Straight from the middle man

Ever wish you could economize on beer by getting it straight from the brewery? You can’t. Due to antiquated liquor laws and an oversized Annheuser-Busch lobby in Washington, breweries can’t even sell their beer directly to retail stores. They have to sell to distributors, who then sell to your corner deli or supermarket. Of course, there’s a price markup every time the beer changes hands.

nbdBut there is a way to cut in early: most distributors have warehouses in the city where they sell beer directly to the thirsty consumer. Unlike NYC retailers, they sell in bulk–kegs, 30-packs, and cases, meaning you can stock up for a fraction of what you’d pay at a deli.

For the bottle sipper, pick up a case of Brooklyn Pennant Ale for $33.59 at American Beer Distributors (256 Court St., Brooklyn–map), or a case of Dos Equis Amber for $25.99 at Carousel Beverages (436 3rd Ave., Brooklyn–map). If you’re really looking to save dough, grab a 30-pack of Genessee Cream Ale (it’s better and cheaper than Bud Light) for $15.99 at New Beer Distributors (167 Chrystie St., Manhattan–map).

Warehouses can be a Mecca even for the consummate beer snob, sporting celebrated but hard-to-find American micros like Left Hand, Allagash, and North Coast, and imports like Orval and Sinebrychoff. At around $10 per six pack they’re not cheap, but they’re cheaper than you’ll find them anywhere else in the city.

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New members welcome

GYCIf you’re a Penny Palate regular, your yacht club membership probably lapsed a long time ago. Like, in a previous lifetime. But with weather like this, it seems criminal not to do your eating and drinking out of doors. Luckily, Smith Street has just the club for you–no membership dues, collared shirts not required.

To be fair, Gowanus Yacht Club (323 Smith St., Brooklyn–map is not an actual yacht club, nor is it actually on the Gowanus Canal. But yacht clubs are stodgy and the Gowanus Canal is a putrid cesspool, so I’d say GYC comes out a winner in the end. Pass through the unimposing fence and head to the bar, where you can order hot dogs ($2), burgers ($4 for a single, $6 for a double), and beers at Canal prices. A PBR is $3, but kick in an extra dollar for a can of Porkslap Pale Ale or Moo Thunder Stout from Butternuts Beer–high class taste in a low-class can.

You’ll get to enjoy a diverse crowd–I’ve sat at the bar with hipsters, grizzled Brooklyn vets and, once, a beagle who had a hard time staying upright on his swivel bar stool. By the end of the night, you might have the same problem.

Happy Hour of the Week: One year for EVT

evtIn this climate, it’s worth celebrating if a new restaurant can stay open for a month. East Village Tavern (158 Avenue C, Manhattan–map) has made it an entire year, and they’re spreading the wealth this Friday with a free open bar from 6-8 pm.

EVT gets the job done by having something for everyone: the beer enthusiast–16 rotating taps with a wide and seasonal selection of American craft brews; the food lover–a high end, seasonal bar food menu; even the dive hound–Big Buck Hunter and pinball. It’s no wonder that you find yourself among a diverse crowd.

EVT’s got a great happy hour to begin with: Monday through Friday from 4-7 drafts are $3, well drinks are $4, and sliders are $2. But nothing beats an open bar. Knock off work and get there early (these things do tend to fill up), and it will be a happy birthday for them and you.


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.

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.

Eat like you’re not going back to work

tiffinwallahGoing out for an Indian dinner in New York will rack your wallet almost anywhere you go. If you want to get quality and quantity out of your curry, the time to go is lunch. The place to go is Tiffin Wallah (127 E 28th St., Manhattan–map), a vegetarian Indian joint in the middle of Curry Hill.

For $6.95, you get to exploit the bounty of an all-you-can-eat buffet. I dropped by yesterday, tiffinwallah2and the options were impressive. After choosing between white basmati rice and yellow rice with onions and sauteed yellow peppers, I piled on a many-vegetabled curry, a hearty potato and onion dish, a rich yellow dal, and a vegetable soup topped with peppery corn-bread. I complimented the mound with crisp paratha, grean pea pancakes, several chutneys and the typical tamarind and coriander dips. And when I finished, I couldn’t resist heading back to the bar for another round.

