YES! Weekly’s ten best hangouts for insomniacs

by Chris Lowrance

Carolina’s Diner

506 South Regional Road; 336.931.0811

2700 High Point Road; 336.297.9363

They call New York the city that never sleeps. By comparison, Greensboro seems like the city that never wakes up. The bars all close at 2 a.m., the theaters spin their last reels at midnight and don’t even get us started about the bookstores. Apparently “no loitering” signs aren’t just for decoration. But the news never stops, and journalists never sleep. Occasionally we do pry our shuddering, caffeine-ravaged hands from our keyboards and stumble into the night, and we know any town has its havens for the chronically nocturnal. Especially when they’re hungry. For instance Carolina’s Diner, a locally-owned chain with two locations in Greensboro, offers all the staples of a Southern meal, and only close their doors between 9 a.m. Sunday and 6 p.m. the next morning. The breakfast menu is fairly inexpensive and, honestly, who doesn’t want hash browns at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday?

Waffle House

3929 Battleground Ave.; 336.540.9406

4302 Big Tree Way; 336.294.0035

3208 High Point Road; 336.294.3556

2505 Randleman Road; 336.275.5005

Speaking of late, late breakfast, Waffle House is nothing if not a dependable source. The massive chain can be found in almost any town, open at any hour, even when their arch-nemesis International House of Pancakes has long ago locked up. It’s the perfect place to end up when the bartender has cut you off and chased you out, but here’s one word of caution: the waitress has seen your type before. She knows what you did. Tip well.

Steak ‘n Shake

4409 Wendover Ave.; 336.218.0807

2647 Lawndale Drive; 336.286.8567

Because nothing chases a giant hamburger down better than a big whip-cream topped milkshake, except maybe a plate of cheese-fries and a bowl of chili-mac. A meal at Steak ‘n Shake may not cure insomnia, put it can certainly put you out of commission. That doesn’t stop over-privileged high schoolers and drunken college kids from swarming the place, however, and the one on Lawndale just opened a smoking section. If they just added wi-fi, they’d have to beat the hipsters off with a hot spatula.

Harris Teeter

3310 W. Friendly Ave.; 336.856.7104

401 Pisgah Church Road; 336.545.0236

4640 W. Market St.; 336.854.0022

3357 Battleground Ave.; 336.282.1070

701 Francis King St.; 336.856.8140

Not every Harris Teeter is open 24-7, but all of the above locations are. It’s not the cheapest grocery by a long shot, but whether you need to stock your larder or your wine cabinet the selection is unbeatable. The Friendly Center location even has automated self-checkout, cutting the inconvenience of human interaction to a minimum. Just don’t complain if your eggs get smashed or your bananas bruised – you bagged ’em, pal.

Jan’s House

3932-B W. Market St.; 336.855.9808

This 37-year-old diner is believed to be the oldest in Greensboro, and unlike in the previous locales, the “Happy Days” look is authentic. The red neon “Open 24 Hours” sign is a blessed beacon for the weary traveler rolling down West Market at ungodly hours, and the food’… well, it’s a Southern diner. For the brave, there’s the Belly Buster, a combo consisting of every breakfast food on the menu. Leave your diet at the door.

Wal-Mart Supercenter

121 W. Helmsley Drive; 336.370.0775

4424 W. Wendover Ave.; 336.292.5070

There’s not a lot of love for Wally World these days, what with all the negative press, lawsuits and scathing documentaries. Still, the “Supercenters,” a strange hybrid of grocery and department store – usually with tire center, pharmacy, photo development, restaurant, bank and optometrist thrown in – are a dependable haunt for the bored and awake. As more and more services are added, it’s possible we will one day be born, attend school, work and die within gigantic Walmart mini-nations. For now, go play in the toy aisle until a stockboy kicks you out.

The Emergency Room

You can sleep when you’re dead. Unfortunately, the Dirt Nap can swing around earlier than you might hope. Thankfully, the ER’s always open, ready to serve as your last hope when the dark of night gets a little too dark to handle. Greensboro has several – good to know with violent crime rates keep pacve with the number of uninsured Americans.

Elliott’s Revue

701 N Trade St.; Winston Salem 336.721.2111

Then there’s the Triad’s other ER. Think greasy diners and empty stores are the only option for a lonely night-owl? Have your nocturnal wanderings left you feeling like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man? You’ll find bloodshot-eyed buddies at Elliott’s Revue, over in Winston-Salem’s arts district. The coffee joint and rock venue is open non-stop Wednesday through Sunday, with shows starting right when every other stage goes dark. Want to chase off tomorrow’s hangover with four shots of espresso drowned in chocolate syrup? The ER’s your place.

AC Fitness

3940 W. Market St.; 336.854.0607

If you don’t have time to sleep, you’re probably not spending much time on the treadmill either. A membership to AC Fitness will kill’… well, one bird with one stone. The 24-hour gym is the perfect solution for a busy lifestyle, with costs ranging from $19 a month to $54 for full access to the facilities. If you can’t sleep anyway, why not wear yourself out on a bike that goes nowhere?

Gas stations

When all else fails, there’s always a gas station. Just drive around a little – you’ll spot an open one. The worst will have a few sodas, some chips and maybe stem roses made out of folded panties sticking out of an old beef-jerky jar with “$1” written in magic marker. The best are like a Wonka factory of vice – seven different flavors of everything bad for you, or at least the (currently) legal stuff. If that isn’t good enough, find a real, honest-to-God truck stop – from color TVs, mini-fridges and Playstations, to pepper-spray, handcuffs and billy clubs, you’ll find everything under the moon and stars.