The most important food group is free food. Leaving aside some of the more well-known gratis offerings in NYC (free pizza at Alligator/Crocodile/Charleston, free cheese balls/Twizzlers at The Levee, free hot dogs at Rudy's), here are a few places for budget-minded to eat, drink and still have money for an Uber home.
MACHIAVELLI The Italian tradition of "aperitivo" takes on different forms across the country; some places might just offer a bowl of chips and another of olives, while others a full spread of antipasti, pizza, and other snacks. It's the latter you'll find at this Upper West Side restaurant, where on Monday to Friday, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., every alcoholic beverage comes accompanied by a full spread that's practically a meal. Expect a small margherita pizza, mixed olives, and house-made potato chips, plus things like salami and Caprese skewers with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes.
519 Columbus Avenue, (212) 724-2658; machiavellinyc.com
BLIND TIGER ALE HOUSE Already known for its exemplary collection of fascinating beers, on Wednesdays, this West Village pub also caters to cheese lovers, bringing in fromage from neighbor Murray's Cheese. Selections change week-to-week, but like clockwork at 6 p.m. the spread comes rolling out, along with fresh baguette. As you may have guessed, this is a popular special; get there early to reap the spoils.
281 Bleecker Street, (212) 462-4682; blindtigeralehouse.com
George & Jack's (Foursquare)
LUCKY DOG / GEORGE & JACK'S TAP ROOM Laying a carbohydrate base is essential for day drinking on the weekends, which is where this duo of Williamsburg bars comes in. On Saturdays and Sunday starting at noon, both put out a spread of bagels, cucumbers, onion and cream cheese, which is available to anyone who stops in (drinking encouraged, of course, and the bloodies at both are excellent). During non-brunch hours, George & Jack's also supplies a steady stream of freshly popped corn, with Old Bay, garlic powder and salt on the side.
Lucky Dog is located at 303 Bedford Avenue and George & Jack's Tap Room is located at 103 Berry Street
MULLANE'S For the past decade, this Fort Greene pub has offered a weekday free buffet beginning at 3 p.m. until the tray runs out (typically before the 7 p.m. cutoff). The kitchen makes everything from scratch, and possible buffet options include sandwiches, fries, pasta and other hot foods.
71 Lafayette Avenue, (718) 797-7606; mullanesbrooklyn.com
BABBALUCCI No cardboard free pizza here. This Harlem restaurant offers a free spread of tomato-sauced pizzas and vegetarian dishes during their weekday happy hour. Sometimes it's also mushroom rice balls, other times fresh salads.
331 Lenox Avenue, (646) 918-6572; babbalucci
GALLAGHER'S 2000 I'm not one to judge anyone's vehicle for free food—sometimes you've gotta save your singles for more important expenditures. This Long Island City strip club offers a few ways to get a stomach-full while getting an eye-full. During the week, it's a free sandwich at lunch with purchase of a $4 beer, and then on Sundays, free hot dogs all the livelong day.
Gallagher's 2000 is located at 43-19 37th Street in Long Island City, Queens, (718) 361-1348. No cover until 8 p.m. then $10 Sunday through Thursday and $15 Fridays and Saturdays.
CROXLEY'S Truth be told, the boneless wings at this mini-chain are not great, Bob. But they're also free on Fridays, and sometimes, cheapskates can't be choosers. From 4 - 7 p.m. in Manhattan and noon - 7 p.m. in Brooklyn, stop by the bar for a buffet of boneless "wings"—they're often just unbreaded cubes of chicken breast, from what I can tell—and a beer from the bar's solid lineup.
Croxley's Manahttan is located at 28 Avenue B, (212) 253-6140 and Croxley's Brooklyn is located at 63 Grand Street, (718) 387-4290; croxley.com
EMPORIO If you've noticed Italian food's heavy on this list, it's with good reason: they know how to live over there. But they've brought those traditions here, at places like this Nolita eatery, who put out a daily spread of nibbles between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. On the bar you'll find squares of cooked, chilled polenta; flatbreads of various kinds; and bowls of mixed olives. Pair with one of their wines, which are organized by the region they're from in Italy.
231 Mott Street, (212) 966-1234; emporiony.com
OVEST PIZZOTECA Vegetables, pizzas, hummus, flatbreads, and all sorts of other light bites await at this cute spot on West 27th Street. Their aperitivo lasts weekdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and is meant to be paired with a refreshing apertivi. Try an Aperol Spritz with prosecco if you're in a Venetian frame of mind, or a Limoniamo with limoncello and prosecco to channel the Amalfi Coast.
513 West 27th Street #2, (212) 967-4392; ovestnyc.com
RYAN MAGUIRE'S ALE HOUSE Time your cards right for happy hour and you'll be treated to a stomach-coating platter of comfort food that's conducive to many a post-FiDi workday beer. Options might include a tray of penne pasta, or a beef stew, or a tray of sausages. The free buffet runs Monday to Friday from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.
28 Cliff Street, (212) 566-6906; ryanmaguiresalehouse.com