Midnight Grub

Where to eat late night in Houston: Chinatown a surprising strong option with karaoke to boot

Where to eat late night in Houston: Chinatown a surprising strong option with karaoke to boot

Yumilicious fro-yo pie
Houston's Chinatown comes alive at night. Courtesy of Yumilicious

Chinatown isn’t known to have a happening nightlife, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to do. In Asian cultures it's common for young and old alike to stay up to all hours of the night, so it makes sense that Chinatown has some of the best late night eats in Houston.

Cafe 101: Open until 2 a.m.

Cafe 101 is hands down the best place in Chinatown for late night food and drinks. Harajuku-uniformed waitresses pack the colorfully lit, lounge-like atmosphere. You'll find teenagers with spiky, anime-styled hair, middle-aged couples and wait staff from all over just getting off their shifts. During happy hour (4-7 p.m.) and reverse happy hour (10 p.m. to 2 a.m.), you can order sake, cocktails, and (best of all) beer munchies.

Taiwanese omelets, crispy spicy tofu, sweet garlic sausages and bacon French fries, as well as more exotic fare like fried intestines (they sound odd, but you have to try them: Warm, melt-in-your-mouth softness dipped in sweet sauce and coupled with julienned ginger) can be had while you divide your attention between the shiny Japanese pop videos on one screen and the basketball game on the other. All entrees come with three small side dishes and a small tapioca dessert.

Hong Kong Food Street: Open until 2 a.m.

From pork belly throwdowns to food trucks like Eatsie Boys offering Pork Snuggies, pork belly has been everywhere lately. Hong Kong Food Street has been serving the trendy snack from the very beginning: Exquisitely crispy and salt-toasted on the top, juicy and tender on the bottom, with plum sauce on the side.

If you peer in the window to the kitchen, you will see a wall of boiling water where the chef tosses you mian (thin egg noodles) until it is cooked al dente. The noodles then swim in wonton soup with a dash of white pepper. The Crispy Hong Kong Style scallop topped with a small mountain of fried shallots and garlic snow is not to be missed.

Tan Tan Restaurant: Open until 3 a.m. on Saturday; midnight every other night

Crowd favorite Tan Tan provides a combination of Vietnamese and Cantonese cuisine. The house specialty hot pot is very popular, and most tables you see will have a steaming pot of broth in the center surrounded by platters of fresh vegetables, dumplings and thinly sliced meats ready to be cooked.

Congee with fried breadsticks and banh bot chien (pan fried rice cakes coated in eggs) will warm your stomach after a long night of drinking.

And if you decide to keep drinking, ice cold Tsingtao Beer as well as non-alcoholic dessert drinks such as red bean coconut milk can quench your thirst.

East Wall Chinese Restaurant: Open until midnight.

A relative newcomer, East Wall is clean and well kept, which is a nice contrast to many of the older restaurants in Diho Plaza and Welcome Center. Although common dishes like walnut shrimp and hot and sour soup are on the menu, East Wall’s best dishes are the adventurous ones, like the salted, egg-battered spare ribs, or the delicate, noodle-like jelly fish appetizer.

Pork belly over preserved vegetables reigns supreme here, where it is slow cooked until the meat falls apart at the touch of your fork. Feel free to bring your own alcohol; there’s no corking fee.

Sinh Sinh: Open until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 a.m. every other night

One of the most basic Cantonese deli dishes, roast pork over rice with steamed veggies, can be ordered from the drool-worthy deli window at Sinh Sinh. Nothing fancy, this is just wholesome Vietnamese and Chinese food, done to perfection. On the other end of the spectrum, Sinh Sinh also has market-priced dungeness crab rice steamed in lotus leaves and crispy whole fish with spicy basil sauce.

Both crab and fish are, of course, from the wall of fish tanks, and you can watch the cook catch it for you in a wide net.

Yes KTV: Open until 2 a.m.

After dinner head to Yes KTV, one of three karaoke places in Chinatown where you can butcher any song to your heart’s content. Reserve one of their clean and modern private rooms (sizes vary depending on how many people you have) and bring your own alcohol or order Taiwanese drinks and snacks such as fried squid or salt pepper chicken nuggets.

The largest room even includes your own private bar and bathroom. Unlike most karaoke bars in Chinatown, KTV has a huge selection of current and classic American pop and rock in addition to Chinese songs.