When you reach a certain age, there are things you know you shouldn't do, but you still do them, because you're an adult and you can make your own bad decisions. Of course, sometimes those bad decisions have consequences. You know, the kind of consequences in which you wake up feeling like you ate a bag of sawdust and somebody installed a roller coaster inside your head.
If you find yourself on the wrong end of such a bad decision this holiday season, there's no cure like the hangover brunch.
There are certain criteria for the ideal hangover brunch spot:
Time investment: The restaurant cannot have a long waiting list, because anything more than a 15-minute wait could literally kill us when we have the shakes.
General ambiance: The restaurant must be free of triggers from the night before — cigarette smoke, the scent of bar mats or vomit. Low lighting and noise levels are preferable. Bonus points if we don't have to sweat out vodka in front of screaming children and post-church crowds.
Hair-of-the-dog quotient: The restaurant must serve some type of alcohol for the truly infirm. Coffee alone is not going to cut it unless we're sober.
In order to conduct the necessary due diligence, we gathered some boisterous friends for some rowdy nights out and reported back on our morning-after experiences.
The Stone Fox
After a slumber party that might have involved a '90s dance party lasting until 4 a.m., we rolled up to The Stone Fox around 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
Located on 51st off Charlotte, the popular nightspot has quickly earned a reputation for good music, good food and drinks, and good hangs. With ample seating and a lovely, spacious back patio and front porch, you shouldn't have a long wait, and you can order drinks at the bar and hang around if necessary.
Since at least two of us were still drunk, we ordered Bloody Marys, mimosas and a TN Sip 'n' Drip — Drew's Brews coffee mixed with Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream, a whiskey cream liqueur.
I immediately claimed the Bloody Mary as my own — mainly because it had a giant pickle in it, and I'm a huge fan of pickles. Its robust, spicy personality did not disappoint. The TN Sip 'n' Drip is definitely for those with a sweet tooth. I liked it, but one of my friends noted that coffee mixed with plain whiskey would have been preferable. Hardcore.
The weekend brunch menu at The Stone Fox offers an inventive twist on classics. Their corned beef hash is made with sweet potatoes, and their biscuits and gravy features chocolate gravy. Dishes range from $6.50 to $9.
Since we were feeling a little "less-than," we went for safer fare like the Stone Fox Breakfast Platter (two eggs any style, hash browns and your choice of bacon, andouille sausage or veggie sausage, and toast or biscuit) and the breakfast enchiladas. The platter was tried-and-true brunch food, perfect for soaking up liquor. The portion was Goldilocks-right; just enough to satiate, but not so much that you feel like you might throw it all back up.
The enchiladas were quite good, made with hearty corn tortillas and your choice of chicken or veggies (we went for chicken) and served with hash browns. Again, the portion was perfect, and it wasn't too greasy or heavy. But the standout was the Weekend Waffle, a rotating waffle option that on this particular morning was Strawberries 'n' Cream. The oversized waffle was covered in crème anglaise and strawberries, making the perfect breakfast dessert for us to share.
After a couple more drinks, we felt ready to conquer the world, or at least go on a drunk shopping trip.
M.L. Rose Craft Beer & Burgers
After a decadent Saturday evening that started with pretending to watch football and ended with a broken glass in a hot tub, Sunday morning reared its ugly head. To stave off the misery, we headed to the new M.L. Rose.
Located on Charlotte in Sylvan Park, the second M.L. Rose outpost has more of a restaurant vibe than the flagship location on Franklin Pike, with a separate bar side, two rooms full of tables and booths, and a large front patio. The brunch menu is small, but we didn't have any trouble finding dishes we wanted to try.
We started with the Cinnamon Bites — flash-fried cinnamon roll dough in powdered sugar — but I couldn't get over the fact that they resembled mummy fingers. I'd save the calories for a stop at Donut Den.
For drink options, M.L. Rose proudly serves the Man-Mosa ($4), Miller High Life mixed with orange juice. Alternately, the M.L. Rose Michelada ($4) — basically a Bloody Mary with Hap & Harry's Lynchburg Lager in lieu of vodka — was a bit too salty for my tastes, but I drank it anyway, all in the name of research.
The Hash Stacks — breakfast bowls lined with hash browns and topped with all kinds of meat and cheesy goodness — were delicious. At first glance, they seemed small, but the contents were substantial (and, at around $7, a bargain). The Green Chile Brisket Stack, filled with smoky beef brisket, scrambled eggs, black beans, chile verde, jack and cheddar cheeses and tomato, came with warm tortillas on the side.
The other stack we sampled was the awesomely named M.L. Rose Mess: bacon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, grilled onions, jack and cheddar cheeses, and spicy ketchup. It was good, but nowhere near as tasty as the brisket stack. Go big or go back to bed, people.
Our last hangover brunch followed what began as a civilized Monday night dinner — but then the wine started flowing and ... well, you know how it goes. With Tuesday morning's headache in full force, we trekked over to Nolensville Road to sample the legendary hangover cure menudo, a spicy soup of Mexican origin. The secret ingredient? Tripe, which is simply a nicer way to say, "animal stomach."
Las Americas is both a Salvadoran restaurant and market, so if you have to wait, you can buy something to snack on in the market. And they serve beer, an essential ingredient for the hangover brunch.
When I looked at the menu, I discovered that Las Americas' menudo also has cow feet in it. I rubbed my temples and suddenly longed for the 12-year stretch during which I was a vegetarian.
My slightly queasy crew insisted we order some "normal" dishes (which should give you some idea of our cultural bias and the sophistication of our collective palate), so we got chicken enchiladas verdes, huevos rancheros and a couple of pupusas — stuffed cornmeal rounds that are pancake-like in texture, filled with cheese, meat or beans.
When the food arrived, we were shocked at the sheer amount of edibles on our table. The enchiladas platter was swimming in refried beans and rice and served with the standard shredded lettuce, tomato and sour cream tower. The enchiladas were doused in delicious green sauce, with shredded cheese, onions and cilantro. The huevos rancheros were picture-perfect: fried eggs on a corn tortilla with refried beans, rice and corn tortillas, all drenched in a spicy tomato sauce.
I highly recommend the mixta pupusa, made with refried beans, cheese and tender shredded pork. The entire table immediately devoured this perfect specimen of food, deliciously crisp and slightly crunchy on the outside, melty and rich on the inside.
And now, it's time to talk about the menudo, chunks of tripe and cow feet hiding in a red chili broth. The broth would probably have been quite lovely on its own — had it not been composed of feet and innards — and the spiciness of the soup almost distracted us from the Gumby-esque texture of the tripe.
Almost, but not enough. I felt like I was chewing for an hour, and it took at least that long to get the taste of stomach out of my mouth. And the smell? If you marinated a piece of liver in salsa and stuffed it inside a dirty gym sock and left it in your car on the hottest day of summer, that might come close to the scent as I perceived it.
So, is menudo the magic hangover cure? I have no idea. None of us could eat enough of it to find out. But we can report that Las Americas serves an excellent hangover brunch at bargain prices — entrees were around $7 and the pupusas around $2 — and you can pick up some incredible groceries on your way out. The only danger here is that the portions are so large, you're apt to overeat and feel worse than when you walked in. So do the smart thing and get a doggie bag, and everybody wins.