You awake with a groan and it’s half past eleven. Your throat is parched and your tongue feels swollen. Rising from the bed, the ache in your head announces its presence with all the subtlety of a freight train and your insides begin to churn in frank opposition to this thing called wakefulness. You have a hangover. Maybe it was that extra bottle of wine with dinner at Michael’s on East, maybe that last glass of good bourbon in the back room at State Street or just one too many six-packs at a neighborhood barbecue that went on far longer than anyone anticipated. Whatever the cause, you’re sure you didn’t deserve this. And the worst part? You agreed to meet your friends for lunch.  

To cure a thing, one must first understand the cause of the thing, but scientists are in profound disagreement over what causes a hangover and the sad and simple fact remains that without pinpointing the mechanism we can’t pinpoint a solution. Accordingly, theories abound, each pointing to its own particular panacea. 

Dehydration is a common explanation, and makes sense from a certain point of view. It can certainly cause a headache, and alcohol suppresses the hormone that typically forestalls frequent urination, causing the body to lose more water while the drinker replaces it with more alcohol. But studies have shown that electrolyte levels can be relatively unchanged by the dehydration and have little effect on the severity of the hangover. Something else is at play. Acetaldehyde, the most toxic byproduct of alcohol consumption, was long thought to be a culprit, but recent studies have also debunked that theory, demonstrating that hangover symptoms are actually at their most acute when acetaldehyde levels are low. Similarly, warnings about low glucose levels have been dismissed to the point of some now warning against high glucose levels post-debauchery. Recent theories place the blame on an immune inflammatory response, with overactive cytokines wreaking their collateral revenge as they clean up the mess you made of your system the night before, but offer little guidance as to a cure beyond abstention. 

Hair of the dog? A greasy breakfast or sugar-stacked brunch? With no consensus on cause, there can be no consensus on cure. But where science fails, our trusty bartenders and chefs prevail, offering their own tried-and-true methods for combatting the morning after.

Unsurprisingly, the bartenders recommend hair of the dog, with both Kyle Ferguson of Marina Jack and Jamie Boll of Smokin’ Joe’s Pub beelining for the Bloody Mary when they spot a barfly with the morning-after blues. “You can tell by their eyes—half shut,” says Ferguson laughing. “And if they order water right away, that’s a good sign.” Made with Absolut Peppar, Tabasco and Zing Zang mix at Marina Jack’s, over at Smokin’ Joe’s a Bloody Mary is “all in the mix,” says Boll, who opts for Whiskey Willy’s and Tabasco with an injection of Worcestershire sauce and horseradish. “But that’s just going to numb the pain,” she admits, and the only real cure may be rest and “lots and lots of water.” But if that’s not an option, Boll turns to Pedialyte to rehydrate quickly—gentle enough for a child, strong enough for a responsible adult who drank too much three nights in a row. Ferguson, whose wife also tends bar in Sarasota, keeps a jar of pickle juice in the fridge for the morning after and the two share. “It usually works,” he says. “It has lots of sodium and electrolytes.” And so does the Bloody Mary, he points out.

For those placing full faith and credit in the hair of the dog approach but open to more options (more specifically, options with bacon) Boca Kitchen, Bar + Market offers the aptly named Sunday Morning Coming Down—a 16-ounce Busch in a brown paper bag served with a side of house bacon. Beautiful in its simplicity, the Sunday Morning Coming Down checks all the boxes. Alcoholic? Check. Greasy? Check. Bacon? Check. Named for a Kris Kristofferson song popularized by Johnny Cash? Check. “We probably sell ten a week,” says Marketing Manager Lydia Lopez, which sounds more significant when you take into account it’s only available at the Saturday and Sunday brunches. That’s potentially a whole table each brunch with nothing but brown bags and bacon. But while you may be able to hold something down, perhaps the idea of knocking back more of the poison that got you in this fix doesn’t seem the most appealing. Or maybe you just don’t want to be the one holding a brown bag and bacon at the PTA brunch. In that case, Boca still has you covered with the Hangover Panini, sporting house-made sausage and bacon, caramelized onions, scrambled eggs, Gruyère and topped with a coffee-infused brown mustard. “It’s the perfect sandwich for the morning after,” says Lopez, “and one of my favorites.” Less obvious than the Sunday Morning Coming Down perhaps, but ordering the Hangover Panini is still a bit of a giveaway.

For the unabashed, there’s perhaps no greater cure than the Elvis’ Fried Chicken Plate at Sun Garden Café. “I figure he probably lived half of his life hungover,” says owner Rick Munroe, who fashioned the dish after all the goodies he would eat after a night out in his 20s or 30s. “It’s specifically composed as a good hangover remedy.” Munroe goes full Southern comfort and heaps the Elvis plate with Memphis-style fried chicken—tenderized in buttermilk and dredged through a simple flour breading before deep-frying—eggs any way (the chef recommends scrambled), fluffy house-made biscuits and smothers it all in creamy sausage gravy. “When you’re hungover you want grease, you want bread, you want substantial food that’s not too crazy,” says Munroe. And while the scientific community may not be able to tell you exactly why, the Elvis plate seems to do the trick.