For a city that never sleeps, New York's late-night dining scene can seem awfully groggy. Standbys like Blue Ribbon and Corner Bistro, and old faves like Little Korea's 24-hour Kang Suh, continue to burn the midnight oil daily, but lately we've noticed that a lot of night-owl kitchens are shutting down early. Even late-night legend Florent shockingly cut back its hours a few years ago, closing from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, to many a transvestite's dismay. That's why Chelsea Market's new Freight 410, from the owners of Frank's Restaurant across the street, gets an automatic bonus point for its gutsy plan to stay open until 2 a.m. initially and, come September, to become a 24-7 operation. To keep everyone alert, the owners plan to showcase works by new artists and recruit some big-name D.J. friends to stop by and spin (for free, they hope), while chef Tracy Macari creates "upscale diner" dishes like fried catfish and crab cakes with wasabi aïoli (pictured), not to mention two mac-and-cheese plates. And bug-eyed insomniacs and hopped-up club kids will be happy to know that breakfast will be served all day and night.
410 West 16th Street
· Cuisine: Italian, Pizza
Chef William Snell and his Brittany-born wife, Christine, captivated Fort Greene with coastal French cuisine at Loulou, and this month, they colonize Park Slope with Cocotte (which variously means "hen" or "chicken," "darling," "casserole dish," or "prostitute"). The new spot shares its sister bistro's cozy country-French vibe and-once the kitchen fires up on August 21 -- its blockbuster bouillabaisse. Until then, you might corner chef Snell at the bar, which opened last week, to get the lowdown on his forthcoming escargots, frogs' legs, crab-stuffed lobster, and "la pizza en salade," voluptuously embellished with duck confit and blue-cheese fondue.
337 Fifth Avenue, at 4th Street
· Cuisine: French
Vincent Scotto has cooked his way downtown, from Fresco to Scopa to his brand-new Gonzo, taking his signature grilled pizza (a recipe he picked up at Providence pie mecca Al Forno) everywhere he goes. His newest home must feel familiar: It used to be Antonio, where he consulted for the former owner (a Brooklyn childhood neighbor). Now Scotto and his sister Donna (pictured) have given the brownstone premises a face-lift and installed a new menu of Scotto classics like grilled-onion salad, Venetian-style bar snacks called cicchetti, salumi and cheese plates, and entrées and sides meant to be shared.
140 West 13th Street
· Cuisine: Italian, Pizza
The short-lived Stella was a casualty of downtown's post-9/11 restaurant torpor, but its chef, Melissa O'Donnell, has gotten a second wind. Minus her original two partners, she's reopened the Soho storefront as Salt, with a lighter, brighter look, communal seating, and a seasonal menu that lets diners design their own dinners. Pick your protein (poached arctic char, say, or tamarind-marinated lamb on skewers) and any two sides from a list that includes-for the moment-grilled corn on the cob with chili and lime, and braised baby fennel and feta. Or leave things in O'Donnell's capable hands by ordering one of the pre-accessorized "chef's entrées," like steamed halibut with edamame and kumquats in miso broth (main courses are $12.50 to $25). And Stella fans will be happily reunited with O'Donnell's signature sweet-pea risotto and chilled cantaloupe soup.
58 Macdougal Street
· Cuisine: American
Eleven Madison Park Hot Dog Cart
For the second summer running, Danny Meyer parks his friendly frank stand in the refurbished Madison Square Park, where, to raise money for the park's upkeep, he offers the weekday lunch crowd street-cart rarities like veggie-crammed Chicago-style dogs, beet-stained potato chips, and lemon-verbena-ade. Through October
Madison Square Park
· Cuisine: American
Grand Sichuan NY
This chili-pepper-powered chainlet has blazed a trail from Chinatown, up Ninth Avenue to Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, and now crosstown to Murray Hill, where the newest branch features all the old favorites, from wontons and dan dan noodles to beef tendon, spicy double-cooked pork, and potatoes with vinegar sauce. Regulars will gravitate to the section called "Mao's Home Cooking."
227 Lexington Avenue, near 34th Street
· Cuisine: Chinese
The owner of a South Miami sushi bar has relocated to the East Village to open this new Japanese restaurant, importing most of his old staff, not to mention specialty rolls like the Volcano (crab, smoked salmon, and cream cheese with spicy mayo and conch) and the Kani Su (crab, avocado, and masago rolled in cucumber). To round out the menu, there's sweet-potato tempura, chicken yakitori, tonkatsu, and noodles.
84 East 10th Street
· Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi