Surviving the good times at Hangover Recovery Central: From Juicebox & Soup Peddler and a few friends, food to help you shake off a hard day's night
"Please drink responsibly" only goes so far when you're trying to forget most of 2010. The oil spill, the Longhorns, "The Hasselhoffs," the Cowboys. That's a lot of liquid forgetfulness.
So let's move right to the morning after, straight to the hub of what I'll call Hangover Recovery Central, a building that to your aching eyes might resemble two conjoined aspirin bottles united by one name that's really two names: the Juicebox & Soup Peddler.
From its triangle-shaped patch of land at Manchaca Road and South Lamar Boulevard, the shop is the gateway to the Austinville 78704 development, where you'll find not only power smoothies and restorative soups, but also breakfast tacos and Mexican Coke from Papalote Taco House and a marrow-replenishing double cheeseburger from Phil's Icehouse. All within walking-dead distance.
Happy New Year. Is that light too bright for you?
Alcohol, to paraphrase the philosopher Rick James, is a hell of a drug. To facilitate its funhouse romp through your body, it tells your brain that the first drink feels so good, let's have another. The writer Dan Jenkins calls this stage in the 10-step waltz toward inebriation "Witty and Charming." Then it goes to work on the stomach lining, kicks your kidneys into overdrive and orders the liver to clean up around here because more company's coming. It squeezes the water from your insides like a sponge, leaving only semi-metabolized toxins behind to explain things to the police.
Experience, legend and wishful thinking have fed the lore of hangover survival. Coffee. Prickly pear juice. A linguine lullaby. Hair of the dog (but please, go easy on the shaking or stirring). Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, I love you, man.
But nothing prevents like prevention. Make time to drink water and eat something between drinks, all through the night's celebrations and not just at the end. Can't handle that regimen? Consider being the designated driver.
Let's assume you did none of that, and you reached Stage 10 of the Jenkins code: "Bulletproof."
This is where Matt Shook and David Ansel come in. Shook, 33, co-founded the first Daily Juice shop in 2003, and Ansel, 37, is the Soup Peddler who started delivering his soup by bicycle in 2002. They are the owners of Juicebox & Soup Peddler and the lords of Hangover Recovery Central.
Chance and falafel brought them together. The two were sitting at Phoenicia Bakery on a cold day in February this year, to hear them tell it. Shook's juice bars were having a terrible winter, even as Ansel's business was booming.
On his blog, Ansel called it Seasonal Affective Disorder. He wrote that he told Shook, "‘I feel your pain ... talk to me in August and these tables will be turned."
And then came the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup moment, when the two hit on the possibility that two great tastes could, in fact, taste great together. By the first week of December their brainstorm-in-a-box was open for soup and smoothies, its Legoland profile designed by prized Austin restaurant imagineer Michael Hsu (Olivia, Uchiko).
Why go after a player like Hsu to create what is essentially a juice-and-soup stand? "Because of the location," Shook said. "It's such a mile marker for South Austin. I like to call it an aorta. Manchaca and South Lamar. We wanted to put a stamp on this corner and represent the direction Austin's going."
Plus, Austinville 78704 owners Steve and Amy Simmons of Amy's Ice Creams and Phil's Icehouse had already hired Hsu to design their newest locations at the development. Phil's and Amy's share a dining room and playground, with separate counters and menu boards, like a two-slot food court. Their place is another spoke in the Hangover Recovery Central hub. The double-meat Phil-a-Buster burger ($8.50) packs the beef and cheese to replenish your energy without spiking your blood sugar to cause another body-shocking crash. It comes with a mix of sweet potato and regular french fries. If you believe that nothing fights leftover blood alcohol like more blood alcohol, Phil's will pour you a 16-ounce draft of Big Bark Amber.
Austinville is also home to another potential hangover self-medication stand called Papalote Taco House. A taco with eggs, cheese, tomato and crushed tortilla chips ($2.20) is similar to migas for its restorative protein, jump-starting carbs and a polite green salsa. And let's face it, burping isn't pretty, but it helps, and you get the most burp for the bottle from Mexican Coke and Topo Chico sparkling water.
