hangovers. But, their al pastor and super vegetarian burrito are also beloved, and they have the awards all over their walls to prove that they kill it.
Joo Mak: Japanese and Korean food until 2 AM on a weeknight? Yes, please. If a late-night craving strikes for ankimo (monkfish liver), toro nigiri, or kimchi fried rice, Joo Mak has you covered. Normally, we'd be skeptical of a restaurant serving both Japanese and Korean food into the wee hours of the morning, but Joo Mak has proven itself competent, if not great, at both.
El Farolito: Many people—including Eddie Huang—consider this the supreme champion of Mission burritos. They're massive, should always be made "super," and are often consumed after 2 AM. The line snakes out the door well after all the bars shut down. There are a couple locations, but the one on Mission and 24th often feels like the center of the universe. The devil is in the details, such as the way they melt the cheese onto their super-stretchy tortillas as they cook the meat for your burrito, and their phenomenal avocado salsa.
Tommy's Joynt: Grab a tray and order a fuckload of meat (corned beef, brisket, pastrami, etc.) and some mashed potatoes and coleslaw or whatever. Red gingham tablecloths. Giant steins of beer. Old men. Big portions. This is not food for Instagramming. This is a time capsule of simpler times in SF, and time-traveling feels good.
For our full list of late-night stops in SF, don't forget to check out the complete MUNCHIES Guide to San Francisco.