College Towns with the Highest Rated Late-Night Eats, According to Yelp

Late-night eats are a college staple, whether you're powering through late-night study sessions or creating unforgettable memories with friends. For most college students, cost-effective late-night eatery options that still deliver great taste are a must. Whether it's a satisfying burger and fries or a spontaneous taco run, your taste buds deserve a treat without emptying your wallet.

Grand Canyon University (GCU), in collaboration with Grand Canyon Education (GCE), analyzed 50 of the top-rated college towns to discover those with the highest average star ratings for late-night bites. This guide is your ticket to finding the best late-night restaurants for college students. Get ready to explore which cities offer the most tempting options.

  In this article:

Methodology for College Cities With the Top Late-Night Bites

To pinpoint the best cities for late-night bites, we started with a list of 50 Best College Towns in the Nation sourced from Best College Reviews.1 Once we had our list of cities, we collected star ratings from Yelp for all the establishments falling under the category of "Late Night Eats" in each location.2 Additionally, we calculated the ratio of late-night eateries per 100,000 residents in college towns to account for population differences. This calculation involved tallying the number of establishments classified as "Late Night Eats" in each location2 and comparing it with the city population data obtained from Best College Reviews.1

Late-night eats are commonly found in college towns and cater to students who need food after midnight, from hitting the books late into the evening or losing track of time with friends. These establishments are often open late into the night or early morning and offer a variety of affordable choices. Late-night eats also include fast food restaurants like Wendy’s, Denny’s and IHOP.3

We recognize that affordability is important to college students considering most have budget constraints. On average, college students allocate around $670 each month on food.4 In college towns, restaurants tend to cater to their ‘regulars’ which is why they often offer more budget-friendly prices and flexible-friendly hours around college campuses. For the purpose of this study, we did not limit price ranges when analyzing the college towns in order to have a substantial sample size of restaurants to determine a more coherent analysis. However, the list of late-night dining options we feature in this article are wallet-friendly and won’t break the bank. Get ready to explore the menu and discover new late-night eats in college towns across the U.S.

Key Findings for College Towns With the Best Late-Night Eats

  • On average, there are about 10.6 establishments to grab a late-night meal per every 100K residents.
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts (3.87 rating), Madison, Wisconsin (3.78 rating), and Berkeley, California (3.78 rating), have the highest average Yelp star rating out of 5 for “Late-Night Eats,” respectively.
  • Across the U.S., only 1% of late-night restaurants have a perfect 5-star rating.

The Top College Towns for Food After Midnight

City Guides with Highest Average Star Ratings

When the dining hall doors close and those college students’ stomachs start growling, they typically know just where to go. Whether it's soul food or Mexican, students across the U.S. have their go-to spots for late-night grub. We did some digging, and the average star rating for late-night eats in all 50 states is a solid 3.21 out of 5.2 So, no matter where you're studying, there's probably a decent place nearby to satisfy those midnight cravings.

Taking the top spot is Cambridge, Massachusetts, boasting an impressive average star rating of 3.87 out of 5 with a budget friendly price point . In Cambridge, you'll find that 7.1% of the late-night eats have earned at least 4 stars. Plus, with 22.8 late-night eats per 100,000 residents, you're always close to a tasty option.

One spot you don’t want to miss in Cambridge is Clover Food Lab, which is open until 2 a.m. They offer a delightful range of vegetarian options, including Falafel Skewers with Hummus and spicy green tahini, and a mouthwatering chickpea fritter platter.5 It's the perfect place to grab some food after midnight.

Cambridge also boasts other delightful eateries like Tasty Burger, where you can enjoy tantalizing creations like a spicy jalapeno burger, a flavorful gorgonzola burger and much more.6 The icing on the cake? They keep their doors open until or after midnight, ensuring you can easily snag a late-night snack whenever those cravings hit.

