Late Nights and Bar Bites

 
Guacamole Station in A.G. Kitchen. Noah Fecks
Expanded hours and menu specials boost bar tabs.

It’s midnight on a Friday in Washington, D.C., and luckily, Bar Pilar is open. Located on the white hot 14th Street corridor, the two-story local favorite has earned a reputation as one of the best places in the city to grab a late-night bite.

Since last summer, patrons have been able to order from the full menu from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. at both the downstairs and upstairs bars, as well as the dining room. (Before this move, guests could only order from a limited menu.) These expanded and constantly rotating offerings include everything from shareable small plates, such as roasted potatoes with malt aioli and beef empanadas, to entrées such as lard-fried buttermilk chicken. There’s a dual purpose behind the move: One, increase Bar Pilar’s overall dining receipts. Two, increase each check during an under-monetized daypart by enticing tipplers to become diners.

All across the country, full-service bars and restaurants are rolling out dining options for the midnight crowd. According to Technomic’s 2012 “Dinner and Late-Night Consumer Trend Report,” operators are developing “craveable” food options that might include smaller portions, shareable dishes, or mix ‘n’ match selections. All these tactics appeal to the Millennial customer base that congregates over food and drinks.

New York City’s A.G. Kitchen has fired up a late night “Five & Dime” menu that entices late-night, weekend traffic passing through the neighborhood, including concert-goers from nearby Beacon Theatre or the summertime show series in Central Park.

A selection of American and Latin comfort foods from executive chef Alex Garcia are priced either $5 or $10. Crab cake sliders, a Cubano sandwich, guacamole, and guava barbecue ribs are smaller portions or discounted versions of existing menu items. “It’s our greatest hits,” explains partner Spencer Rothschild. “It’s not the time of day to sit down and have a full meal, but you want something that’s tasty and flavorful.”