Where To Eat In State College Late At Night: Your Penn State Drunk Food Guide
Whether you’re leaving a bar or a frat or searching for something, anything to eat after a long night of studying, State College will never fail to satisfy even your most random late night cravings.
From tacos to pizza to egg rolls, we’ve got it all and it’s available at all hours of the day (and night), thanks to a few local classics, profit-driven chains, and an abundance of graveyard shift workers.
Just be prepared to wait in line. Every other student in this town is also planning on soaking up their one too many shots of Vlad with greasy, carb-heavy snacks. But the lingering, blissful buzz and the memories you make while waiting in lines and taking in the atmosphere of your college town are why these holes-in-the-wall with below-average food are so special.
In the words of Joe House, “Let’s get in that belly!”
Near: Gaff, Penn Tower, Triangle, Skulls
Stopping at Yallah on your way home is a religious experience. It’s quickly become the late night communion for the current generation of Penn Staters and the backdrop of so many great, blurred stories.
You begin to hear Daddy Yankee, Ozuna, and Bad Bunny bumping in the middle of the night more than a block away. Then, you see the line stretching across McAllister Alley with freshmen and seniors alike all sharing the same anticipation for a Monster Burrito overflowing with all the fixin’s.
You approach an electrically bright blue and yellow hovel that better resembles something made of Legos than a building you’d expect to find in State College. Once you get in line, you wait for what seems like forever and plan out your tailgate plans for the next day. When you step up to the counter to order, you see a crew of three or four employees running back and forth in a space of no more than 50 square feet. Every second, they churn out another grease-stained brown paper bag and ring a bell. Usually, the student waiting is too drunk to realize their number is being called.
Waiting for your food to be made can take even longer than the 15 minutes you already spent in line, but then you run into that girl who sat next to you in CAS 100 freshman year and begin arguing with someone about if this is finally the year for Penn State basketball.
Finally, once your number is called, you’re able to sit down at grimy picnic tables alongside people you don’t even know to break bread. All that matters while you stuff your face with Mexican-inspired cuisine is the excitement of the picturesque, starry State College night and the amazement of how this burrito always seems to exceed your drunken expectations.
Yallah is probably the best quality food you can find in State College at 2 a.m. It’s one of the few places in this guide appetizing enough to eat sober.
In fact, the original Yallah was so successful when it debuted in the fall of 2016 that owner Hitham Hiyajeneh opened a second location with slightly different options and hours less than a year later.
Highlights: You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at Yallah. But if you’re eating on the street during its busiest times late at night on the weekends, your best bet is either a burrito or a quesadilla. Both are manageable enough to eat standing up or at a
I normally go for the Moby Dick, which has fried fish fillet in it, but any of the Monster Burritos, which are loaded with rice, beans, french fries, and different veggies, will fill you up.
Disclaimer: Eating fish from a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant at 2 a.m. is not nearly as sketchy as it sounds. I PROMISE.
Near: Penn Tower, Alexander Court, Triangle, Skulls
If Yallah is a religious experience, then Canyon is a rite of passage.
Ask any alum from the last two decades for a great story about after he or she left a bar or a party. It’ll most likely take place in a long line outside of Canyon and involve soggy pizza.
Disgruntled old souls still memorialize “Old Canyon,” which was located across Beaver Ave. and featured the pizza joint’s legendary sticky picnic tables. It closed early in the fall 2016 semester to make way for a new high-rise.
“New” Canyon might not have the same character as its predecessor (or any tables), but the post-frat party lines remain the same. They now roam in the opposite direction down Beaver Ave.
Similar to Yallah, Canyon is a meeting ground of Penn Staters, full of people you know, people you sorta know, and people you don’t want to know. Nonetheless, you’ll probably end up bumping into and talking to all three types of people on any given night while you sit on the curb eating a dollar slice.
The difference between Yallah and Canyon, though, is that there’s a discernible difference between how Canyon tastes when you’re sober versus when you’ve had a few drinks. Some people might even try to tell you Canyon uses a different crust, a different sauce, or a different oven during daylight hours. We haven’t been able to confirm, but we do love a good conspiracy theory. After all, this is Penn State.
Pizza snobs from New York, New Jersey, and Scranton, who don’t shut up about how superior the pizza back home is, vow to never go near Canyon. As one of those self-proclaimed pizza snobs, I don’t rank Canyon as my slice of choice. But I do have a soft spot for tradition passed down from the many good and plastered partygoers who have come before me in State College.
Hell, who am I kidding?
When it’s 2 a.m., anything tastes good — even soggy cardboard.
Highlights: Dollar slices, baby. And don’t forget the ranch.
