These are essentially beefed up, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink breakfast sandwiches that pack a fatty, caloric punch meant to alleviate your alcohol-induced pain. It should be noted that the science says to eat greasy food before you start drinking, not after. But hey, it’s not like Carl’s Jr. is claiming to be a team full of scientists, and the meal sounds pretty good. I’ll bite.
You can get these hangover meals every weekend (Friday through Sunday mornings), but what are they, exactly? The OG Hangover Helper meal features a charbroiled all-beef patty, hash rounds, cheese, egg, and bacon all “nestled” on a sesame seed bun. (“Nestled” isn’t exactly the word I would use to describe slopping the equivalent of a garbage plate onto a sesame seed bun, but sure, let’s say “nestled.”) There’s also a spicy version of the Hangover Helper meal which forgoes the burger and instead adds guacamole and pepperjack cheese to the egg, bacon, and hash browns. Both meals come with a 15-oz. bottle of Dasani water and either a side of hash rounds or jalapeno poppers.
Does this new promotion deliver on its promise? Will it indeed obliterate a hangover? I decided to get drunk—didn’t have to twist my arm—to put this promotion to the test.
Getting drunk as an assignment is my kind of journalism. My plan was an unhealthy one: Drink alcohol, and avoid drinking water by any means necessary.
When you’re trying to develop a hangover, water is the enemy. That’s how this whole thing works. Hangovers occur because the alcohol dehydrates your body, making us nauseous, irritable, tired, and otherwise weak. So, really, the name of the game here is get dehydrated and tired. No food, no water, just an empty, wine-drunk stomach and a set of decisions I would come to severely regret.
I woke up groggy at 5:30 in the morning, with red-hot breath. Even the most mild hangovers cause me to lose sleep, so I was absolutely beat. My muscles ached, and I think I had passed out more than I “went to sleep,” so my neck was all jacked up, too.
I had an absolutely pounding headache, so the first thing I dis was drink some water and take an Advil. I then showered, walked my dog, and got some coffee. By the way, coffee is a horrible idea when you’re hungover. This is a lesson that I just never fully learn. Coffee always leaves me feeling twice as anxious.
I pulled up to Carl’s Jr. at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, peak Hangover Helper hours. The parking lot was ominously empty, and as I stepped out of my truck, a chilly breeze wrapped its cold hands around the back of my neck. This is simply not an hour that one goes to a Carl’s Jr. As I approached the side door, I heard the foreboding screeching of crows in the tree that stretched out above. I paused to consider whether these crows worked for Death himself and were there to carry out his will. Or maybe the crows were there to dispatch a warning. Either way, I had to eat the Carl’s Jr. OG Hangover Helper meal in order to write this article, so I dismissed their squawking as nonsense.
The crows were right. Oh God, the crows were right!
I went with the OG Hangover Helper meal because the spicy sounded like it would for sure make me shit my pants. This is, for all intents and purposes, a breakfast burger with hash browns on it—and it’s a bad one at that. Limp, chewy bacon. A sad, thin, gray, factory-farm-esque patty. Liquid eggs. It’s the proper amount of calories (over 1,000) to conceivably put a dent into your hangover, but this will do nothing to inspire happiness or joy.
All that said, though, I must say that the small hash rounds at Carl’s Jr. kick ass. They are quintessential fryer food. Hash browns, especially of the frozen variety, are nearly impossible to fuck up. These are crispy little potato nuggets that retain a lot of oil, so naturally, they carry a lot of fat, which is certainly welcomed when you have a hangover. They were served with ketchup, but if you can wrangle some ranch, I’d get that and go full goblin mode here.
Let’s start with the water, which is a mere 15-oz. bottle of Dasani. When I’m hungover, I need an entire gallon of water. Carl’s Jr. should be handing out plastic jugs, not these dainty little bottles. It’s also just perplexing to see one of the worst breakfast burgers of my life, a complete and total monstrosity, be paired with a bottle of water. It’s a funny commitment to the bit, but these two items simply don’t match up.
Maybe the only fun part of being hungover is choosing which wild-ass food to eat during your recovery period. Spicy noodles of all varieties, doughnuts, brunchy things, fried chicken, curry, and the like. Foods that galvanize us when we merely think about them. A disgustingly loaded breakfast burger from Carl’s Jr. is not exactly inspired, and since it’s labeled as a hangover cure, you don’t get the satisfaction of thinking creatively about how to solve your problem; it’s a choice made for you.
Although hangovers are rooted in misery, the hangover meal is a beloved institution which spans many great foods and cuisines. Above all else, this category of recovery food should inspire happiness in the face of anguish.
Hangover meals aren’t really backed up by science, but any drinking expert can confirm that they ought to be joyful. At its core, good hangover food must restore one’s mood more than one’s electrolyte balance. Nothing you eat is going to make your body feel whole again; only time will do that. You’re better off ignoring fast food marketing in the face of your misery, as you always have been. It’s a choice best made for yourself.