The server breaks through the hush, cajoling the customers, "Come on, we should be singing along to the number-one karaoke song of all time!"

The drums kick in, and everyone in the room imperceptibly exhales. A father and daughter pick up their Pabst Blue Ribbons one last time before their check arrives, and laughter sweeps across the booths once more.

It goes on and on and on and on....
Alissa Nelson


Sammy Pyne and Andrea Mayer dressed in their Saturday-night finery at City Diner.
Sammy Pyne and Andrea Mayer dressed in their Saturday-night finery at City Diner.

Location Info

Map

Lumière Place Casino

999 N. Second St.
St. Louis, MO 63102

Category: Casinos

Region: St. Louis - North Downtown

Courtesy Diner

3155 S. Kingshighway
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

The Buttery

3659 S. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Restaurant > Diner

Region: St. Louis - South Grand

Tiffany's Original Diner

7402 Manchester Road
Maplewood, MO 63143

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Maplewood

Courtesy Diner

1121 Hampton Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

Uncle Bill's Pancake & Dinner House

3427 S. Kingshighway
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - South City

City Diner

3139 S. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - South Grand

Eat-Rite Diner

622 Chouteau Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63102

Category: Restaurant > Diner

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

Denny's

1515 Hampton Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139-3038

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - South City

Coffee Cartel

2 Maryland Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Coffee Shops

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

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More About

Eat-Rite Diner, 12:12 a.m. The front door of the Eat-Rite Diner won't budge until Kevin the fry cook hears pounding on the glass. Then he ambles away from his griddle, reaches under the counter and triggers an alarmingly loud buzzer that unbolts the door just long enough to allow the hungry customer to squeeze inside.

The door slams shut, and a hush envelops the tiny room. The bars don't close for another hour, and a lone guest feels like a trespasser during this equivalent of the early-evening lull. A new disc starts to spin on the old-fashioned jukebox tucked in the corner, breaking the tension. It's a slow country ballad, steeped with fiddle and steel guitar and the golden-throated bawling of a female vocalist.

Jackie the waitress sits at the far end of the counter. Her hair is bunched in a homely gray bun, and smoke from a Marlboro burned down to the filter curls out of her hand. Kevin, wearing a white paper hat and a grease-stained shirt emblazoned with the slogan "Eat-Rite or Don't Eat at All," grabs a pen and pad and stares the intruder in the face, silently awaiting his order.

"Three small cheeseburgers," the guest says. "And a Sprite."

Kevin plops three thin patties with the circumference of hockey pucks onto the grill, sprinkling chopped onions on top of each one. The burgers sizzle as the sad song blares.

When I think about cheatin'....

"Is this Loretta Lynn?" the patron inquires.

"Sounds like her, doesn't it," Jackie replies. "Kev, who's this singin'?"

"Gretchen Wilson," he answers curtly, flipping the burgers so the onions cook up tender in the beef fat.

The next song is Patsy Cline, "Back in Baby's Arms," followed by LeAnn Rimes' "Faded Love."

"Do you guys get to choose what goes on the jukebox?" the guest asks.

"A guy comes by and changes it every couple weeks," Jackie says. "He'll put something on it if we ask, but usually we work so late we never see him."

Just as Kevin plates the burgers, adding a few thin slices of pickle to the toasted buns, a large group staggers in, and their booze-fueled chatter and the cacophonous door buzzer replaces mournful country as the soundtrack to early Sunday morning.
Keegan Hamilton


Old Town Donuts, 2:18 a.m. Filling allegiances. Jelly, cream or custard, there's one that we all choose first, every time. It's 2:18 a.m. at Old Town Donuts in Florissant, a.k.a. decision time. Located in a squat brick strip next to a dentist's office and across from local ice cream mecca Fritz's, Old Town projects a glow in all directions, thanks to the bright white and yellow lights inside. The small bakery (open 24 hours and family owned since 1968, thank you) sports a large backlit sign atop that reads "DONUTS" in bright blue letters.

Once inside, seating here is cozy — eight tables and eight more high-backed chairs at a lunch counter — but the proximity to others doesn't create a din of post-bar half-yelling like you might get at a diner closer into the city. No, the conversation is polite; there's no music overhead and there's no smoking allowed (this is a bakery, after all).

How many doughnuts does Old Town bake daily? "Thousands," offers the middle-aged woman behind the counter with a half-smile. "Sometimes we have 200 dozen go out at a time." There's a slight pause while she closes the door to a cooler. "It's big business."

But at 2:32 a.m., the only indication one is inside a major north-county baking hub comes via a peek through the kitchen window. It looks to be about twice or three times the size of the dining room. Staying open all night just makes sense for bakeries. There are bakers working all night anyway, why not keep them company? There's no public restroom immediately visible, the place is bright, and the sugar rush from these doughy lumps of heaven seems to compel people to be on their way quickly.
— Nick Lucchesi


Uncle Bill's Pancake and Dinner House (Kingshighway), 2:43 a.m. On the way to the bathroom, you see everything: rows of cigarettes sprouting up out of every booth, a young man passed out on the floor in the corner, his boots resting on his chair, a leather jacket unzipped to the navel revealing cleavage, lots of cleavage, and a 90-pound waitress balancing seven plates on one arm. There are people talking, people laughing, people eating and ketchup and hot sauce everywhere. Two overweight women with bleached hair and dark roots to match are laughing. "Between Jeff, Dave, Joe and work, it's fucking crazy." Another waitress has eight more plates. There's a head of messy hair asleep facedown on the table, a pink boa, a zebra print shirt and a tiny Asian girl with giant round glasses, in her p.j.'s.

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