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San Francisco’s best 24-hour restaurants

Curb your late-night hunger pangs for fries, donuts and pizza with a visit to one of the city’s best 24-hour restaurants

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Noele L. 

San Francisco’s 24-hour restaurants and late-night diners are sadly an endangered species, but as long as the bars keep pouring, the clubs keep hoppin’ and the night owls keep hootin’, there will always be a need for after-hours spots where you can grab a greasy bite (including breakfast) after last call. While you shouldn’t expect culinary greatness at 3am, at least you’ll find something to sop up and counteract whatever it was you were consuming throughout the night. Here are our favorite 24-hour restaurants for those early mornings when you're just not ready to go home.

Stay up late at these 24-hour restaurants

DNA Pizza

24-hour pizza is a magical concept for clubbers who aren’t living in New York, where late-night slice shops are everywhere. What’s even crazier: if you’re partying down at the DNA Lounge next door, you can walk right in from the dance floor to the pizzeria’s special entrance. Boom. There’s everything from the popular carnivore pie (order by the slice or an entire pie) all the way to a vegan number (The Morrissey) and gluten-free options. You can also get wings, sandwiches, fries and jalapeño poppers. As you can expect, this place really gets going when all the SoMa clubs close—and yes, there’s plenty of top-notch people watching.

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SoMa

Orphan Andy’s

Big props and love to this classic 24-hour diner, whose authentic vintage style is a rare and special breed. Orphan Andy's has been feeding Castro boys and tipsy drag queens for over 40 years, but night owls come from all over town to fuel up while taking a seat in one of Andy’s red swivel chairs and booths. Nothing hits the spot like their Monte Cristo, but the chicken fried steak and biscuits with country sausage gravy are favorites, too. And then there are the banana chocolate chip pancakes, which are perfect even at 3am.

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Castro

Pinecrest Diner

This Union Square diner bordering the Tenderloin feeds all walks of life, 24 hours a day, from hungry tourists to throngs of partiers after they leave the nearby club Ruby Skye, which lets out at 4am on the weekend. All-day breakfast (with decent hash browns) is the popular pick, but don’t ask for any poached or boiled eggs—they don’t serve any. Blame the diner’s illustrious and dark history: in 1997, a cook shot and killed a waitress after an argument over an order of poached eggs. (Maybe go for one of their Niman Ranch beef burgers instead.)

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Union Square
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Café Mason

Another late-night hotspot near Union Square bars and Ruby Skye is this 24-hour joint that has quite the unexpected menu. You’ll find a French croque monsieur, penne in marinara and pumpkin pancakes, plus some healthy options too, from whole-wheat tortillas for your quesadilla to organic salads. Nope, this isn’t your usual greasy spoon. The waitresses have seen it all, from cops to clubbers. The interior has a bit of a zany 1980s feel, with booths by the window that offer a view of the circus outside. Or snag a seat at the counter if you’re looking for a more quiet dining experience.

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Union Square

Lori's Diner

You’d think Union Square was Las Vegas with all the late-night spots over there—and since there are two Lori’s Diner locations, obviously things are busy. The style of these diners is inspired by the 1950s, with a classic look that will have you humming along to Chubby Checker while seated in your shiny cherry red booth and surrounded by memorabilia. Expect the usual lineup of breakfast plates (the corned beef hash is excellent), burgers and thick milkshakes. After last call, there’s quite the crowd of buzzed diners, from locals to partying tourists.

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Union Square

Mel’s Drive-In

Like Lori’s, this retro diner is a nostalgic throwback to the ‘50s—but it’s actually legit, because it opened in 1947 and was even used for scenes in American Graffiti. There’s quite the Marina bro scene after last call, but tourists staying at the motels along Lombard are also attracted to the bright lights. As for the menu, you should get a Melburger (they use grass-fed California beef—it’s a sign of the times) and there are even poached eggs on avocado toast. There are also BLTs, a fried egg sandwich and milkshakes. Play rock & roll off the mini jukeboxes on the tables while you eat.

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Marina
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Bob’s Donuts & Pastries

Bob’s offers 24-hour access to freshly made doughnuts, and has been doing so for over 50 years. When the bars close on Polk, boozehounds make a beeline for Bob’s crumb doughnuts, apple fritters and maple bars. And then there are the giant doughnuts, which are total Instagram bait. Speaking of social media: follow Bob’s on Twitter at @whatsfreshest to see what’s coming out of the fryer.

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Nob Hill

Happy Donuts

Doughnuts sound good anytime, but the real score at Happy Donuts is their croissant sandwiches with egg, cheese and either sausage, bacon or ham—you can get a bagel sandwich too, but the buttery croissant is the move, especially at 3am. Folks who work early or late are known for fueling up here as well; depending on which location you’re at, you can expect some prime people-watching.

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San Francisco

All Star Donuts

This place has multiple locations and different names (All Star Café, or All Stars Donuts, make up your mind!), and the offering is all over the map, too. Doughnuts? Yup, they have 'em (try the maple bacon or sugar-cinnamon twist). But did you expect to find a chicken teriyaki rice plate? Or wings and sandwiches? They serve those, too. The scene can vary widely depending on which location you’re hitting: SoMa (cash only!) features clubbers while the Marina is more bro-centric, and the tidy old school Inner Richmond location has a bunch of walking wounded from the Irish and dive bars in the area. We give them big points for the breakfast bagels, and a huge sausage, cheese and egg croissant.

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Richmond
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Silver Crest Donut Shop

This place on a desolate strip of Bayshore is one of those spots that always makes people say to themselves, “I wonder what it’s like in there.” The interior is dingy vintage, with fading signage and a retro Formica counter, but it’s also lovable—plus there are old mini jukeboxes at the tables, plus a bigger jukebox, too. You’ll also find a pool table, pinball machines and a full bar. The owner, George, is notorious for offering a shot of ouzo, so be prepared. Stick with classic breakfast plates, but really, keep it simple and your expectations low. Cash only.

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Hunter's Point

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