The after-midnight crowd at Java Break is overwhelmingly college students. Picture people either trying to sober up with a breakfast panini or amassing a big enough coffee-and-sugar buzz to plod through a couple more hours of Western Civ.
Then again, as Java Break owner Derek Hogue and other local late-night eatery proprietors can attest, you never know who will walk through the door hungry for fourth meal.
The time two busloads of senior citizens rolled in at 4 a.m. really took the single barista working the graveyard shift by surprise, Hogue said. Fortunately the road-trippers were friendly — and patient.
At Burrito King, late-night shenanigans come alongside many a spicy burrito or breakfast plate. Owner Angelina Cruz laughs when recalling the guy who ran across the street in only his underwear screaming, “I love Burrito King!” in an attempt to get a free T-shirt. And the drunk who called police and said someone had been chasing him, when actually he just tipped over while sitting on a bench.
“That’s pretty much every Friday and Saturday night, even Thursday night,” Cruz said. “It could be a reality show here at nighttime ... we have fun.”
Taco Bell has popularized “fourth meal” as the meal between dinner and breakfast, pitching their spicy, crunchy, melty drive-thru fare as the go-to antidote for late-night hunger. But Lawrence has many, many other options — even after midnight.
To help satisfy your late-night/early-morning cravings should you get them, we've compiled a list of some of Lawrence's best spots to grab fourth meal, no matter what you're in the mood for.
Pizza fix: Pizza Shuttle
Location: 1601 W. 23rd St.
Hours: Open at 11 a.m. daily. Pickup available until 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 12:30 a.m. Sunday. Delivery runs until 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1:30 a.m. Sunday.
Being a college town, Lawrence is full of late-night pizza places — good ones. One fan favorite is Pizza Shuttle, which offers pickup or delivery into the wee hours of the morning.
A huge advantage for Pizza Shuttle when it comes to fourth meal? An advertising jingle so catchy that pretty much anyone in any state of consciousness knows it by heart: “Call 842-1212, call us now at Pizza Shuttle.”
Another advantage? Cream cheese. It’s the topping of choice for more than one Journal-World reader who chimed in suggestions for this story via Twitter. (Try it with pepperoni and jalapeños or pepperoni and bacon.)
One more advantage? Daily no-coupon specials. The “Two-fer” gets you two 10-inch, two-topping pizzas with two drinks for just over $10. Specials go all the way up to the “Large-fer,” two 14-inch, two-topping pizzas with four drinks for $16.69. Note: Pizza Shuttle accepts only cash or check.
Sweet tooth: Munchers Bakery
Location: 925 S. Iowa St.
Fresh doughnuts, brownies, cheesecake, cinnamon rolls, cookies, Danishes, buttery chocolate croissants ... if these are the things that sound good to you in the middle of the night, Munchers Bakery is the place to hit.
This longtime Lawrence establishment in the Hillcrest Shopping Center is home to early-risers and groups of coffee-sipping retirees by day, but the wee hours of the morning draw studious college students and people trickling in from nearby bars.
With Munchers owner Mike Tennyson baking doughnuts through the graveyard shift, there’s a chance those late-night snackers will get one fresh from the fryer. Munchers doesn’t take plastic, so be sure to bring cash.
South-of-the-border spice: Burrito King
Location: 900 Illinois St.
Hours: 7 a.m.-3 a.m. daily
For more than 20 years, Burrito King has been feeding its famous big, cheap burritos to Lawrencians at all times of day and night. It’s drive-thru or walk-up only, with a couple of picnic tables outside.
Cruz and her husband, Maximo Cruz, took over the restaurant in 2011 (fun story: they also met there, one night when Angelina stopped by for horchata on her way out dancing and spotted Maximo working inside). The Cruzes have added some landscaping, an outdoor TV, a few new menu items and the King Challenge. If you can consume this “humongous and humongously spicy” monster burrito — the size of three of the King’s already formidable burritos — in 45 minutes, you get a T-shirt and the burrito for free.
Burrito King sells breakfast and regular burritos, tamales, soft tacos, enchiladas, breakfast plates and a vegetarian menu. It’s also one of the only places in town that serves tacos or burritos with lengua (tongue) — that's not on the menu, but ask and ye shall receive.
Corporate smorgasbord: IHOP
Location: 3102 Iowa St.
The massive national franchise that is IHOP doesn’t have the character many of Lawrence’s quirky local eateries do. But along with the same-in-every-state blue awnings and beige decor comes a same-in-every-state 12-page laminated menu and hours you can always count on.
“Whatever you crave, you’ll find it here,” the slogan on IHOP’s website proclaims.
IHOP serves its full menu 24 hours a day. Savories range from griddle melt sandwiches to pot roast. But breakfast is the headliner at IHOP, including everything from dessert-like Red Velvet Pancakes and Bananas Foster Brioche French Toast to hearty T-Bone Steak and Eggs or omelets with cheese and whatever else you want. For health conscious types (who don’t throw the sentiment out the window after midnight), IHOP has a “Simple & Fit” series dotted with whole wheat, fresh fruit and veggies.
Caffeine dream: Java Break
Location: 17 E. Seventh St.
Java Break is fueled by caffeine. There’s a big board of decadent coffee drinks that can be had hot or iced, skinny or with whipped cream, or even blended with ice daiquiri-style. If the “Banana Split”- and “Midnight Silk”-type stuff is too foofy, there’s offerings like the Lawrence Slammer — house coffee with a shot of espresso.
To eat, Java Break serves panini, biscuits and gravy (meat or vegetarian), made-in-house baked goods (including several gluten-free), DIY cupcakes (pick your own cupcake flavor, frosting and sprinkles) and a cereal bar.
Staying open 24 hours has its challenges, Hogue said, one of the biggest being securing self-motivated nocturnal baristas. But he said Java Break’s offerings sell well enough after midnight to make it worth it.
“If they’re trying to sober up, a lot of times they’ll get some biscuits and gravy,” he said. “And of course the cereal bar is popular with college kids at 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Sandwiches galore: Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe
Location: 818 Massachusetts St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily
Sandwiches — especially the hot, melty, toasty kind served at Pickleman’s — go over well with the late-night crowd. General manager Luke Hothan said their Italian Club and Chipotle Chicken sandwiches are popular, as is pretty much anything buffalo chicken — the sandwich, pizza and salad alike. You can also get soup and sandwich combos like grilled cheese with tomato bisque.
Pickleman’s serves and delivers until 3 a.m. seven days a week, and Hothan said the late-night crowd is almost exclusively college students whose (sometimes drunken) antics make the shift fly by.
“It doesn’t ever get rowdy ’til the weekends,” Hothan said. “Everybody’s pretty entertaining.”
Honorable mentions from Mass. Street
On the main drag and hungry after midnight? A few more of the many options you can walk to:
• Lebanese Flower, 1016 Massachusetts St.: We recently featured this late-night walk-up restaurant, serving falafel, shawarma, hummus and other Lebanese specialties until 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
• Hotbox Cookies, 732 Massachusetts St.: Open until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. For a minimum order of about $15, Hotbox will deliver warm cookies and cold milk to your door.
• Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 1115 Massachusetts St.: Tacos and other fast-casual Mexican fare served until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
• Pyramid Pizza, 1029 Massachusetts St.: Pizza by the slice, hot wings and such, braided crust with honey, and an addictive cheesy breadstick ring called Bonez. Open until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.