The Peripatetic Gourmet: New York

Where the city that never sleeps eats

Hunger doesn't stand a chance in New York, but the odds of satisfying it decrease sharply after midnight. Lately, though, the city that go-go-goes all night has kept on cooking, too, serving up far better fare than a burger or a slice. Not that there haven't always been options: We love any Keith McNally joint (Pastis, Lucky Strike, Schiller's Liquor Bar), and Blue Ribbon in SoHo and Florent in the Meatpacking District are classics. Still, with so full a raft of reliably sleepless boîtes, we couldn't help but pick a few new favorites, from classic to cool.

Masa Takayama's new restaurant in the Time Warner Center, Masa, has garnered as much ink for its $300 prix fixe as for the waiting list for its 26 seats. We have to wonder, Why bother, when Bar Masa next door offers great food and an almost guaranteed seat? Sit at the bar or slip into the long white banquette and wrap your mind around the cocktail list, with its $15 Kin Kan: Ohyama sake, Belvedere vodka, and fresh muddled kumquat. The menu is split between luxurious raw fish and ramped-up Japanese bar snacks—squid jerky, fried noodles with Kobe beef, fried rice with baby shrimp. For nibblers, the sushi canapés are an abbreviated tour of Takayama's genius; note his pairing of tuna tartare with caviar. The $85 sashimi tasting is a step closer to next door. Dinner, $150; served until midnight Monday-Saturday. At 10 Columbus Circle, 4th floor; 212-823-9800.

Even in the wee small hours, this wee small West Village dining room sets a formal table, with white cloths, oyster forks, and Prouvé chairs at the ready for the designers, fashionistas, and neighborhood chefs who wander in. A glass of Ridge Zinfandel or an intricate house cocktail (the bitters are homemade) beautifully complements the late-night menu, which, on our visit, included an intensely flavorful duck tart with frisée salad, flash-seared tuna with beurre noisette, and trout stuffed with watercress and smoked trout. Artisanal American cheeses and desserts that flirt with the savory, such as lavender-scented chocolate flan with Guinness stout ice cream, bring the day to a voluptuous close. Dinner, $70; served until 4 a.m. Monday-Saturday. At 39 Downing St.; 212-255-1790.

With its unerring brasserie decor, buzzy clientele, and serious food, this SoHo stalwart has become a culinary and social institution after just seven years. While the late-night menu is stripped of the duck confit, the omission is made up for with a grand plateau des fruits de mer, true onion soup, garlic-laced escargots, and the city's best fries (they also come with the mussels). The dessert menu thankfully still lists the airy pavlova and chocolate pot de crème. Both go well with the extensive Champagne selection, which, along with the reserve wine list, is a perfect testament to the restaurant's refined exuberance. Dinner, $95; served until 1 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and midnight Sunday. At 80 Spring St.; 212-965-1414.

Half lounge, half restaurant, 5 Ninth sets itself apart from the other trendy hybrids in the Meatpacking District with dishes like oysters with double-cooked pork and pickled ramps, fried chicken with peanuts, and roasted quail with onion fondue. The beautiful three-story townhouse has been stripped to its bones, with exposed brick walls and rough floors—a contrast to the shiny, pretty, drunk young things that swarm the neighborhood after dark. At its best, chef Zak Pelaccio's ambitious cooking makes the attitude at the door bearable. Once you've tasted his fried caramel, you'll endure a thousand slurring junior vice presidents. Dinner, $120; served until 2 a.m. daily. At 5 Ninth Ave.; 212-929-9460.

After nearly 15 years in Tribeca at Chanterelle, David and Karen Waltuck wanted to open a relaxed, chic place where locals could drop in for several meals a day, with a menu that reflects the Waltucks' Sunday home cooking (a hybrid of Chinese, Jewish grandmother, and haute comfort). Le Zinc, papered elegantly with gallery posters from the eighties art scene, always seems calm and thoughtful, the eavesdropping always intelligent. And the menu follows suit. Jim Pyron, formerly of Eleven Madison Park, plays the Asian angle with a teriyaki salmon burger and a crispy mu shu wrapper topped with pickled vegetables and sushi-grade tuna. He also has a deft hand with meat; try hangar steak with a side of curried onion fritters or the slow-cooked ribs in whatever seasonal form they take on your visit. Dinner, $90; served until 11 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday, midnight Wednesday, and 1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. At 139 Duane St.; 212-513-0001.

At 26 years old, owner and Jean Georges alum Alex Freij—who brought Industry (Food) to the East Village—had the energy to envision a place where you can get duck meat loaf and a boozy milk shake at any hour. So he found a corner space that borders Chelsea and the West Village and turned it into a "desert modern" diner—with a VIP room. Among the updated comfort food is french fries with truffled brie fondue, a fish taco with seared mahi-mahi, fried Cornish game hen with biscuits, and buffalo-chicken dumplings. Dinner, $40; served daily, 24 hours. At 102 Eighth Ave.; 212-242-7773.

Few sixties ad execs would recognize their canteen in the Seagram Building since its gutsy makeover from Diller & Scofidio in 2000 (complete with a catwalk instead of stairs). But the food still makes good on the restaurant's name—a classic seafood platter, steak frites, omelet du jour—while modernizing other favorites, such as a lamb shank with mascarpone polenta, crab cakes with tropical fruit slaw, and one righteous burger with roasted tomato and oyster mushrooms. Chocolate beignets with caramel ice cream is our new definition of a nightcap. Dinner, $100; served until midnight Monday-Thursday, 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. At 100 E. 53rd St.; 212-751-4840.

Restaurant prices reflect a three-course dinner for two, excluding beverages and gratuity.