The Complete List Of Late Night Fast Food, Ranked

We all know the feeling -– it's late at night, maybe even early morning, and a fast food craving hits. Maybe you've been burning the midnight oil at work, hit one final bar for last call, or got caught up binge-watching TV and forgot to make dinner. Whatever the situation, it's hard to resist the urge for a quick, nocturnal fast-food bite, whether it's a burger, a taco, a bucket of wings, or a basket of fries. Or all of the above.

Luckily, in most parts of the world today, you don't have to go to bed disappointed and hungry. Fast-food joints are everywhere, and many of them are open late with some serving 24 hours (especially those with drive-thru windows, which are often open later than dining rooms). If you find yourself overwhelmed with too many options, this helpful guide will walk you through the best spots to grab a nighttime snack or a full-on fast-food feast.

Generally speaking, the restaurants featured here are open past 10 p.m. Keep in mind that hours and item availability can vary widely by location. Always check with your local businesses first to avoid heartache and an empty stomach.

13. Wendy's

Wendy's, home of the square hamburger patty and the iconic Frosty, has tried to get a foothold into the late night game in the past. In 2013, they launched a marketing campaign focused on late diners by offering a Moonlight Meal Deal. A double burger, chili cheese fries, and a drink were available for only $5, and only after 10 p.m., per QSR. The fast-food chain even introduced a hashtag to encourage people to post about their late-night Wendy's excursions: #GreatLate.

These days, however, the chain is focused more on the morning hours, per CNBC. The company kicked off a new breakfast program just as the pandemic closed everything down. The timing may not have been ideal, but sticking with breakfast has paid off, with the chain's morning sales continuing to grow after a sizable surge in 2021.

As long as breakfast is a continued success, you'll be better off heading to Wendy's when you wake up. Though the full menu is available all night, if you're looking for exciting deals and special menu items, early birds are faring better right now than night owls.

12. Wingstop

If your late-night fast food desires are of the chicken variety, Wingstop is tough to beat. The only reason the chain is not higher on this list is because the menu is limited to chicken and fries, but that shouldn't stop you from eagerly hitting them up when the mood for wings strikes. Most U.S. locations are open until midnight (check your nearest Wingstop's hours on the website), giving you plenty of time to get your nighttime chicken fix.

While its selections may be specialized, Wingstop's menu options have grown over the years. Originally focused solely on bone-in wings available in eight flavors, the chain started selling boneless chicken in 2005, according to Wingsider. Most recently, they've introduced a chicken sandwich to the mix which has proven to be a successful addition, per Nation's Restaurant News. There are now 11 flavors to douse or rub your chicken in, as well as several fan-inspired limited-time "remixes" that show up on the menu every now and then to spice things up.

So while burger connoisseurs will have to look elsewhere, if wings are your thing, a late-night Wingstop run is a great option.

11. Carl's Jr./Hardee's

Sister restaurant chains Carl's Jr. and Hardee's certainly think outside the box when it comes to marketing tie-ins, from their dino-themed "Jurassic World" menu to their Adult Swim collaboration, per Marketing Dive. While none of its current campaigns are focused on late-night service specifically, it certainly seems to be courting a younger, perhaps more late-night-focused demographic with pop culture team-ups like these. 

The chain's most recent cutting-edge campaign involves Twitch, the live-streaming service popular with gamers. Fans took to social media and voted on their favorite ingredients, which were then used to create potential new products, one of which will eventually make its way to menus in certain markets. (Twitter users voted to a draw, as Big Cheddar Mama Burger tied with Pop That Poultry in a user poll.) So while there may not be a dedicated late-night spread, there are wild and wacky food finds at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's all hours of the day.

10. In-N-Out Burger

The California-based burger chain In-N-Out is a study in simplicity. You won't find any cross-promotional tie-ins with action movie franchises or off-the-wall limited edition flavors here; In-N-Out is all about burgers, pure and simple. The chain's classic menu has barely changed over the decades since the business began as a humble drive-thru in 1948, focusing on quality ingredients and preparation rather than innovation. That means there's no late-night special to draw in the night owl crowd, but you can count on their core menu being available to you until the closing bell (typically midnight or later).