If you need something to wash down the spice, there’s an ice bucket full of Kingfishers at the buffet line for only $2.50 apiece. If my boss is reading, rest assured I resisted the temptation of the liquid lunch. But for all my willpower, I have to admit, the sheer quantity I ingested may have made me slightly catatonic.

Happy Hour of the Week: George Washington would have drunk here

clong_islandFort Greene, Brooklyn (called Fort Putnam at the time), played a key role in shielding George Washington’s retreat during the Battle of Brooklyn. Could there be a better place to celebrate our fearless commander and first president’s birthday? This year, a brand new pub has enlisted to help.

bphBrooklyn Public House (247 DeKalb Ave., Brooklyn–map) is the project of three Fort Greene residents who turned a deserted old candy shop into a first-rate pub serving comfort food (wings, ribs, pan pizza), 16 tap beers, and 35 bottles. It’s opening to the public for the first time tonight.

While I recommend checking it out ASAP, the real Happy Hour of the Week comes on Sunday–the mid-point of your three day weekend (if your job doesn’t suck). After a blessing by a priest, BPH will host an open bar from 6 to 8, and throw in some samples from the food menu as well. If you happen to ring in President’s Day with a hangover, just be glad you’re not eating hard-tack and using dirt for coffee grounds.

the tip, from Thrillist

Prices down on the corner

Due to mounting evidence that the staff of Corner Bistro is homophobic and violent, I’m rescinding the Penny Palate’s recommendation. The owner has suspended the staff member in question, but has offered no apology or real explanation. It looks like I’ve eaten my last bistro burger.

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Manhattan’s West Village is known for its beautiful brownstone homes, its classy restaurants and bars soaked in history. But most of all, it’s known for being expensive as hell. But one one corner, a meal and a beer, and a black eye, is still affordable.

cornerbistroCorner Bistro (331 W. 4th St., Manhattan–map) beats up gay people? Also see the victim and owner’s responses, and the video evidence. offers paper plates that are barely big enough to hold their fat Bistro Burger. It’s a bacon cheese burger that’s about an inch and a half thick, with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a toasted bun.  Corner Bistro is one of the few budget burgers joints that will actually cook your meat the way you order it. My medium-rare was a beautiful pink, and the meaty juices kept it tender and tasty. And it cost just $6.75.

Nothing complements a cheap burger like a cheap beer. With that in mind, Corner Bistro offers 12 oz. mugs of McSorley’s light and dark ale for $2.50. That’s a big gourmet bacon cheese burger and a beer for $9.25. On your next jaunt through the West Village, you may not go hungry.

Happy Hour of (Next) Week

brazenhead1It’s good to plan in advance when you’re economizing, and in that spirit, here’s a surefire plan for next Monday, when the week ahead is starting to look a little too long.

Steer your way to the Brazen Head (228 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn–map) in Brooklyn. A brazenhead2comfortable, homey bar that’s a favorite of Brooklyn law students and court staff, Brazen Head serves up some 15 micro-brews on tap. But they watch out for the budget minded as well, particularly on Mondays from 5 pm on, when they serve up an assortment of free food. Often it’s fresh, meaty chicken wings. When I went last Monday, it was tasty meatballs in wine sauce and macaroni with carmelized onions.

Complement the free eats with a few $2 PBRs and your week will look a little hazier, and a lot brighter.

The slippery Slope

ellisbar1I live in the Gowanus/South Slope area of Brooklyn, and in the past the one thing that’s drawn me away from my neighborhood is its lack of great bars. If I need to liven up my evening I’d usually head at least as far away as the north Slope or Smith St. But a rash of recent openings (along with the splendid weather) has given me all the more reason to stay home. The best: Ellis Bar (627 5th Ave., Brooklyn–map).

Ellis is a clean, comfortable neighborhood bar with excellent food. I mentioned its ridiculously cheap party deal in last week’s HHotW, but it turns out Ellis has a full calendar of drink specials that can keep you abuzz on the cheap. Consider tonight’s special, which they repeat  every single Wednesday: 25 cent shots of house bourbon to accompany live music, starting at 9. Mondays feature $3 Heineken, Tuesdays have canned beer specials (and trivia), and weekends have extended and reverse happy hours.

Ellis has an up to date website and a blog, so you can check in and fill out your calendar accordingly.