FUND-LESS SUMMER: Drink & Dine on a Dime

American blogger-slash-tech-mogul Andrew Hyde has a popular post, “How to Live (Comfortably) on $36 a Month for Food,” in which he makes these recommendations, among others: Cook every meal at home, take advantage of sales and coupons and (my personal favorite) drink a ton of water before eating so that you trick your brain into thinking your stomach is full.

“There are tons of ways to get free food by just asking,” Hyde goes on to say. “Waiters who happen to be friends are a good source. Dumpster-diving (a favorite of my neighbor) is surprisingly clean, with most of the good stuff set in a box on top of the garbage.”

Though we respect Hyde as the beloved Internet personality he is, we thought we could provide readers of Folio Weekly with a more relevant guide to finding cheap and even free food and drink around Northeast Florida, without encouraging sifting through trash piles.

Exploring everything the First Coast has to offer in inexpensive (and sometimes free) drinks and eats is a sure-fire way to beat the heat. But remember, when the tab arrives, you have to leave more than the standard 20 percent. A cheap price tag doesn’t equate to a person being cheap.

It’s a simple fact: Nothing goes together better than beer and tacos — especially if those items are offered at bargain prices. Check out The Back 40 Urban Café in St. Augustine. Back 40 offers $2 Coronas and $2 jerk chicken or avocado and roasted red pepper tacos every day from 3 to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

“This is a college town,” says owner Brian Harmon. “I want to offer the students quality food at a good value. There are also a lot of artists and musicians here in St. Augustine and they don’t make a lot of money. It is nice for them to have a place to go for a cheap beer and good, reasonable food.”

Another stop in St. Augustine is The Conch House Restaurant, located on Salt Run lagoon. Every Sunday, from March through October, the Conch House puts on its infamous Reggae Sunday featuring a live reggae band and drink specials and freebies from various liquor distributors. Those with an inclination toward frugality will be particularly fond of the $3 “Island Beers” (Red Stripe, Kona Longboard Lager and Imperial Lager) offered all day, every day.

“We also have free popcorn at our lounge to help manage your munchies if you’re only coming to grab a drink,” says Landon Quayle, the restaurant’s office manager.

And what’s better than a $3 beer? A $1 beer.

If you know where to look, one-dollar drafts are available all over Northeast Florida. Al’s Pizza locations offer Thirsty Thursdays — score a pint of Yuengling or glass of house wine for a buck. At Brucci’s Pizza (Ponte Vedra, Intracoastal, Southside and Fruit Cove), trade four quarters for a slice or a brewski.

Going out to dinner as a family can get pricey, but there are a ton of deals for the little ones. Several spots offer “kids eat free” specials, including El Potro Mexican in Uptown St. Augustine, all four European Street locations and Harpoon Louie’s in Avondale, all on Monday nights (restrictions apply).

Cheap eats aren’t just for night owls or rug rats, though. If you’re an early riser, check out Delicomb in Jacksonville Beach for a morning cup of joe. Coffee and iced coffee will run you $1.95 for a small and $2.50 for a large. It’s not so much the price as the quality, though, that you get for a few greenbacks.

“Delicomb is fortunate enough to be part of a coffee lineage that stretches back to Peet’s coffee, which was founded in 1966 in Berkeley, California,” says owner Kevin Leonard Miller. “What this basically means is that, from farm to your cup, you are getting the best possible cup of coffee that money can buy.”

The Blue Hen Café, in the Lincolnville neighborhood of St. Augustine, has a killer egg-and-cheese sandwich on a fresh brioche for $3. Head to The Fox Restaurant in Avondale for its famous $4.95 two-egg breakfast, served with your choice of meat and side.

LATITUDE 360’s $4 food specials (stacked nachos, pretzel bites and queso, and Boom Boom shrimp) are offered from 4-7 Mon.-Fri.If you prefer some action with your affordable fare and can dip out of work early, then get to Latitude 360 for its Monday-through-Friday “360 Social” from 4 to 7 p.m. Price-conscious gastrophiles will find solace in Latitude’s $4 food specials, such as Boom Boom Shrimp, fried pickles or flatbread combinations.

Cheap is good. But free is the ultimate for the miserly epicurator.

Women can take advantage of the numerous “ladies drink free” nights around Northeast Florida. Pusser’s Caribbean Grille in Ponte Vedra Beach gives up free draft beer, house wine and well liquor for the skirts on Fridays from 9 to 11 p.m. at the bar. Also, check out Eclipse Nightclub, where you get a free shot on Karaoke night for every song you “sing.”

Some other musts include Taco Tuesday at The Rogue in Riverside — earn a free taco with every drink purchase until 7 p.m. and Southern Roots Filling Station (also in Riverside), where a sliding-scale rice ‘n’ beans bowl is offered. You choose what you pay — just don’t be a stingy bastard.

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