Hangover Helper: Golden West Cafe's Southwestern-inspired dishes will help you weather the cold

When the weather is gray, blustery, and dull, we start craving something spicy to warm things up. On a particularly gray Sunday morning recently, we decided to head to Golden West Cafe (1105 W. 36th St., [410] 889-8891, goldenwestcafe.com), hoping that the bright decor and Southwestern-inspired food would cheer our spirits.

We got there early enough to beat the usual brunch rush—there were mostly just a few families scattered around the restaurant when we arrived, a welcome change from the wait for a table that we usually expect at Golden West.

While we had our heart set on something spicy, we couldn't help but be tempted by the zucchini brie pancake ($6 for one, $11 for two), so we decided to order one to split as an accompaniment to our main dishes, the breakfast polenta with chorizo ($9.99) and the huevos montulenos ($8.99), which comes with either red or green chili sauce, but when the waitress saw our indecision she offered to bring it with both.

The zucchini brie pancake turned out to be an excellent choice—as was the choice to only get one, as it was massively thick and nearly as big as the dinner plate it came out on. Honey drizzled over the top and a dusting of powdered sugar added to the flavor of the zucchini without making it too tongue-numbingly sweet. We were enjoying each bite, but when we finally came across a bite that included the creamy, melted brie cooked into the batter, we positively melted with joy. Few indulgences, in our opinion, are better than baked brie with honey, and Golden West had taken that idea, kicked it up a notch, and turned it into breakfast. Perfect.

We reluctantly tore ourselves away from our blissful pancake-eating experience when our main dishes arrived a few minutes later. As the polite waitress placed the huevos montulenos down in front of us, our first thought was, "Holy fuck, how do I eat this?" It was massive: corn cakes topped with two sunny-side-up eggs, black beans, cheese, salsa fresca, the two chili sauces, and a sliced banana, with tortillas on the side. Talk about a fuck-ton of food.

The banana, despite what the menu claimed, definitely did not appear to be fried, which was a bit of a disappointment, as we thought the texture and flavor would have been much improved if it were. And the two sunny-side-up eggs almost felt like an afterthought with all of the other flavors piled onto the plate. But the corn cakes were remarkably fresh-tasting (which was a pleasant surprise, given how long corn has been out of season) and blended well with both the mild red chili sauce and the super-spicy green chili sauce. (Take our judgment of the green chili sauce with a grain of salt, though—we love spicy foods but have a rather low tolerance for them.) Had we been hungover on this particular visit, this spicy, fresh, protein-packed dish would have served for an excellent cure. As for the breakfast polenta, the polenta (which appeared to be baked, but we're not an expert on polenta) served as a tasty counterpoint to the chorizo and the fresh-tasting salsa fresca accompanying it.

Feeling totally stuffed, we pushed away the huevos montulenos half-finished and decided to order a few cocktails to enjoy as our stomachs digested. The Saint ($9)—made with Saint Germain, Svedka clementine-flavored vodka, champagne, grapefruit juice, orange bitters, and lime juice—was refreshingly light. It mostly tasted like sparking grapefruit, but the orange bitters and the lime juice added extra notes to make for a complex undercurrent of citrus flavors. We were less thrilled by the Killer Bee ($9), which contained honey syrup, lemon juice, Bulleit Bourbon, ginger beer, and bitters, as well as optional muddled jalapeno slices. We were worried the jalapenos would make it too spicy, but they hardly seemed to make a difference. It was mostly an enjoyable cocktail, but something tasted a little bit off—either the inclusion of the ginger beer was confusing our taste buds, or it just needed more honey syrup to improve the balance of flavors.

By the time we finished our cocktails and paid our check, the families with small children were gone and the tables were all packed with twentysomethings, presumably nursing their hangovers. We bundled up and headed back out into the cold wind, feeling a little more capable of dealing with the dreary weather.

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