Hungover? We’ve got the remedy

Chicken and waffles have long been known in the Bay Area as a morning-after go-to. And now there’s science to back up your choice cravings. Story by Emily Ludolf

The flip side of the shiny gold coin that is drinking alcohlic beverages, is that it inevitably lands, heads or tails, showing a hangover. The “morning after” is that slight pang, feeling of discomfort, and general malaise that comes from supping from Bacchus’ sensory orgy. In the everlasting fight against the hangover, new research has come forth that both proves, and disproves some of the old adages about what cures this evil curse of the drinking class. 

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You may have been told that drinking a lot of water to rehydrate is enough, but it may actually be easier to dispel a hangover by eating the right foods for breakfast (or, if we’re being realistic, brunch). Hangovers tend to hit around twelve hours after drinking, so timing a large meal for the next day is essential to surviving it. If you live in the Bay Area, one of the best choices migth be the unnamely combination of chicken … and waffles. 

From its humble invention in the Forties, the genius of the dish has stood the test of time. While many people assume combining chicken and waffles on one breakfast dish was invented in the deep South, the combo was intentional, designed for the drunk and hungover Jazz cats of Harlem, New York. This soul food staple was inspired by the very soul music that regulars at Harlem’s Wells Supper Club would listen to late at night. So late in fact, that they didn’t know whether to order dinner or breakfast. From the confusion, chicken and waffles was born. The diners at Wells’ cravings for something sweet and salty to take the bite out of their drunken hangovers led to the interesting combo, which soon became a favorite of such greats as Sammy Davis Jr. and Nat King Cole. 

Today, chicken and waffles can finally be awarded the bonafide title of “best hangover food” as new research is backing up the intuition of its remarkable inventors. It turns out that there are ingredients in chicken and waffles that are scientifically proven to help you weather that hangover storm.

What’s going into the waffle batter directly contributes to helping you feel better after cleaning your plate. Eggs — the time-honored recovery stand-by at Sunday brunches — contain a chemical called cysteine. This nifty little amino acid lends your liver a helping hand in processing all the booze you’ve imbibed. It works by breaking down a toxin called acetaldehyde, which has been connected with causing hangovers. 

Milk — the other essential ingredient in waffle batter — contains high levels of potassium. Every time you had to pee during last night’s soiree, you depleted your body of much needed potassium, essential for proper nerve and muscle function. This lacking may explain some of those aches and pains you’re feeling the morning after. 

While you can boost your potassium levels by ordering an orange juice, the full weight of the potassium is surprisingly sitting on your plate, in the form of that chicken — one chicken breast contains more potassium than a banana. (If you want to get the full restoratitve effect of your meal, drop the thigh and choose the breast).

What you put on your C&W makes a difference as well. If you want to get the full experience and taste, tradition dictates dousing the C&W in hot sauce. Hot sauce is also great health-wise, as researchers have found that the capsaicin — responsible for giving hot sauce its fiery taste — can have remarkable effects in helping relieve headaches. Scientists believe this is because capsaicin diminishes the effects of the mysteriously named “Substance P” in the body, which affects how we perceive pain. 

Another reason why C&W makes an ideal hangover cure lies in the uniquely sweet and salty combination itself, featuring both fructose and salt. The tasty, salty chicken batter replenishes your depleted levels of salt. Low levels of glucose are the culprit for feeling weak and tired during a hangover, and fructose is the answer to get your blood sugar up. 

You can increase your fructose dose by skipping the syrup, instead choosing to lather your waffles and crispy chicken in a berry compote or apple cider syrup, like the one served at Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen. At this local institution, the owner’s formal French training has led to an intriguing clash of cultures, as the heart of soul food collides with French sophistication. Little touches like the lighter-than-a-cloud cornbread waffle, served with the restaurant’s namesake brown sugar butter, compliment the fried chicken perfection. They also happen to serve two local craft beers on tap, Calicraft’s Oaktown Brown and Drake’s Hefeweizen, either which pairs perfectly with the sweet richness of C&W.

Also in Oakland, Home of Chicken and Waffles has a long-standing place in local soul foodies’ hearts. Located in Jack London Square, this hot spot of hangover recovery serves the food that is in its name, with plenty of lashings of hairy dogs on top. You can get everything from a three-buck shot to a Southern-style cocktail, such as the staple of New Orleans, the Hurricane. If you’re more of a weekend drinker, they also serve bottomless mimosas on weekends. Derrick Johnson, owner knows why his Southern fried foods hit such a special sweet spot, he told Mercury News, “It’s just a great combination of the savory and sweet. It’s very comforting. It just makes you feel good inside.” Johnson also makes it a point to give back to the surrounding community. 

Even if you are too hungover (or still inebriated) to sit down in a restaurant, the Bay Area has got you covered. You can order the aptly named “Demon Lover” from 900 Grayson to be delivered to your cozy confines at the click of a button. The order comes with real maple syrup, or, the stuff of local legends, an old-fashioned cream gravy poured all over. 900 Grayson is also open at the strike of 8:00 a.m. for early morning munchies. 

If the morning after finds your throat on the raspy side from too much screaming and yelling at last night’s concert, you can also order C&W from one of the three Starbird Chicken locations via their app, which also earns you rewards from repeat C&W orders. When you pick up, they do have a convenient drive-through (but hey, please don’t drink and drive – that’s why God invented Über and Lyft.)

To the uninitiated, the combo of syrup, waffle, and crispy chicken parts may seem strange and unwholesome. And while we may claim C&W as our own, a combination of sweet and salty, protein and carb on one plate is not unique to the U.S. There’s pigeon Pastilla in Morocco, Medu Vada in India, empanadas from south of the border, and Tod Mun Gai, aka sweet Thai chicken cakes from Thailand.

As luck would have it, our version turns out to be the tastiest of them all (in our opinion), and also serves as the perfect hangover remedy — nothing erases a night of regret more than a big plate of chicken and waffles sitting in front of you. Order one up next time your brain needs a morning-pick-me-up that has been soul tested, and science approved.


FOR MORE INFORMATION

Brown Sugar Kitchen
2534 Mandela Parkway, Oakland
www.brownsugarkitchen.com

Home of Chicken and Waffles
444 Embarcadero W., Oakland
www.homeofchickenandwaffles.com

900 Grayson
900 Grayson St., Berkeley
www.900grayson.com

Starbird Chicken
1241 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
1088 E. Brokaw Rd., San Jose
4900 Marie P DeBartolo Way (Levi Stadium), Santa Clara
Coming soon: 1141 Triton Dr., Foster City
www.starbirdchicken.com

OTHER LOCATIONS (not mentioned in the story)

Little Skillet
360 Ritch St., San Francisco
www.littleskilletsf.com

The Front Porch
65 29th St., San Francisco
(C&W only available during weekend brunch).
www.thefrontporchsf.com

Auntie April’s Chicken and Waffles
4618 3rd St., San Francisco
www.auntieaprilsf.com

Hard Knox Café
2526 3rd St., San Francisco
2448 Clement St., San Francisco
www.hardknoxcafe.com

Mom’s Soul Groove
655 Ellis St., San Francisco
www.chickenandwafflesandwich.com

Farmer Brown
25 Mason St., San Francisco (Hotel Metropolis)
www.farmerbrownsf.com

Keith’s Chicken N Waffles
270 San Pedro Rd., Daly City
(415) 347-7208

Straw
203 Octavia Blvd., San Francisco
www.strawsf.com