You can't get much cheaper than free. And at a time when many of us are counting every penny, the Bay Area is full of free stuff. Some of it's right in front of your face, but most of it takes a little digging to find. This guide should send you in the right direction.
Oh, and by the way: some economists and political thinkers are suggesting that, as the over-financed, money-driven economy of the last century goes into, well, free-fall, the idea of giving things away could be the model for a more sustainable future.
You can eat like a gourmet for the price of a drink
By Virginia Miller
Eating free doesn't have to begin and end with soup kitchens. Here are some spots where, for the price of a drink or sometimes for nothing you can get good food, and sometimes excellent food, for everybody's favorite magic number of zero.
ADESSO HAPPY HOUR
Adesso is much more than wine bar with an Italian-centric list of wines by the glass. The drinks are (relatively) inexpensive and creative concoctions. But the best part (besides a Foosball table) is food that comes out continuously from the kitchen during weekday happy hours. We're not talking about your average free bar food here this is stuff from the regular menu, like excellent house-made charcuterie, cheeses, hefty arancini (fried Italian rice balls), pates, sardine crostini, and all kinds of goodness. Happy hour, indeed.
Mon.Fri., 5-7pm. 4395 Piedmont, Oakl. 510-601-0305
ALISHA'S HOME COOKIN' FRIDAYS AT THE RIPTIDE
It's happy hour and it's Friday ... what could be better? Especially at dive bar extraordinaire the Riptide, all the way out by the ocean in the Sunset District. From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (or until the food's gone), Alisha cooks up down-home goodness that pairs well with the 'Tide's PBRs and fireplace (in case shall we bet on it? the fog rolls in after a sunny summer day). You get chili con carne, chicken pot pie, and something called "blushin' bunnies."
47 p.m. 3639 Taraval, SF.415-681-8433. www.riptidesf.com
MAYA HAPPY HOUR WITH BOTANAS
The $5 drink specials all night on margaritas, mojitos, and sangria are already a good deal. Add in free all-you-can-eat Mexican snacks and it's a party. Free stuff includes Mexican bites like guac, quesadillas, taquitos, jicama with ceviche, tamales, and black bean dip. Arriba!
Weekdays, 47pm www.mayasf.com
EL RIO'S MONTHLY PANCAKE SATURDAYS
El Rio is one generous bar the place serves free pancakes from the griddle the third Saturday of the month. Further cool points won by calling it "Rock Softly and Carry a Big Spatula." Breakfast is kindly served at 1 p.m., so after you've rolled out of bed and wandered over, ease into wakefulness with soft rock and hot flapjacks. Wear the "funkiest kitchen couture" and you could win their Golden Apron honors. After a meal that costs nothing, it's easy to feed the tradition with generous tips. There's also free barbecue at Friday night happy hours until 9 p.m. and on Sunday afternoons during the summer.
3rd Saturdays, 13 p.m. 3158 Mission, 415-282-3325. www.elriosf.com
PALIO D'ASTI'S PIZZA
Any two drinks (of the alcoholic kind, $6$9) and you're given a generous-sized pizza for two (or one massive eater).