Near: Alexander Court, Penn Tower, Americana House Apartments
Canyon vs. College Pizza is an ongoing debate in town. But at the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong answer. You’re essentially just arguing about which restaurant’s pizza is less bad, and it comes down to which atmosphere you prefer.
Described as “Canyon for hipsters” in a 2013 Onward State post, College Pizza lacks Canyon’s legacy and has a much different vibe. For one, it actually has tables inside and plenty of them, which gives it a significant advantage over Canyon during the winter.
College Pizza also offers way more variety. Your pizza order can be everything from chicken alfredo to tomato ricotta to a full menu of Indian specialty toppings. Additionally, because College Pizza isn’t set up like an assembly line, you don’t feel rushed while ordering, as opposed to Canyon’s efficient, Soup Nazi design.
Highlights: Buffalo chicken pizza isn’t the most unique option on College Pizza’s menu. But any time you combine pizza and wings into one meal, you have a recipe for success.
Now, I fall in the Canyon camp for this debate, but I have to pay credit where credit is due. And College Pizza is the Matt McGloin of Buffalo chicken pizza — not the best but it’ll surely still get the job done, especially when it’s 2 a.m. and you’re on your way home from Gaffeoke.
For what it’s worth, Canyon is the Christian Hackenberg of pizza. In college, it seems great, yet unappreciated. But in the big leagues, it not only loses its luster — you realize it kind of sucks.
Near: Nicholas Towers, Acacia, Phi Psi
There will inevitably be a time when it’s already 2 a.m., you’re sitting in East, and your friends will insist on ordering Pokey Stix. And you’ll wholeheartedly give in and make the call because your mouth waters at the thought of cheesy dough dipped in even more cheese, hot sauce, honey mustard, ranch, or whatever your condiment of choice might be.
When your Pokeys are finally delivered at about 4 a.m., they’ll probably be a little cold already. But you’ll still wolf down the first two Stix and consider if there’s a case for them to be one of the top five foods in the world. Eventually, the grease and cheese will kick in. Not only will you quickly get sick of them, you might actually get sick.
But those first two bites.
Our own uber-scientific research has concluded that the optimal time for ordering Pokeys is before 2 a.m. before the bar crowd wanders home. So the earlier you order them, the better. But waiting all night for Pokeys when you can barely keep your eyes open leads to some of the best, most random memories you’ll graduate with. Do it at least once.
Even if Especially when you need to wake up for a noon kickoff.
Highlights: Listen, we’re sure Gumby’s sells other food. And it’s probably even pretty good. But there’s only one food item that warrants a 2 a.m. booty call that can take up to two hours to be delivered. Pokey Stix, with their greasy goodness that you will regret eating faster than it took for them to be delivered to you.
Editor’s note: Although Gumby’s is technically a franchise, waiting for and eating Pokey Stix have become such key parts of the Penn State experience that we made an exception and rated it as one of the classics.
Bradley’s Cheesesteaks & Hoagies
Near: Gaff, Doggie’s Pub
The winner of our Drunk Food Bracket earlier this year, Bradley’s is one of the more niche late night stops. It doesn’t have Canyon’s legacy or Yallah’s ubiquity. But it does have a thorough selection of sandwiches that include cheesesteaks, grilled cheeses, po-boys, and hot dogs (fight me).
Although the sandwich menu runs deeper than Penn State’s quarterback depth, as the name would suggest, the cheesesteaks are the main attraction. You can choose from nearly 20 variations.
I’m a big fan of Bradley’s, but I like to go there to actually enjoy a sandwich for lunch or dinner.
However, for our many overly zealous friends from “right outside of Philly,” if the party you’re at results in everyone chanting E-A-G-L-E-S (as it so often does here) and you begin to miss home, a cheesesteak from Bradley’s will surely cure your homesickness.
Highlights: I’m no Philadelphian, but I’ve developed an appreciation for the City of Brotherly Love’s sandwiches. Cheesesteaks are one of my favorite types of sandwiches, but Bradley’s has turned me on to the Philly Pork Sandwich with broccoli rabe and long hots. Give it a try when it’s featured on the specials menu.
Near: Phyrst, Palmerton, Beaver Plaza, Local Whiskey
Attached to the Phyrst, Ernie’s Cheesesteaks is positioned perfectly to serve freshly minted 21-year-olds right after they get kicked out of the bar on their birthdays.
But unlike Bradley’s, they aren’t going to Ernie’s for the cheesesteaks. They’re going for Suzie Wong’s Egg Rolls. Yes, egg rolls. From a cheesesteak joint. In State College. Your new favorite drunk snack. And something you will probably talk about for the rest of your life, much to the confusion and skepticism of anyone you tell.
