To mingle over a grilled cheese at 3 am. To debauch at dusk-till-dawn discothèques. To cram chicken shawarma in your face at 2 am, your ears a-ringing from the show just over at T.T.'s. To walk those final blocks home in the gray, pre-dawn hush, bleary of eye and scratchy of voice, when the edges are blurred and you're surprised that it's already tomorrow. There is a certain, specific magic to staying out, to letting the evening mature into morning, to submitting to all-night adventures.
Be warned: you will hear folks moan about Boston's bedtime. The city that sleeps. Every night. It's two in the morning? Time to tuck yourself in, friends.
So cue the tired refrain about Puritans and Blue Laws. Rev those engines of complaint on the woeful state of a public transport system that stops in its tracks at 1 am. Happy hour? Not here! Thanks to statewide regulation 204 CMR 4.03, nowhere will we find a watering hole with a sign outside celebrating cheap drinks for a couple of post-work hours. Turns out that, though, isn't a dusty remnant from the days of brothels and bartering; the law was passed in the '80s by folks who wanted to curb binge drinking. But that's neither here nor there when it comes to what happens after the witching hour.
All the whining, though, only holds water if you've got no imagination.
It's not a somnolent city. The truth of life after two o'clock in the morning here, it requires some creativity, some ability to improvise, and the keeping in mind that it's not necessarily what you're doing, it's who you're doing it with.
Let's get the old stand-bys out of the way first. You've been dancing. You've been sweating. You've been writing a paper on Aeneas and Dido breaking up. You need fuel, a break, a real feed before the night ends in earnest. South Street Diner (178 Kneeland Street, Boston, 617.350.0028), brightly lit, oddly populated, stays open all day and all night, drawing a mix of boozy partiers, ne'er do-wells, and night-workers. Nothing fends off a hangover like a stack of pancakes and a side of sausage right before the sun comes up.
Private club Rise (306 Stuart Street, Boston, 617.423.7473) always gets mentioned in after-hours round-ups, because it's one of the very few after-hours clubs in town. You also need a membership to get in, or be on the arm of a member. And there's no booze. But there is dancing till dawn.
How many pilgrimages have been made from the corner of Mass Ave and Brookline to the corner of Mass Ave and Western? How many hungry souls have poured out of the Middle East and made their rock-and-roll'd way down to Moody's Falafel Palace (25 Central Square, Cambridge, 617.864.0827)? Too numerous to count. The Palace isn't open all night, but the 3 am closing time Thursday through Friday offers ample chance to have yourself a falafel in the early hours.
And no late-night list would be complete without places to grab a late-night slice. The two primary spots: Little Steve's House of Pizza (1114 Boylston Street, Boston, 617.266.5576), open until three, and Hi-Fi Pizza (496 Mass Ave, Cambridge, 617.492.4600), open until two and right next to the Middle East in Central Square.