If you're longing for some late-night options in Madison, Wisconsin, you’re in luck. Madison tied for second boasting an impressive 3.78 average star rating for their local late-night eateries, with approximately 11.25% of these joints earning 4 stars or more.2

One spot you shouldn't miss in Madison is La Hacienda. You can savor delicious, homemade-style Mexican fare like chicken chimichangas and sizzling steak fajitas at a budget-friendly price. Plus, it’s open until or after midnight.7

Tying for second place with Madison, Wisconsin, is Berkeley, California, with a 3.78 average star rating for their late-night culinary scene. You'll have plenty of options with 21.8 late-night dining spots per 100K residents. Moreover, 10.4% of these eateries boast at least a 4-star rating.2

If you're craving breakfast for dinner, swing by Little Gem Belgian Waffles. They’re reasonably priced and open until or after midnight. They serve delectable treats like the Smoreffle — a Belgian waffle topped with milk chocolate and toasted marshmallows.8

If you're in Bozeman, Montana, you're in for some tasty late-night treats, as the city boasts a solid 3.76 average star rating. An impressive 31.4% of their late-night dining spots proudly display 4 stars or more, promising a delicious experience.2

For a satisfying late-night feast, Cat’s Paw is a local favorite and wallet-friendly. Open until or after midnight, they serve classic pub fares like French dip sandwiches, pickle fries and more.9

The Northeast is no stranger to some of the best late-night restaurants. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, secures the fourth spot with a 3.74 average star rating for its late-night dining options. Approximately 13.3% of their late-night eateries shine with 4-star ratings. Pittsburgh boasts 7.8 late-night dining spots per 100K residents, so you'll have plenty of choices.2

If your regular go-to eateries are closed, try Pizza Pronto Oakland for some budget-friendly, late-night comfort food until or after midnight. Their menu features calzones, pizza, bakery delights, and other tasty treats to satisfy those nighttime cravings.10

College students in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have numerous late-night eateries to choose from that are also value conscious. The city boasts a commendable 3.70 average star rating for late-night eateries. Approximately 7.9% of these spots have received 4 stars or more, promising a delightful dining experience. Minneapolis offers six late-night eateries per 100K residents, ensuring you can satisfy your late-night cravings.2

Looking for some food after midnight in Minneapolis? Visit Hamdi Restaurant, where you can savor Somali and East African dishes until or after midnight. Classic staples on their menu include goat and chicken steak.11

If you find yourself in our GCU neighborhood located in Phoenix, Arizona, or our neighboring cities like Tempe and Scottsdale, and you’re craving a late-night bite, you're in luck. Tempe boasts an average star rating of 3.59. Roughly 10% of their late night eats have four stars or more — so you’ll have plenty of delicious options to choose from.

Phoenix also has some of the best late-night restaurants, such as El Caprichoso Sonoran Hot Dogs, which boasts a 4.2 average star rating. This hot dog joint is renowned for its budget-friendly Sonoran hot dogs, loaded with tantalizing toppings that can satisfy your late-night cravings until 3 am on the weekends.12

Welcome Diner is another popular choice located in Phoenix. It keeps its doors open until midnight and serves up classic diner staples like burgers and pecan pie — all at a budget-friendly cost.13

Closing Thoughts on the Best Late-Night Restaurants in College Towns

Craving some late-night bites to support your studies? GCU's on-campus dining options that stay open late, range from Jimmy John's to The Habit Burger Grill, to Chick-fil-A and Purple Greens & More. Plus, with over 30 on-campus dining options for the 2023-24 school year, our diverse meal plans can cater to nearly every aspect of student life.

For those passionate about food, consider turning your interest into a career with our Bachelor of Science (BS) in Hospitality Management degree. Prepare to learn about various hospitality sectors, such as restaurants, golf courses, resorts and more. We also offer a range of degree programs in fields like nursing, technology and business. Ready to find your purpose? Apply now by filling out the form at the top of this page.

1 Best College Reviews. (2022, Oct. 12). The 50 Best College Towns in America. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

2 Yelp. (n.d.). Yelp. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

3 Kelso, A. (2023, Aug. 11). The Late Night Business Makes a Strong Comeback. Nation’s Restaurant News. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

4 Hanson, M. (2023, Aug. 20). Average Cost of Food Per Month for a College Student. Education Data Initiative. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

5 Clover Food Lab. (n.d.). Restaurant Locations and Hours. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

6 Yelp. (n.d.). Tasty Burger. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

7 Yelp. (n.d.). La Hacienda. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

8 Yelp. (n.d.). Little Gem Waffles. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

9 Yelp. (n.d.). Cat’s Paw. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

10 Yelp. (n.d.). Pizza Pronto Oakland. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

11 Yelp. (n.d.). Hamdi Restaurant. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

12 Yelp. (n.d.). El Caprichoso Restaurant. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

13 Yelp. (n.d.). Welcome Diner. Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2023.

Approved by executive director of Office of Communications and Public Relations on Jan. 29, 2024, and the assistant vice president of GCU marketing on Jan. 29, 2024, and the assistant vice president of GCU marketing on Jan. 29, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

Scroll back to top