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Four Best Places for a Post-Midnight Snack San Francisco 2003 -

In most of the world's glittering cities, the witching hour is just about the time things really start shakin'. Here in San Francisco, the only thing those 12 chimes signify is that it's been a couple of hours since the restaurants closed down for the night. There are, of course, exceptions. Last year we saluted Brazen Head, Taqueria Can-Cun, Yuet Lee, It's Tops, and Globe; here are four more hangouts for the wee small hours.

Vietnam Restaurant

620 Broadway (at Columbus), 788-7034

Located a few doors up from the neon-lit heart of North Beach, this Formica-edged hole in the wall serves simple, satisfying Saigon-style specialties until 3 a.m. The several varieties of pho are a popular and rejuvenating late-night snack, but the barbecue sandwiches with carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and chili peppers are mighty delicious as well. Preserved-lemon lemonade and grass-jelly dessert drinks make for stimulating nightcaps. All this and pork chops, too!

Great Eastern

649 Jackson (at Kearny), 986-2500

When you're hankering for really fresh frog meat in the middle of the night, head on over to this huge, ornate Hong Kong-style seafood joint. Along one wall there are several aquaria where you can see for yourself that the catch of the day is nothing if not fresh. Flounder, rock cod, scallops, lobsters, crab, steelhead, abalone, and shrimp are among the species prepared to order -- steamed, fried, made into soup, you name it -- but first the waiter scoops out the fish and brings it around for your approval, like a sort of aquatic sommelier. Open until 1 a.m.

La Rondalla

901 Valencia (at 20th Street), 647-7474

By the time you've had your second pitcher of margaritas and you've tipped the mariachis to play "Guantanamera" for the third time and the ever-present Christmas lights have taken their toll on your equilibrium, it's time to tuck into a nice big platter of hangover-squelching enchiladas. Luckily it's only 2 in the morning and you've still got an hour till closing time. The food's cheap and filling, and the atmo is rambunctious; what more could a night owl desire? Cash only.

Brother's Korean Restaurant

4128 Geary (at Fifth Avenue), 387-7991

Eating Korean barbecue is as fun as it's delicious, because you get to cook the marinated meats over your table's personal charcoal grill, a tricky business after a night of carousing but pleasantly aromatic nonetheless. A dozen pickled, grated, garlicky condiments are provided to jazz up the already tasty fillets, and if you're still hungry post-BBQ, the menu offers whole grilled fish, rice bowls, and hearty soups to tide you over until the 2 o'clock closing time.

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