In-N-Out devotees will certainly be well-versed in the restaurant's not-so-secret menu, which consists of tweaked versions of its classic items (via Thrillist). While you can order these unlisted items at any hour, some seem to be made for late-night devouring, like the 4x4 which, as you may have gathered, is a burger with four patties and four slices of cheese. Or the animal-style fries, smothered in cheese, grilled onions, and special sauce. Add a shake to that order (or a secret menu root beer float) and you've got starch, salt, and sugar, the three elements our bodies crave late at night, according to a study by Oregon Health & Science University (via Science Daily).

9. Burger King

After a few tough pandemic years that saw sales drop and then plateau, Burger King has bounced back with some new innovations, including a focus on late-night service, according to QSR. One of the chain's big changes was a menu revamp that streamlined its offerings, allowing restaurants to more easily extend hours later into the night.

There are still plenty of tasty options to choose from, which focus on the iconic Whopper and variations like the Whopper Jr. and Whopper Melt. A line of crispy chicken sandwiches, an expanded value menu, and a rewards system are all in place to bring customers in at all hours, including late at night. So even though the menu may not be as extensive as it once was, there's still plenty of variety and more hours in which to enjoy it. Even plant-based eaters can get in on the late-night action with BK's line of meatless Impossible burgers, including an Impossible Whopper.

8. Steak 'n Shake

Craving a T-bone steak late at night? That's a tough wish to fulfill, but you may be able to treat yourself to the next best thing: a Steakburger from Steak 'n Shake. The Illinois-based chain used to grind its steaks in view of customers to showcase the quality of the meat. While that practice only exists in the history books now, the famed Steakburger has stuck around for nearly a century, and Steak 'n Shake offers it from morning to night, with many locations open until midnight or later.

The chain faced profitability struggles even before the pandemic, but recent shake-ups (pardon the pun) and revamps have led it back into the black, according to QSR. A streamlined menu and a more casual mode of service have brought the once-languishing business back to prosperity without compromising the chain's original commitment to quality, and without having to resort to price hikes. So, you can satisfy your steak craving in burger form long after the fancy steakhouses have closed for the night, and for a fraction of the cost.

7. Sonic

Sonic Drive-In's menu is extensive and varied, offering everything from plain burgers to footlong coney dogs to Fritos chili cheese wraps. Ice cream features heavily on the menu too, with shakes and sundaes, giving you the holy trinity of sugar, salt, and starch that we crave. The core menu surely has something for everyone, and in addition to that, Sonic often features limited-time items like various butter burgers and flavored tots, per Nation's Restaurant News.

Sonic offers some great nighttime deals that change from time to time, like half-price cheeseburgers on Tuesdays after 5 p.m. (if ordered ahead through their app). Most locations are open until 10 p.m. and many keep the lights on until midnight or later, so there's plenty of time to hit them up for a nocturnal treat. And if you have a dog who likes to stay up late, the chain sometimes offers free dog treats, so bring your four-legged friend along on your snack trek – the treats are a great way to keep them occupied so they don't try to steal your burger.

6. Del Taco

Del Taco, the California-based Mexican-inspired fast-food chain, merged with Jack in the Box in early 2022 in an effort to strengthen the two brands, both of which have focused on late-night diners, according to Restaurant Business. Jack in the Box is somewhat infamous for their tacos, which were once described by a GQ writer as "disgusting and perfect," so perhaps the partnership with Del Taco will add a bit of taco respectability to the burger-based chain. On the flip side, Del Taco has always served burgers in addition to its tacos and burritos and has even expanded its sandwich selection to include tortas, according to National Restaurant News. Between the two chains, pretty much any late-night fast food craving is covered.

Since the '80s, Del Taco has offered 24-hour service at many of its locations. While there isn't a specific late-night menu, there are special deals at certain times, like Taco Nights, where you can get discounts on tacos Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 until 11 p.m. Sadly this deal doesn't extend into the latest late-night hours, but there are still plenty of cheap snacks available no matter what time you arrive. And remember, missing out on Taco Tuesday is a bummer, but it's no excuse for criminal behavior, as one desperate Del Taco patron discovered after breaking in through the drive-thru window (via KCRA).

5. White Castle

The centenarian chain White Castle has been crafting hamburgers longer than anyone else on this list, sporting the title First Fast Food Hamburger Chain in the World. The chain began selling its famed sliders for a nickel apiece, and in most locations you can still get a classic slider for under $1, according to Fast Food Menu Prices. The chain's value and the fact that most locations are open 24 hours make it a no-brainer for a late-night burger binge. In fact, White Castle and late night go together so well that they made a movie about it: the comedy classic "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle."

White Castle's slider selection has expanded over the years, adding chicken and fish options as well as veggie patties and Impossible sliders for plant-based eaters. The variety and compact size make White Castle a great destination if you suffer from late night indecision – why commit to one full-sized sandwich when you can get a sack of sliders and try a little bit of everything?

4. McDonald's

America's number one fast-food restaurant, McDonald's, is a behemoth when it comes to sales, dwarfing all other competitors, per QSR. The golden arches can be found all over the world and are often lit like a blazing beacon at night, with most locations open late and many offering 24 hours of service. Unlike many other chains, McDonald's doesn't waver much from its menu of core classics, keeping beloved items like the Big Mac and McChicken front and center (though oddball items like the McRib pop up with great fanfare from time to time).

Sadly for late-night diners, the fast-food giant's nightly offerings are not as extensive as they used to be, as USA Today reports. Options are much more limited after midnight, with some notable items like the Filet-o-Fish unavailable. All-day breakfast is also a thing of the past and not likely to return anytime soon, says CNBC, despite online rumblings to the contrary, so don't set your heart on a late-night McMuffin and hash brown run. However, if you love the Mickey D's classics, you can still get yourself a Quarter Pounder and a batch of golden, crispy McDonald's fries any time of night, and that's a combo that's hard to beat.

3. Taco Bell

Taco Bell has long been a late night fast-food destination. The chain's "Fourthmeal" marketing push that started in 2006 focused on getting folks with late-night cravings to head to Taco Bell between dinner and breakfast, per QSR. That business took a hit with the onset of the pandemic, as with bars and clubs shut down, fewer people were out and about in the wee hours looking for a quick bite, as Restaurant Business reported.

While the Fourthmeal campaign is no more, the restaurant still offers late-night diners plenty of options, with most Taco Bell locations open past midnight. The menu is extensive and balanced between simple classics, like soft and crunchy tacos, and some of Taco Bell's wilder inventions, like the Crunchwrap Supreme or the Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch. The chain has also been bringing back popular discontinued items like the cult favorite Mexican pizza and the saucy Enchirito. If you need inspiration on what to order from the massive menu during your nighttime Taco Bell sojourns, check out this helpful Reddit thread.

2. Whataburger

Whataburger's dedication to 24-hour service gives it major points in the late-night fast food ranking game. That's a significant asset to anyone looking for a quick bite in the middle of the night, but especially for folks who work unusual hours. Several Redditors over on r/Nightshift mention Whataburger as their favorite late-night spot thanks to the fact that it never closes, unlike many other fast food chains, some of which have limited their operating times in recent years.

Another bonus is the overnight breakfast menu, served from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. every day. This perk gives night owls expanded options if they're not in the mood for a burger or chicken sandwich, or if they'd rather get a side of hash browns instead of fries. Limited-time items pop up now and again, too, to keep things interesting, like Chili Cheese Fries and Breakfast Burgers. Between the nearly unlimited hours and the fact that diners get the most options after 11 p.m., Whataburger is definitely a top-tier late-night fast-food spot, if you're lucky enough to live in one of the states it calls home.

1. Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box is one of the few fast-food chains that offer a menu specifically targeted to late-night dining. In 2013, the company launched a series of Jack's Munchie Meals only available from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., for "the other nine-to-fivers" as their VP of menu & innovation, Keith Guilbault, stated on the brand's official investors website. Each meal comes with a main item, two tacos, an order of halfsie fries (a combo of seasoned curly fries and regular fries), and a drink. For late-night diners who may be tired after a long shift, or somehow otherwise, shall we say, compromised, the Munchie Meal makes ordering easy by combining so many elements into one item with a single name, able to be easily uttered into a drive-thru speaker no matter how tired or unintelligible one might be.

The main part of each meal has changed since the concept's inception; only the Stacked Grilled Cheeseburger – a Frankenstein's monster of burger and grilled cheese, — remains from the original lineup. But the concept is the same, with each entree item offering high calories and low cost, with wild ingredients and flavor combinations not available during regular dining hours. Unlike most other fast food places that offer the same or an even more limited menu after dark, Jack in the Box offers night owls all-day breakfast, late-night specials, and everything in between, which is why they take the No.1 spot on this list.