Five Questions to Answer Before You Decide Where to Eat (When You're Drunk)
You've closed out your local pub, and you're a little bit lit up. Not so drunk that you're stumbling around talking to trees and vomiting on yourself, but drunk enough to be extremely impulsive. And the impulse hitting you right now: You need food. Slowly you remember that you haven't eaten since lunch, and you need some real food in your gut to take the edge off all those sake bombs and vodka tonics. You were going to use the $15 left in your pocket to do something responsible tomorrow like buy stamps or put gas in your car or perhaps pay for a prescription, but it's late and you're hungry, so screw that.
Slow down. You can't just head off in the direction of the first place that comes to mind. There is a five-step process you must go through in order to choose a proper eatery for a post-drinking meal. If you practice taking a moment and running through these steps, you can eventually train yourself to do it automatically. It's a lot like muscle memory, except the brain isn't a muscle, and it, like the rest of you, is quite shitfaced indeed.
1. What's open? This is the most important step, and the most heartbreaking, because it's going to rule out most of the places you want to go. Dammit, we shouldn't have dawdled outside the bar for 30 minutes; now Little Big's is closed. Is BB's open this late, since we're already here? No? Ruggles? No? Shit! During the sober hours, it's a good idea to make a mental note of places that stay open late or, even better, 24 hours. It doesn't matter how much you want to eat there when you first pass by, because places you would ordinarily reject while sober will sound fantastic to you when you're drunk. Sober, you may be enough of a snob to only eat the most authentic Asian foods the city has to offer. Drunk, your body may very well crave the MSG-intensive fare at Madame McChang's Irish-Chinese Cuisine.
Keep that mental rolodex full of new and exciting places. If you wind up at Denny's again, it means you lose. Nothing against Denny's, it's just that by the time you're old enough to drink, you've already eaten there after midnight a zillion times.
2. What's close by? Unless you've appointed a designated driver or you're fortunate enough to have friends who are pregnant, Sikh, or Mormon, odds are everyone in your party will be between three and 13 sheets to the wind. Your first instinct will be to stand around and try to assess which of you is less than legally drunk. It'll turn into a "Who Can Hold Their Liquor the Best?" contest, and it's always awkward, especially if you have that one friend who never wants to believe he's too drunk to drive, even if he's holding a clump of pretzel sticks instead of his keys and he's no longer wearing any pants, but has recently found a brand new pair of cowboy boots somewhere that smell like he took them off of Wild Bill Hickock's corpse. In any case, none of you should get behind the wheel at all, since if any of you were to drive in your condition, you run the risk of smacking into a fire hydrant, t-boning someone at an intersection, mechanically separating a pedestrian, or worst of all, getting pulled over by the cops. Rather than engaging in a hasty, hurtful round of Drunkard Triage, it's much easier if, before you park at the bar, circle the nearest eight-to-ten blocks and do a little bit of recon. Find someplace within walking distance, so you'll have time to sober up as you eat.
3. What can everyone afford? In today's economy, one in four of your friends is going to be broke as shit (statistics provided by The Institute of Monitoring Your Poor-Ass Friends). It may seem like you have to choose a place he can afford, but not so fast. You can still eat somewhere a little nicer, if everyone is willing to chip in a couple bucks and help pay for the poor bastard. Conversely, you can hit up somewhere that has decent salsa and salsa verde (Chapultapec) or pita bread (Bibas One's a Meal) or some other complimentary finger food your half-a-hobo buddy can chow down on while everyone else is enjoying their meals. Just because one of you is broke, you don't necessarily have to settle for the fast food drive-through. Unless...
4. What are we in the mood for? You've got to get everyone agreeing on something, which is no easy task, especially if your friends are belligerent drunks or vegans or allergic to peanuts or some damn thing. Each person will be hearing a different message from their gut, and the ability to find a middle ground is the mark of a true drunken mediator. If someone has his heart set on Mexican food and someone else has his heart set on burgers, it's not too difficult to find a Tex-Mex place that can slap together a decent burger... or else introduce them to the wonder that is the torta. Also, don't be afraid to bring up the possibility of fast food. As we mentioned earlier, people get significantly less snobby when they're drunk, and people who would ordinarily turn their noses up at Taco Bell may crave nothing more than a taco supreme and some churros from the place after they've had a few dozen beers. Another thing to consider is whether you want to sit down and eat, or if you just want to grab some quick fast food and get home in time to catch Adult Swim's last showing of the Venture Bros.
5. What will settle well in the stomach? You learned this the first time you ever went to a family reunion: alcohol isn't terribly easy on the ol' guts. Some kinds of alcohol are rougher than others. Jägermeister will make you nauseous before you've finished your second shot, and screwdrivers made with cheap vodka will have you burping acid for the better part of the night. And cheap tequila? Pick a place with a good restroom and lots of toilet paper, is all we'll say on that one. You'll need something that you know from past experience will settle easily in your tummy and help calm the roiling waters within instead of compounding the problem. Sushi, chili and salads are probably a bad idea at this point. Ideally you'll want something with a lot of bread for soaking up that acid and alcohol, and something fried and greasy to get everything sliding around properly. Just because you're drunk is no reason not to take care of yourself.
Good luck, you noble drunken wanderers, and may your chips always be fresh and your queso made from the good stuff instead of imitation Velveeta.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.