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Froofy boutique bars and fancy-pants Euro wineries are so last year. So is shelling out big bucks just to get drunk. Like many of her fellow New Yorkers, Spartos trades chocolate martinis and sugar daddies for Rheingold beers and recession woes. Who needs overpriced name-brand goods when stellar service can be had for less? Ever the educated consumer, Spartos trolls downtown in search of the ultimate neighborhood beer bargain.

With its pine paneling and all-American feel, BARROWS PUB (463 Hudson Street, 741-9349) could be some ironic hipster playground. Instead, it’s more like a musty VFW hall transplanted from Binghamton or Buffalo. And thank goodness for that, since the happy-hour prices (weekdays from 4 to 7, including $8.50 pitchers, $1.50 mugs, $2.75 Bud and Coors bottles, plus $1 off all drinks) are country, too. A few malty Rheingolds later, Spartos mistakes the Quick Draw terminals for pomo video projections, the potbellied construction workers for aloof V.I.P.’s, and the friendly bartender for a lockjawed bouncer. Who knew being a broke bastard could be so much fun?

Spartos continues her coupon clipping at the Lower East Side’s WHISKEY WARD (121 Essex Street, 477-2998), where the exposed brick walls, stamped-tin ceiling, and vast brew selection just scream midtown cigar bar. That is, in your hoity-toity dreams! The Ward’s got around-the-clock specials galore, including the $5.50 Parker (a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Wild Turkey or Jack Daniels) and the $6 glass-of-beer-and-call-shot combo. And if those trashy treats aren’t enough to kick Spartos’s ass, they top it with truly after-work happy-hour hours (Monday through Saturday from 5 to 8, half-price well and draughts). Come the new year, expect Spartos and assorted scenesters to drop their unemployment checks at this hotbed of fashionable thriftitude. Plus free peanuts to stave off starvation!

Speaking of starvation, Spartos recommends an icy $2 mug of Bud and a $5.50 house burger (with cheese, bacon, and all the fixings!) at the CORNER BISTRO (331 West 4th Street, 242-9502). Every meal at this old-timey Village institution is a variation on the aforementioned bread, beef, and cheese combination (grilled cheese, BLT, you get the picture). And what’s not to like about that? Sure, the line for a table is perpetually out the door, but all the descending vultures are proof of the bargain at hand. After all, when the bulimic waitresses of nearby MePa want a good barf, they come here. Your best bet is to snag a bar stool and place your order with the crazy bartender, who repeats it in song (“with ba-con!”) while expertly sliding frothies to the throngs. Like he says, “Thousands eat here annually. Why deny you?” Just pretend you’re the celebrity and he’s the doorman at the Park.

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