Suzie Wong’s Egg Rolls, made locally by the Wong family on Aaron Drive, can only be found in State College and are a classic. In addition to changing how you think about egg rolls and where/when it’s acceptable to eat them, Suzie Wong is sure to sober you up for your walk home down Beaver Avenue. Put simply, in the words of Yelp’s Brian B:
“Towards the end of the night after you’re having trouble standing up straight and find women looking at you funny as you slur your speech, go back up and get exactly TWO Suzie Wongs. No more, no less. Wait for them to cool for a minute or two after getting them, then chow down on the first one. Congratulations, you are now instantly sober enough to at least make it home! Chow down on the second one on the way home, and that grease and asian flavor will keep you going just long enough to hit a bed. Never fails.”
If you’re near the barren residential wasteland of West College, Crunchee Munchees is a godsend. It’s the only restaurant within convenient walking distance and that doesn’t require you to go too far out of your way if you’re heading back to campus.
Crunchee Munchees has some solid classics like fries, sandwiches, and mozzarella sticks that will surely hold you over if you’re venturing all the way back to East. You can also get whatever you could possibly want fried, whether it’s a hot dog, Nutter Butter, or Oreo.
Some things were meant to be eaten right after they come out of the deep fryer, so don’t order from here. Take advantage by coming in when you’re far away from civilization and carbing up to do what could amount to being a 1.5-mile hike.
Get the churros.
Are U Hungry/Big Bite
Near: Calder Commons, Envy, Armenara Plaza, AGR, Lambda
Big Bite and Are U Hungry share a storefront on Sowers Street, so the line is are usually pretty long.
There isn’t much to say about Big Bite, but the market for great wings downtown is wide open. The food is decent for what it is. And its location on Sowers Street makes it a strong go-to for wings if you are passing by and don’t feel like waiting for Wings Over to be delivered.
But if you have the time, Wings Over remains the local golden standard.
Believe it or not, Penn State actually has a Rutgers knockoff.
Are U Hungry’s sandwiches are loaded with different variations of chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries, and various kinds of meat. (Drunk food isn’t the time to worry about your figure or cholesterol.) They have names like “Fat Bitch,” “Fat Blunt,” and “Fat Bastard,” and are carbon copies of the “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” style sandwiches popularized by Rutgers’ famous R U Hungry.
Eating these sandwiches is “cool” at Rutgers, because it’s a piece of its history and one of the few things they can actually hang their scarlet hats on. But we have our own traditions, and there’s no need to mooch off another school, especially if it’s going to be Rutgers.
Near: Penn Tower, Alexander Court, Triangle, Skulls
If New Canyon is the younger and lesser brother of Old Canyon, then Canyon Wings is the forgotten and even further underachieving stepbrother who the parents
forgot chose not to pick up from daycare on more than one occasion.
If you’re in this neck of the woods, just go a few doors down to the actual Canyon for what made its name great: pizza.
Zen Wings and Things
Near: Envy, Armenara Plaza, Lion’s Den, Sig Pi, DKE, AGR
It’s a little bit out of the way and although the menu has cheap prices, I’ve yet to hear someone talk about actually enjoying the wings. My experiences weren’t great either, so I’d suggest just sticking with Big Bite or Wings Over if you want wings late at night.
Near: Envy, Armenara Plaza, Lion’s Den, Sig Pi, DKE, AGR
DP Dough, located near the corner of Garner Street and Beaver Avenue, is a calzone franchise with locations in college towns around the country. You can get truly anything in your calzone here, from traditional cheeses to barbecue chicken to every type of cured Italian meat.
There’s nothing that crazy memorable about the experience of eating at DP Dough. But the food is actually good and it has a fun atmosphere with posters of Kramer from Seinfeld and Bluto from Animal House on the walls. There’s usually enough seating, but you might have to share a table with a few strangers.
It’s usually not that crowded at DP Dough compared to some of its counterparts, so it’s a nice alternative for nights when all you and every other Penn State student wants is to eat something hearty after singing Mr. Brightside for the fourth time in three hours. We are in no way imply that is a bad thing, but you’ll certainly work up an appetite while swimming through sick lullabies and choking on your alibi.
If you don’t know what to order at DP Dough (and the options are really endless, which can be overwhelming if you’re drunk), you really can’t go wrong with the $5 calzone of the day. Perhaps the best part of the shop is eating half in the store and half when you get home — we might as well call this the Suzie Wong method from now on. Thanks, Brian B.
Near: Envy, Armenara Plaza, Lion’s Den
Another college town necessity, Insomnia appeals to those with a late night sweet tooth. The barely-baked cookies melt in your mouth and fall apart when you try to pick them up.
