It is an age-old dilemma we have all faced: the clock has rolled over to 2:30 a.m., you and your friends are high as shit, and the hunger starts to creep in. It is the unmistakable temptation of the flower. Slow at first, it’s not long before the hunger consumes you and you realize that you would kill for a milkshake, a fist full of mozzarella sticks, like three tacos, and a slice of Hawaiian pizza. But where does one go to satisfy this appetite? How could you possibly address this range of desire?
Believe it or not, there was a brief time in Berkeley, California where a restaurant existed to serve this exact purpose. Munchy Munchy Hippos was the indisputably perfect stoner restaurant. It was a late night (open 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.) restaurant that served, as the name implies, food specifically designed to feed the cannabis cravings of old hippie burnouts and red-eyed college students alike. The menu ranged from mashed potato taquitos to deep-fried strawberry cheesecake bites, to brisket-covered french fries, to assorted candy, and much more. They had a section specifically for budget dining called the “I’m Broke” menu where you could order a single Otter Pop or a scoop of buttered corn. Munchy Munchy Hippos was a stoner oasis, but it was a star that burned too bright. It has since shut down, leaving a chili-cheeseburger-sized hole in all of our hearts.
However, Munchy did not die in vain. It has provided a blueprint for what makes an excellent stoner restaurant. We created a rating system using Munchy Munchy Hippos as a guide. For each of the four categories below, an eatery will be awarded points based on how well it meets qualifications. The points are then added up, with the highest possible score awarded being 50.
Menu – 20 Points
The most important and nuanced element here by a long shot. Yes, large portions are great, and obviously, greasy food reigns supreme, but consider the importance of customization. The more you are able to Frankenstein your meal, the better. The joy of adding bacon and eggs to a cheeseburger, or blending a slice of pie directly into a milkshake, cannot be overstated. Furthermore, while not a requirement, a value menu is a nice bonus; cheap eats are appreciated by everyone.
Convenience – 15 Points
Straightforward, but so essential. Walking distance is great, but easy access by public transportation is nice as well. Delivery can be clutch, but a long wait time is a slow kiss of death, and a sneaky fee or delivery minimum popping up at checkout after poring over a menu on Grubhub for 25 minutes is the single most frustrating experience in all of human existence.
Environment – 10 Points
All of the things you would normally expect to make up a good environment at any restaurant (clean, friendly service, etc.) apply here, with two crucial additions. First is the “chill” factor. Even if you aren’t someone who suffers from the occasional paranoia or anxiety when stoned, it’s important that people there (both staff and customers) aren’t prone to turning a judgemental eye towards you and your friends when you start laughing hysterically, or if you come in smelling a little… herbal. Second, the staff has to be tolerant of long or potentially confusing orders. It’s surprisingly disheartening when your request to replace the roast beef on your French Dip with a piece of fried chicken is met with a sigh or an eye roll.
Food Quality – 5 Points
Last, and definitely least, is the actual food quality. We would all like to pretend that our standards when stoned aren’t as low as they are, but there is a reason nobody eats Jack in the Box tacos sober. Of course the better the food is, the better the experience, but at a certain point, as long as it isn’t going to make you sick, the quality matters a lot less than it probably should.
Now that we have a proper scoring guide, let’s hold it up to a few old standbys and see how they fare.
Menu: Some variety, but it’s essentially the same 8 ingredients re-packaged 100 times unless you are at a “Cantina” which adds weird booze options. Decent value across the board. (13/20)
Convenience: Almost all fast food has the benefit of many locations and rapid service with the caveat that delivery is rarely an option without the pricey aid of delivery services like Postmates. The Bell fits that mold. (13/15)
Environment: Taco Bell rarely has as much seating as, say, a Wendy’s, but it is often nicer than an average fast food restaurant. Also, basically everyone in a Taco Bell is either drunk or stoned, so no judgment shall be passed. (9/10)
Food Quality: What is the competition here? Chipotle? Del Taco? T-Bell is first in its class by a mile. (5/5)
Menu: This is where Denny’s shines. All day breakfast goes a long way and milkshakes are an elite munchy treat. They also have very reasonable prices for all the food you’re getting. It doesn’t get much better than this. (19/20)
Convenience: Denny’s are rarely accessible by anything other than car, so unless you have a designated driver or want to throw down for a Lyft, you’re out of luck. Only points earned here come from being open 24 hours, 7 days a week. (5/15)
Environment: Standard diner, which is a solid vibe. Only issue here would be gruff, irritated truckers casting a critical gaze your way, or a family traveling through the night with kids that give you looks that make you feel guilty for being so high in public. (7/10)
Food Quality: “Food” in name and appearance only. If you don’t know what to order (or what to stay away from) you could ruin a good night. (1/5)
Little Caesars Pizza
Menu: Nothing special in terms of selection or customization, but a well-rounded lineup of pizza, wings, and assorted bread treats nonetheless. The cornerstone of their operation, the Hot-N-Ready, is lowkey one of the best value items in the fast food game. (14/20)
Convenience: Pizza spots are always going to get a boost here because of embedded delivery, and the Hot-N-Ready earns them big points for eliminating all possible wait time for pickup orders. Points deducted for far fewer locations than the competition (14/15)
Environment: Rarely a dine-in option, which might actually be a blessing. (3/10)
Food Quality: Sneaky good because of their garlic-powder-drenched crust. (4/5)
Keep this ratings tool in your back pocket. Next time you find yourself with a late-night itch, use our trusty guide as your munchy compass. You won’t regret it.