Wheeling and Dealing

Eating after midnight, and on the go.

THE FREAKS, AS the old Whodini song goes, come out at night. And when they're done being freaky in bars, at clubs, and at house parties, they're usually hungry—and, especially in a car-centric city like Seattle, they may not be particularly interested in anything so steady as a sit-down, dine-in experience. No, they want it quick and dirty, and in culinary terms, that means drive-ins, drive-ups, and drive-thrus.

Believe it or not, your legs aren't just made for revving and braking. And in Seattle, Exhibit A was, is, and shall ever be the Dick's Drive-Ins in Wallingford (111 N.E. 45th St., 206- 632-5125), Capitol Hill (115 Broadway Ave. E., 206-323-1300), Lake City (12325 30th Ave. N., 206-363-7777), Lower Queen Anne (500 Queen Anne Ave. N., 206-285-5155), and on Holman Road (9208 Holman Road N.W., 206-783-5233), all of which are open till 2 a.m. On the Thursday I did my rounds, the Capitol Hill Dick's was, oddly enough, fairly sedate at 1 a.m.—all the better for actual ordering of grub, but not so great for freak-spotting.

Too bad Taqueria El Rinconsito in Burien (214 S.W. 152nd St., 206-431-0663), which almost looks like it was once a Dick's, is open until 3 a.m. only on weekends. On Friday and Saturday nights, the place has a vaguely David Lynchian feel; Rinconsito is the kind of place you'd end up at after a night of Dungeons and Dragons and Diet Dr Pepper—or merengue dancing. The tacos are dirt cheap, the florescent lights above the salsa bar cast a somewhat sinister glow in the early morning hours, and you get the feeling that no one would even look at you sideways if you walked in with an elk suit on. Did I mention that the tacos are dirt cheap?

AFTER A BREAK to fully digest my cheeseburger—aaahhhh, that's better—I decide to go for some pizza. I head over to Wallingford to Milano Pizza & Pasta (407 N.E. 45th St., no phone), one place that can be relied upon for the ultimate cross between snack food and an actual meal at this hour. "It's run by a Bulgarian family," my cabbie informs me. "People drive in from Queen Anne, Belltown, the U District, because it's the only pizza place open. I don't know why more pizza places don't stay open that late. Pagliacci would make so much money if they did."

Milano is open till 3 a.m., and at 2:30 a.m. it's on its last legs, selectionwise. There are two half-pies in the heater window—one pepperoni, the other pineapple, which I mistake for cheese. (It's that kind of night. It's that kind of pizza.) Three kids are behind the counter—they've got early Metallica blasting out of a shitty little boom box. There are a pair of tables, one seating four, the other two; the neon lighting is extremely brite, illuminating the handwritten menu board until it gleams. Clearly, this isn't a place for dining in—and of course it's too bad that they can't install a drive-thru window. But despite all that, the pizza is surprisingly not bad.

Dessert follows dinner, even in the middle of the night, so off we go to the 24-hour drive-thru Krispy Kreme (12505 Aurora Ave. N., 206-396-2728; there's also one in SoDo at 1900 First Ave. S., 206-625-1554). Out on the monumentally corporatized and chained-up strip of lonely 99, Krispy Kreme appears to be the only thing open at 3 a.m. After obtaining a chocolate-covered custard-filled and a glazed lemon-filled, I ask the woman in the window what kind of business they usually get at this hour. It seems pretty dead. "We never get customers," she says with a smile, "at night or in the daytime." Well, maybe not "never." Turns out they make up their business late on weekends, which figures. After all, nothing cuts a potential hangover like sugar glazing.


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