Whether you’re up at the wee hours of the night cramming for a chemistry midterm or stumbling back to your dorm on a Friday night, few words sound more glorious than, “Let’s go to late night.” It’s practically a scientific fact: food just tastes better after 11 p.m. This week, I decided to eat at all three of Stanford’s late night dining establishments in an attempt to declare one an official winner.
Lakeside at Lag
Without a doubt, Lakeside’s biggest draw is its selection. I opted to try some of the more obscure items to truly test the kitchen’s level of expertise. Unfortunately, this is not where Lakeside thrives. The Thai BBQ chicken was a major disappointment, and the bland veggie noodle pho left me scouring the table for salt. Like many a food excursion, however, the key to success is proper ordering. I was pleasantly surprised by a near-perfect “brain-boosting” berry smoothie” and satisfying turkey and avocado wrap. These are fantastic healthy alternatives when you’re feeling slightly less indulgent. Nevertheless, we all know that late night snacking doesn’t always follow ordinary rules of healthfulness. To many college students, there is nothing better at 2 a.m. than a tri-combo plate of hot wings, garlic fries and tater tots. Bottom line is: stick to the basics, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Pros: Hands down best selection
Cons: Not open Friday or Saturday
Must-haves: any of the “Late Night favorites,” milkshakes, berry smoothie
The Axe and Palm:
Here, steer clear of the pre-made dishes and specialty beverages. Unless you are dying for some painfully mediocre sushi or a McDonald’s-style smoothie, you’re better off with the hot food. If you’re a “meaty” kind of person, get the Pac-12 with BBQ bacon and Angus beef. If you’re looking for something a bit leaner, you won’t be disappointed by the Billy Erb turkey burger. It did, however, lack any real “kick,” so I would highly recommend hitting up the condiments bar to add some Jamaican relish, salsa and jalapeños for a makeshift sauce. But as good as the burgers are, the real gems are the sides. I had some of the best onion rings and sweet potato fries on campus. And trust me: you have not lived until you’ve tried their brownie à la mode. This decadent treat comes piping hot with a scoop of ice cream, whipped cream and hot fudge, and puts all other late night dishes to shame.
Pros: Best individual dishes
Cons: Slow service, minimal selection
Must-haves: Pac-12, onion rings, sweet potato fries, brownie à la mode
The Dish at Arrillaga
As a Stern resident, I am slightly biased to this neighborhood hangout. But aside from convenience, there is a reason why I continue to find myself walking up those familiar steps. At Arrillaga, especially for residents living in nearby dorms, it’s all about the experience. Head over late one Friday or Saturday night and you’ll find yourself laughing among friends as the evening begins to wind down. The selection doesn’t come close to Lakeside, and the quality pales in comparison to Axe and Palm, but if you’re looking for a place to end your night, my vote is still The Dish. You barely need to step fully into the dining hall to feel the welcoming energy of intoxicated college students wolfing down greasy chicken tenders and waffle fries — both highly recommended. You’ll see old friends, hopefully make some new ones and leave with memories that’ll last much longer than that plate of pizza. In the end, it’s all about the people watching … and the warm chocolate chip cookie.
Pros: Open every night, fast service, great atmosphere
Cons: Limited selection, no real “standout” dishes
Must-haves: chicken tenders, waffle fries, chocolate chip cookie
The bottom line: stick to Lakeside and Axe and Palm during the week for solid food, but hit up Arrillaga on the weekends for some unbeatable people watching and long-lasting memories.