Fight for your right to dine all night

By Joe Katz and Ryan Vass

Bleary-eyed, drowsy, and firmly stuck on page six, I decided I had had enough paper-writing for the foreseeable future. My fingers had lost their motivation, my mind had forgotten my paper topic, and my stomach was drowning out Ben Folds. Half-sleeping, I gathered my computer and books and began to walk to the only Hyde Park institution open past 2 a.m.: Togo’s/Dunkin’ Donuts. It is always better to bullshit over a crappy sandwich with crappy coffee in a crappy fluorescent-lit men’s room of a cafe than, well, nothing.

Upon arrival, however, I was rather stunned to discover a perfectly swept floor with no tables and a sign informing me that there would be no seating until 5 a.m. Shrugging, I brought my crappy sandwich back to my crappy apartment, where I would have fallen asleep again if I weren’t about to vomit from the sandwich. Then, all of a sudden, there in my crappy bathroom, I had an epiphany:

Why is Togo’s the only place that serves food, or whatever Togo’s serves, between the precious hours of 2 and 7 a.m. in a neighborhood dominated by the University of Chicago? I can’t be the only student to ever stay up past 2 a.m. I can’t be the only student to have ever been hungry past 2 a.m.—rather, I should say the only student to have been hungry past 2 a.m. who also has yet to go food shopping this quarter. All the same, there is no way I am the first person to think about this. Am I?

No, actually. Apparently, it has been tried several times in our glorious past, but no one was competent enough to keep a 24-hour diner open in Hyde Park for more than two years. Such is the sad state of affairs with respect to late night food in Hyde Park.

I found myself brainstorming solutions to this problem. What if we made it a Scav Hunt item? No, I figured, that wouldn’t work—it would rain, and then people would start stealing Pad See Ew from Cobb and urinating on the AV equipment. Plus, it’s competence we’re striving for here

Next, I thought a bunch of students could get together, and start their own cafe, but then I realized that the same students who opened the diner would eat in it and form their own pretentious social group and they’d call it “The Last Supper” or something. Plus, such a diner didn’t make money for the owners of the 24-hour coffee shop “Stay Up 4 Ever,” as the Medici family bought it in 2002 and changed it to “Med Bakery” until it decided to go back to its original name, which now, adjusted for inflation, apparently means “Stay Up Until 11 p.m.” (Side note: Are they actually the Medici family? That would be pretty sweet.)

Then I got it. Why doesn’t the U of C set up a late night diner for us? It’s not like they don’t foot the bill for a lot of shit that’s pretty nice, but not nice enough to pay for. The school keeps the Checkerboard going, and I get the munchies at four in the morning a hell of a lot more than I get a random craving for the blues. They’re all into this quality-of-life thing now, and it’s not like new chairs are so much more important than being able to chow down on (and hold down) a burger in the last panicky pre-exam hours.

I’m a college student, and after midnight is my time. Why should I have to haul ass over to 53rd Street when I’m hard at work and need a decent change of scene to keep me up? If there were a diner on 57th Street, I’d be there all the time. Hell, maybe the school wouldn’t even need to give them the extra cash. After that disaster of a sandwich, I’d probably spend enough there that they could make a profit off of just me.

I could practically smell the burgers as they sizzled on the grill, and I sighed contentedly. My half-daydream, half-exhausted hallucination of real food almost brought me all the way back to consciousness. It dimly occurred to me that I still had four pages to go, and less than three hours to write them in. If I wanted to get in a nap, I had to get started again.

Jesus. If that’s just what thinking about real late-night options could do for me, imagine what the real deal would mean.