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The Interns' Guide: Free and Cheap Food

By Erin Hartigan and Fritz Hahn
washingtonpost.com Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 19, 2007 12:00 AM

Hungry after a long day at the office? There are many places that offer discounted wings, nachos and tacos, but sometimes you want something above and beyond bar snacks.

At Hotel Helix's retro lounge, for example, a gourmet angus burger with smoked cheddar cheese is $6 between 5 and 7, seven days a week. Add a half-price beer, and you're getting a meal for $7.75, plus tax and tip. Tonic, located near many Mount Pleasant group houses, offers a similar deal, with half-price burgers, draft beers and rail drinks between 5 and 7 Monday through Friday. (A bonus: There are veggie burgers on the menu as well as beef.) Chef Geoff's offers burgers, either heaped with bacon or topped with fried onions, for $5. Downtown, the deal is available after 3 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, from 3 to 7 Wednesday through Friday and all day on weekends. Uptown, it's offered all day Monday and Tuesday and from 3 to 7 Wednesday through Friday.

A number of restaurants offer half-price burgers at various times; we're partial to those at Whitlow's on Wilson and Sine Irish Pub (both all day Monday), Clyde's ($5 from 4 to 7 Monday through Friday), Lucky Bar (from 5 to 11 Wednesday), Jack's (all day Wednesday), Tommy Joe's (4 to 7 Monday) and Sign of the Whale (5 to 9 Monday).

McCormick and Schmick's on K Street has a great happy hour menu, featuring half-pound burgers with fries, bowls of mussels, fresh salads and sandwiches for just $1.95 from 3:30 to 7 and again on Monday through Thursday from 10:30 to 11:30, although you do have to purchase two drinks. The minimum may sound steep, but if you're drinking beer or the delicious house lemonade, it's still less than $10 for dinner.

Baseball fans don't have to trek to RFK for a foot-long dog and a beer -- they can hit Wonderland's happy hour (from 5 to 8) for $2 hot dogs, $2 of all draft beers and $3 rail drinks.

For a fine dining feast, Il Mulino offers free daily pasta at the bar on weekdays from 4:30 until 7 p.m. Some of the scrumptious offerings, which are cooked barside for each patron, have included spaghetti Bolognese, mushroom ravioli with truffle cream sauce and lobster ravioli.

Spice things up at the Argentinean Divino Lounge in Bethesda. From 5:30 to 7:30 Wednesday through Friday, you can munch on half-priced tapas like grilled calamari and spicy chorizo and wash the snacks down with half-priced beer and rail drinks. You'll also find an array of Mexican treats at Shirlington's Guapo's weekdays from 4 to 7; the quesadillas are our pick.

Sushi is a delicious happy hour meal. Cafe Asia features $1 nigiri as well as discounted beer. At Singapore Bistro, nigiri of salmon, tuna, shrimp and whitefish is 93 cents, while specialty shrimp and crab rolls range from $4.95 to $5.25. Beer and sake are $2.50 and martinis are $4.95 Monday through Saturday from 4 to 7:30. More seafood at happy hour? Pacific Grill and Grillfish offer half-priced food and cocktails -- plates of buffalo shrimp, mussels and the like -- for about $5.

When you have a hankering for Chinese food at dirt cheap prices, try Chu's Cafe. The family-run restaurant offers dozens of options ranging from vegetable dumplings to a Mongolian wrap for under $6.

Mr. Smith's of Georgetown is a bastion of delicious deals with a special offer every weekday. For example, you'll find half-priced appetizers such as steak skewers and nachos as well as $1 tacos with the purchase of a platter for $8.95 on Wednesday, half-priced burgers Tuesdays and, come Sunday, two-for-one entrees for college students with valid IDs.

When a Tex-Mex craving kicks in near the Hill, Tortilla Coast comes to the rescue. On Mondays, all enchiladas are $5.99, while Tuesday is burrito night with every burrito, including the monster Big Tex burrito, at $6.99. Saturday, tuck into all-you-can-eat chicken fajitas for $8.95.

Sure, jumbo slices can serve their purpose, but when you are looking for a whole gourmet pizza or date night on a dime, head to Faccia Luna for the Monday night offer of two salads, a two-topping pie and two glasses of wine for $22.

Boulevard Woodgrill offers half-priced appetizers, including delicious fried shrimp and quesadillas, and discounted drinks during happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 to 7.

If you have a sweet tooth, Love Cafe offers 30 percent off all chocolate items from 5 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

During the day, bar lunches are a good way to enjoy delicious food for a discount tab. Teatro Goldoni offers an entree, such as the monstrous burger and several pastas, plus a glass of house wine for $12.50. At 701, $15 at the bar buys an entree of spicy steak salad or mussels and a glass of wine or soda. Restaurant Eve is one of the area's best restaurants, so it's fitting that it also offers one of the best dining deals. The Lickety Split bar lunch offers any two items from a select menu -- including soups, gourmet sandwiches, salads, desserts and even wines -- for $13.50.

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