Late night eateries

If the world ran on the schedule of a college student, most places would be open from around noon until 4 or 5 a.m. There would be no problem getting a ride home after a late-night out or grabbing a bite to eat around 3:30 a.m., just as the evening meal begins to wear off. Unfortunately, a schedule like this wouldn't help a majority of the population, and late night eaters are left to fend for themselves. While they are not everywhere, or always easy to get to, a few places around the city are cooking around the clock.

Steak n' Egg

4700 Wisconsin Ave. NW Open 24 hours daily

The entire restaurant, kitchen and all, only runs the length of the seating area, a counter lined with barstools. Looking around, and given the fact it is open 24 hours a day, diners are left to wonder when the place had its last thorough cleaning. But with just enough of a home-y appeal, Steak n' Egg is everything a college student could ask for.

A short 20-minute walk from campus, it is accessible even after the Metro is no longer running.

On Tuesday nights from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., Habitat for Humanity, a volunteer group from AU, runs a shuttle from campus to Steak n' Egg.

The menu offers a variety of food, from breakfast to burgers, and the food is ready fast. Customers can watch, mesmerized, as the short-order cook scrambles up their eggs or grills their steak. Best of all, the food is extremely cheap. A steak, two eggs, hash browns and toast comes to a whopping total of $6.99.

Georgetown Caf?

1623 Wisconsin Ave. NW Open 9 a.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 24 hours Friday and Saturday

Getting to Georgetown Caf?, a hole in the wall tucked into a narrow brownstone, requires a commitment to ride the bus all the way down Wisconsin. But to satisfy a late night craving for Middle Eastern food, like falafel, chicken shawarma or pita bread, the Georgetown Caf? is the place to eat.

The menu also offers other greasy grub like fries, burgers, even quesadillas. With wireless access, the caf? seems to cater especially to the needs of late-night college students and their budgets; the most expensive item on the menu is $8.95.

The Diner

2453 18th St. NW Open 24 hours daily

Located in the heart of the Adams Morgan District, a meal at The Diner is well worth the walk from the Woodley Park Metro stop. Late at night, there is usually a 10-to 15-minute wait for an open red vinyl booth or one of the small tables that run the length of the restaurant. Authentic, old-fashioned bar stools line the counter around a bar that serves drinks (customers under 21 can order malts and milkshakes). The crowd is eclectic, ranging from groups grabbing a bite to eat after a show to families with babies in strollers.

The menu includes traditional diner fare; items like pancakes, omelets and home fries are served all day, and are moderately priced. Scrambled eggs with toast runs about $3.95 and the Breakfast Royale, with French Toast, eggs and meat, is less than $9. The opposite side of the breakfast menu offers more complicated entrees that make The Diner seem more upscale than its traditional counterpart. This sophisticated side of the menu offers salads, burgers and fries, even meat loaf and pork chops served with sides like vegetables and mashed potatoes. Diners leave with a full stomach and an almost-full wallet, as the total bill usually comes out to around $12.

Ben's Chili Bowl

1213 U St. Open 6 a.m. to 4 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 a.m. Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

Take the Green Line Metro to U Street and enjoy as much home-cooked food and history as your grandmother's kitchen. Ben's Chili Bowl opened in 1958, and business has survived riots, economic failures and a constantly changing neighborhood. During the '50s and early '60s, when the U Street District was known as the "Black Broadway," regular diners might rub elbows with celebrities at "The Bowl," like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald or even Martin Luther King Jr. Walking through the door, it is hard to forget the '50s are over, with original barstools that line the counter and small booths that fill the dining room.

Ben's is famous for chili dogs and chili burgers. Apparently, Bill Cosby's favorite menu item is the Ben's Original Chili Half Smoke, a dog split, grilled and served with chili and onions. Chili cheese fries, homemade potato salad and milkshakes can all be found on the menu. For diners looking for a healthier option, Ben's can even grill up a turkey or veggie burger. For those on a budget, a meal at Ben's Chili Bowl won't break your wallet; one chili dog with all the fixings runs a cheap $2.80, and a burger is a reasonable $3.65.

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