An introduction to Hangover Helper, our guide to brunch. Up first, The Food Market

We here at City Paper always find brunch to be a beast of its own, and in the City That Drinks, we know it can be a critically important part of your weekly diet. So as a service to our readers we've started hoofing it around town—for the readers!—to see which local joints got the goods to help you with those hangovers and benedict addictions.

First up, The Food Market (1017 W. 36th St., [410] 366-0606, thefoodmarketbaltimore.com). On a recent morning, we rolled into the Hampden hot spot around 11 a.m. and didn't have any problem grabbing a table—a good reason in and of itself to head there for brunch, since it can be nearly impossible to score one after 6 p.m. without a reservation.

The first thing we noticed is that the menu is massive and goes beyond the brunch standards. We're talking mini Heath bar pancakes, French toast dippers with maple cream-cheese fondue, fried chicken and biscuits with poached eggs and "cheese whiz" potato casserole, pulled-pork benedict, shrimp and grits with Andouille chips, and a Baltimore club sandwich that includes lettuce, tomato, onion, shrimp salad, AND a crab cake.

In all, we counted 11 appetizers, 16 breakfast items, and 11 lunch options, most of which are in the $13-$16 range. If you're indecisive, you might want to ask for some recommendations, which the staff was happy to offer, or maybe just kamikaze it by closing your eyes and jabbing your finger at the menu.

We started with the buffalo fried pickles ($6), which came out layered along a long plate, tossed in hot sauce, and placed on a "scrambled" gorgonzola (basically a fancier take on blue-cheese dressing). The chips were impressively crispy, considering they had been tossed in sauce, and hit the mark in all the right ways—spicy, satisfying, and with enough oil to soak up the previous night's ill-advised herbal shots without being too heavy.

The Smokey Bowl ($13) was made up of a layering of Gouda cream, English muffins, dippy eggs, and hollandaise with a side of bacon and potato gratin. While we couldn't figure out why it was described as smoky—there wasn't a strong smoke flavor or smell—that didn't keep us from digging it. It was all in the details: eggs cooked so nicely that only a flick of the fork left yolk oozing down onto the muffins, thick-cut and crispy fried bacon atop disks of identically mandolin-sliced potatoes that were neither too raw nor mushy, and sauces that didn't overwhelm the whole thing.

It's obvious the kitchen isn't half-assing it during off-dinner hours.

A flatbread adorned with scrambled eggs, mozzarella, bacon, chives, sriracha, and hollandaise made up the Papa Johntay ($10) and once again, despite what was seemingly a simple breakfast pizza on paper, the dish became something more with the kitchen's execution.

Scrambled eggs are easy to screw up—James Beard Award-winning food writer Michael Ruhlman once said, "The egg is a lens through which to view the entire craft of cooking"—but these were cooked to a pillowy-light perfection that were only further kicked up by the bits of smoky bacon, garlicky chives, and the finishing zing of the sriracha.

After the previous night's drinks, we decided to opt for a water-and-coffee kind of brunch, but had we decided to imbibe in some hair of the dog, the bacon and thyme-infused vodka bloody ($10) or "THE SLEDGEHAMMER"—a cocktail made of Bulleit rye, Warre's port, bitters, and brown sugar simple syrup—would have been easy choices.

We'll save that for next time, because we've GOT to try those shrimp and grits, a dish one of our neighboring diners confirmed was "fantastic" as she mopped the last bit of Cajun thyme cream sauce up with her finger.

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