Juicebox & Soup Peddler isn't the kind of place that attracts the chronically hungover. More like the my-body-is-a-temple set. It's why they come here in the first place.
Shook is ready with a remedy nevertheless. "I've got the best hangover cure in Austin. It's yerba maté and ginger," Shook said. Yerba maté is the dried leaf of a South American evergreen that's as commonplace as coffee in that part of the world. "At the Daily Juice and the Juicebox, I have a lemon-ginger shot (the $1.95 ‘Ahem') that is extremely potent. The ginger almost burns your throat, it's so strong," he said. "It's only one ounce of lemon and ginger and cayenne, but it just snaps your system up and says, ‘Hey, there's something else going on now.' And then you follow it with yerba maté, which is the cleanest-burning fuel I've ever come across. No qualities of dehydration. So when people go drink coffee after they've been drinking all night, I feel like that's the worst thing, because it just dehydrates you further and starts to give you the jitters."
On the Juicebox menu, that $1.95 shot is called Soul Maté. "A hangover really doesn't have much of a chance after a double shot of yerba maté concentrate," Shook said. A juice called the Flying Lotus is an apple base, sharp with ginger. A dose of lemongrass gives it the kind of lawn mower bouquet that makes you think, "Dogs chew on grass to feel better; why should we be any different?" The Rip Torn smoothie ($5.95) is a big seller, Shook said, with banana, blueberry, whey and hemp protein, flax meal and peanut butter. It's a liquefied purple version of Elvis' favorite peanut butter-and-'nana sandwich. Smoothies are $4.95-$5.95 for 18 ounces, and juices are $4.95.
"Then you just jump into some caldo de pollo that Dave makes," Shook said. "A nice chicken stock-based soup that he cooks himself. He doesn't buy chicken stock. He cooks down the chickens himself."
Stock is the key to what makes soup a real-life hangover fighter. Simple hydration. The delivery of proteins and other nutrition, those are secondary benefits.
At Juicebox & Soup Peddler, the soup menu changes every day, except for vegan chili ($4.50, with mild spice and good texture) that also can be made into Frito pie with cheese and jalapeños. From his repertoire of several hundred recipes, Ansel said he'll have at least four other soups a day: two with beef, chicken or seafood and two vegetarian choices. On one visit, the smudged chalkboard offered chicken and rice, broccoli and cheese and lentil, served in 12-ounce cups for $4.50-$5.50. For New Year's Day, Ansel will make a traditional Southern New Year's stew called Hoppin' John, with blackeyed peas, collards and sausage
Ansel's restoratives are more traditional than the acai berry or hemp protein possibilities Shook creates. "That's the funny thing," Ansel said. "You've got that fresh and clean menu he's got, and mine's sort of a chalkboard, hand-scrawled thing. There are some contrasts between us, down to what the soundtracks would be."
Ansel's favorite Juicebox drink is the Earth Shaker, a blend of pomegranate, mango, carrots, greens and beets. No wonder. It sounds as much like a soup as it does a smoothie.
Ansel said he's happy for the chance to interact with customers, to see them eat a soup he made that morning, rather than just filling their delivery orders from www.souppeddler.com, waving goodbye to the soups and never seeing his clients' reactions. That part of the business won't change, but he said, "It's really nice to have a spot where you can see people coming to enjoy what you do. Matt's used to it; I'm not." Ansel's more of a behind-the-scenes guy. He built the picnic tables, designed the fencing and designed the www.souppeddler.com/juicebox website.
That doesn't exactly mean he's shy. In Ansel's Facebook photo, he's dressed in blue-and-red superhero tights with "SP" on the crest. Souperman.
Restaurants in this story
Juicebox & Soup Peddler. 2801 S. Lamar Blvd., Building A. 444-7687, www.souppeddler.com/juicebox . Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, 8 a.m. Sunday.
Papalote Taco House. 2803 S. Lamar Blvd. 804-2474. Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Phil's Icehouse.2901 S. Lamar Blvd. 707-8704, www.philsicehouse.com . Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.
Amy's Ice Creams.2901 S. Lamar Blvd. 447-2697, www.amysicecreams.com . Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight Sundays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays.