By Sam Dean, Bon Appétit
There's always plenty of anecdotal evidence about how America's biggest cities do food differently: San Francisco's all burritos and fresh ingredients, Chicago's big on meat, New York's big on everything. But it's nice to get some cold, hard data every once in a while. Seamless, the online delivery ordering service, just released some numbers on how Americans eat late at night, and there are some surprising little factoids in there.
First, Chicago is the country's number one late-night delivery city, with 14 percent of the city's total orders happening between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. New York and San Francisco are tied for second, and then Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are tied for third, with 10 percent of their orders happening outside normal business hours. We could just chalk this up to Chicagoans' famous laziness (a joke!), but it probably has more to do with the fact that it's the coldest of the major cities that Seamless serves. Nothing like below-zero wind chill to make you never want to leave your house.
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Seamless wouldn't tell us how many people those percentages actually amount to (they said it's part of their "secret sauce"), but they did give us some more information on what kinds of food everyone's ordering in the wee hours, and how that's different from their normal dinner orders.
After dark, pizza reigns supreme. In every city except L.A., pizza took the top spot for late-night orders, which should only be surprising if your spaceship just crash-landed on earth. But during dinner hours, the top Seamless orders in every city were some type of Asian food -- Thai/Vietnamese in S.F., L.A., and Chicago, Chinese in D.C., and Japanese/Sushi in New York.
L.A. was by far the most consistent of the cities, with its choice of cuisine staying constant between dinner and late-night hours: after Thai/Vietnamese, Angelenos went for Chinese, Italian, pizza, and Indian, though Indian and pizza switch spots after 10 p.m. Unless there's a secret culture of late-night stuffed shells and chicken cacciatores in L.A., the fact that "Italian" is more popular than "Pizza" seems kind of baffling, but share some local knowledge in the comments, if you've got any.
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D.C. is the only city where Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food makes both the dinner (at #5) and late-night (#3) list, and Mexican food only squeaks on at fifth place for late-night Chicago eaters, but doesn't make an appearance anywhere else. And only in New York does the Diner food category come into play, but it shoots to second place for late-night orders, right after pizza. Which means that, yes, New Yorkers are lazy enough to order food from the deli down the block at night. We've seen it happen a million times, and not having to even get up does, in fact, make those cheese-oozing hot sandwiches and styrofoam fries taste all the sweeter.
The data from Seamless is skewed, of course, towards businesses that have actually signed up for Seamless and people who would think to use it, but it does give an interesting snapshot of each city's food culture. And if there's some kind of Council for Pizza Proliferation out there, lurking in the halls of power, we think we know your next step towards world domination: turn LA into a late-night pizza city, thus securing your hold over the hearts and stomachs of after-dark America. Nefarious, but delicious.