The happy hour that comes once a year

cheapshotzOnce you pass 21, each successive birthday gets a bit more depressing: you’re another year past your prime, and it’s even less socially acceptable to hang out in trashy dive bars looking for cheap drinks. But as my birthday approaches this week, social mores don’t stand a chance in the face of a unique East Village offer: free drinks, all night.

As my friend and fellow pennywatcher Frank pointed out just two months ago on the anniversary of his birth, Cheap Shots (140 1st Ave., Manhattan–map) will pour you anything on tap, in a can, or on the shelf (except Patron) for the night’s duration. All you need is an ID showing that it is, in fact, your birthday.

Of course, the place is a rather dank hole, so you’ll want the company of a lot of friends. Luckily, Cheap Shots has enticements for paying customers as well, like $3 16 ounce cans of PBR, pitchers of Yeungling for $7, and shots as cheap as $2. That’s enough reason for everyone to get a little happy; at least in the morning, you’ll have an excuse.

Feed me baby one more time

The seasonal haute-cuisine restaurant Park Avenue Winter (a.k.a. Spring, Summer, and Fall, 100 E. 63rd St., Manhattan) is just the kind of place that draws wealthy socialites like the characters from the CW’s hit show Gossip Girl. So it makes sense that the restaurant is going to be featured in an upcoming episode. This week’s P.A.W. promotion is a bit more surprising.

britneyspearscatholicschooloutfitTo celebrate its television fame, from today, March 16, through Friday, March 20, Park Avenue Winter is giving away a free meal to any girl, of any age, dressed in a school uniform. Girls 21 and over get two rounds of free drinks–probably better than the screwdrivers in Tropicana bottles you used to conceal in your purse. Perhaps they’re expecting to draw legions of Horace Mann students and alums, who’ll be happy to come back in the future and spend wads of money. Little did they know that once their deal hit the blogosphere, they’d really be attracting scavengers like you and me.

Girls: if you didn’t go to a private school, you know you still have that Britney Spears costume tucked in the back of your closet. It needn’t fit perfectly–style and dignity are unimportant when a free gourmet meal is on the line.

Guys: if you’re that hungry then best of luck to you. You might want to consider shaving your legs.

The tip, from Eater.

Uncovering the roots

grassrootsSometimes the best deals are so close to home you don’t even think to look for them. Such is the case with Grassroots Tavern (20 St. Mark’s Place, Manhattan–map). This dive bar shares a wall with Mamoun’s, the home of New York cheap falafel. So every time I walked by, my drooling gaze was drawn to the man with the mustache, and I never saw Grassroots hidden next door.

As of this weekend, that’s all changed. The first thing I noticed when I walked into Grassroots was its beer list. Bud, Miller, and Michelob Amber Bock cost $2 a mug, $3 a pint. All Brooklyn Brewery pours are $3 and $4. For beer that cheap in the East Village, I used to rely on holes that had plenty of character, but also plenty of depressing, alcoholic characters, and an over-abundance of CCR (no offense, John Fogerty).

Grassroots is never packed, but has a fun, young atmosphere, and it’s surprisingly clean and comfortable–even the bathroom is useable. From now on, I’ll know where to quench my thirst after a falafel, and where to get a snack to soak up all the extra beers I can suddenly afford.

Cook Le Cirque on le cheap

You might think that haute cuisine requires lots of time, money, and at least 50 different difficult-to-obtain ingredients, like truffles, guanciale, or squid sperm. But a true master chef knows how to make a delectable dish with the most humble of ingredients.

Alain Sailhac is just such a master. After nine years as head chef at Le Cirque, one of New York City’s finest restaurants, and decades more as a chef and teacher, Sailhac can turn a simple potato into a masterpiece. He explained how in the January/February 2001 issue of Saveur magazine with his recipe for potato galette. Take a read, and you’ll be able to turn a potato, some butter, olive oil, salt and pepper, into a side dish so beautiful your guests won’t want to cut into it. When they take their first crispy bite, they’ll be glad they did. The recipe’s after the break. (more…)

I’ll have what she’s having…for half the price

eisenbergsI was 12 years old when I made my first trip to Katz’s Deli. The massive pastrami sandwich was my dad’s treat* and I never thought to look at the price tag. Now I’m all grown up, and the $14.95 sandwich that once helped Meg Ryan fake a public orgasm is almost as far out of my range as she is. Isn’t there a place in this city with decades of history behind it where I can get a delicious pastrami sandwich too big to fit in my mouth for under $10?

That may seem like asking a lot, but the answer is yes. Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop (174 5th Ave., Manhattan–map) is only 80 years old (compared to Katz’s 120), but that’s still some serious history. It’s a seriously old school deli–a long narrow space dominated by a counter, where you can perch on a swivel seat and watch the cooks pile sandwiches impossibly high with meat.

When your pastrami on rye shows up, it’s a challenge to even get mustard on it before cramming it into your face. Once it finally gets there, the bread seems to melt away into the tender, salty slices of meat. And the cost? Just $8.50. The generous bowl of complimentary pickle spears are a great compliment, as are the fat, crispy onion rings for $3.50 if you’re looking to splurge (or give yourself a heart attack).

*Full disclosure: my recent trip to Eisenberg’s, though less expensive, was also my dad’s treat.