Insomnia is great when you first come to college, having heard all about the wonders of an all-night cookie delivery service, but they get old pretty quickly and they’re inferior to the cookies served in West. Also, like Pokeys, after a few bites of pure ecstasy, the cookies lose their dazzle and you begin to feel a little weird from all the grease.
They’re good when your freshman year RA orders a box of 100 cookies for your floor and you have a couple while meeting new friends. But as an eater who will choose savory food every day of the week, I struggle justifying going out of my way and passing up so many classic State College classics for one or two commercialized cookies.
Near: Gaff, Doggie’s Pub, Farsig, Theta Chi
If you’re from “right outside of Philly” and worship the almighty and great Wawa, this may be a tough pill to swallow. So many nights end up in Sheetz on Pugh. And, every time, it will be for a different reason.
Sometimes, you want fries. Other times, you need to use the bathroom before trekking all the way back to East. Or you and your friends can’t agree on where to eat, so you go to the one place that has everything.
But often, it’s too late to go anywhere else, and Sheetz is open 24 hours a day.
Because there are so many reasons to be in Sheetz, you’ll see a lot of different people doing a lot of different things, whether they’re also getting a post-bars snack, doing their grocery shopping for the week, or buying more beer for the postgame.
Like pretty much every other late-night hotspot in town, Sheetz is never not crowded.
The good part, though, is that ordering goes pretty quickly, given the number of screens available once you walk in. It’s just waiting in the sea of students for your food that seems to last forever. However, much like Yallah and Canyon, Sheetz is a meeting ground of every kind of Penn State student. Luckily, this one is indoors and has a bathroom.
Speaking of which: If you’re going to Sheetz with the intention of using the bathroom, good luck maneuvering your way through that crowd. You’ll probably make it out alive, but nothing is certain.
Near: Envy, Lion’s Den
Jimmy John’s is a great plan B when you’re walking home from a party down on East College.
When the McDonald’s mosh pit across the street gets crazy or is just way too long, Jimmy John’s is there with a quickly moving line. With both carbs and protein, sandwiches are the perfect meal to finish up a night of drinking and prepare your body for the hangover recovery.
College Ave. Location — Near: University Terrace, Envy, Lion’s Den
Burrowes Street Location — Near: Park Place, Palmerton, Cafe 210 West, Chumley’s
Like Jimmy John’s, Subway is a safe choice for a manageable wait in line and an okay sandwich that’ll soak up the alcohol. Luckily for you, there are two locations, one on East College and one on Burrowes Street, so you’ll almost always be within walking distance of a reliable sandwich.
Near: Americana Apartments
I’ve never been brand loyal to Taco Bell, but I know how people feel about their Quesaritos and Chalupa Cravings Boxes. If that’s what you love, then go crazy. You know what to expect from Taco Bell and you’re one less person for me to wait for in the Yallah or Canyon line.
Once again, I just don’t see the reason to choose a commercial brand over a dining experience that is uniquely State College, especially with Yallah and its vibrant atmosphere less than two blocks away.
Much like Gumby’s, either order Wings Over early or make sure you like the people you’re waiting with because your delivery is going to take a long time.
Wings Over is another franchise that targets college towns. It sits atop the pecking order for chicken wings in State College and makes the long wait definitely worth it. Wings Over’s website is a pain to use to order, especially if you live in a dorm, and its phones are usually too busy to take orders late at night, but those are minor details once you’re enjoying your Aircraft Carrier (Yes, that’s the name of a size.) of wings and waffle fries lathered in Cruisin’ Altitude Buffalo-style sauce.
Near: Envy, University Terrace, Lion’s Den, Any Frat
McDonald’s is McDonald’s. You know what to expect. At least in terms of food, not much changes when the sun goes down and the frackets come out.
The crowds inside of McDonalds on weekend nights redefine busy. It gets so chaotic that there are even security guards on hand.
The lines move pretty quickly, so you won’t be waiting for too long, but it can be overwhelming to see that many rowdy, hungry, and inebriated people in one place at one time.
Highlights: Sure, your craving and appreciation for french fries are at all-time highs when your willpower is at an all-time low late at night, but the highlight of stopping by this McDonald’s so late is taking in the chaos that surrounds you and that could only exist in a college town.
You’re bound to graduate with at least a few good memories of screaming matches, football players sneaking out of the restaurant to avoid signing autographs, and the best tasting McNuggets you’ve ever had. So if your friends ever drag you to go to McDonald’s, remember to enjoy State College for what it is.
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About the Author
ESPN’s signature pregame show will return to the iconic Old Main Lawn on Saturday morning.
Gene Rockey — an employee in Copy Services for the past 26 years — will retire this week after more than 30 years of service to Penn State.
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