Would you order a bowl of ramen noodles from an Italian joint or pick up a fried-rice grilled cheese from a place that specializes in German cuisine? If it's past any respectable person's dinnertime and you aren't going to scarf down a bean burrito in a parking lot in the passenger side of your buddy's Toyota Corolla, you most certainly would. Lucky for you, the creative chefs at two popular restaurants ditch the constraints of their restaurant concepts and switch up their menus for dinner procrastinators and late-nighters.
David Todd, executive chef at Schweinehaus in Overton Square treats his fourth-mealers to something off-kilter and off-menu. "I think late-night eaters get the short end of the stick sometimes," he said, "so it's kind of cool to offer specials and cool new dishes to those who have most likely been serving others in some capacity all day."
Todd admits that he's really cooking these imaginative dishes for himself as a creative outlet but loves to share his wild creations with a wider audience. "It's a nice little window of time every day of no-pressure idea exploration," he said.
So what can you expect if you show up hungry to Schweinehaus between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m? You're presented with a menu that's printed up nightly with eight late-night staples, and at the top is a "Late-Night Chef's Creation" section that has two to three unique choices, including such dishes as Brat-chos (yes, bratwurst nachos), the aforementioned fried-rice grilled cheese, Pancake Breakfast Sandwich, NY Reuben Fries, or the Third Grader, a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The choices range in price from $7 to $13.
I stopped in after 10 p.m. last Saturday and found a full patio and the front room packed with a party of 20-plus millennials having a big time. The menu that night was geared toward the Elvis Week crowd, with an ice-cream sandwich aptly called "The Elvis" and "Fools Loaf," which is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with bacon on buttery brioche bread.
Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman's Hog & Hominy on Brookhaven Circle draws late-night eaters in with the smell of oak burning in a traditional wood-fired pizza oven, but the star of the after-hours menu, available from 10 p.m. to midnight, or later if the restaurant is full, isn't the pizza. It's two dishes that are pretty far removed from the place's Italian roots.
The chef duo fell in love with ramen noodles while traveling the country cooking at places like the James Beard House. "The first guest-chef dinner we did at Hog & Hominy was with Chef Tien Ho [of Ma Peche fame]," Hudman told me. "He taught us the proper way of making ramen broth, so we put it on the late-night menu as a way of paying homage to him."
The chefs are also frying up the much lauded John T. Edge Burger, a deceptively simple-sounding sandwich with onion, yellow mustard, pickled lettuce, and American cheese on a white bun. "The ramen and burger are staples that are always on, but we also do specials like our Frito Pie from time to time," Nick Talarico, general manager, said.
Hog & Hominy is less than a mile from my house, so I dropped in around 11 p.m. on a weekend night to find an unusually quiet scene. The regulars were all at Live at the Garden's ZZ Top concert nearby, no doubt singing along to "Sharp Dressed Man" and spinning their fuzzy air guitars. So Talarico joined me at the bar to paint a picture of the typical scene. "We'll have people in tuxedos and evening gowns eating hot dogs, right alongside servers and cooks from other establishments slurping down ramen noodles," he said.
A look at the full dinner menu, which is also available until closing, made no mention of the John T. Edge Burger or the ramen noodles. "We make sure to tell every table ... although those in the know come here just for the ramen," Talarico said.
This is one of those rare times when procrastination is rewarded. So go out late and enjoy the creative food being served to other night owls. You could nap through your regular dinnertime or, heck, just go ahead and have another dinner. Or you could call it a really early breakfast.