March 31, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER
Roll Call

Don’t Fret Your Debt

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Tunnicliff’s Tavern offers a cheap late-night menu on Thursdays.

No matter what the negotiators working on the deficit deal say, you know the cold financial truth: Youre about to hit your own personal debt limit. 

But light-in-the-wallet syndrome doesnt mean a sentence of ramen noodles and Law & Order reruns. Fret not, young cheapskate, weve got you covered with fun, food and libation on Capitol Hill at prices that even the stingiest deficit hawk could love. 

Were talking free movies, cheap designer duds and a weekends worth of bottomless Bloody Marys. 

But cutting, capping and balancing your personal budget? Thats up to you. 


Luxe for Less

Yes, being a cheapskate often requires dining on boxed mac and cheese and shopping at Old Navy. But sometimes, even the most frugal among us craves something a little more luxurious. Heres where to live it up without breaking the bank:

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar Usually pricey vino is just $5 a glass during the weekday happy hour at this House-side wine bar. The special price is available only in the sleek upstairs lounge, where low-slung couches and views of Pennsylvania Ave. make for excellent people-watching (oh hello, Mr Chairman!). 

223 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 202-544-8088

Clothes Encounters of a Second Kind Look beyond the racks of pricey St. John suits and other stuffy Hill-lady gear at this Eastern Market consignment shop, and youll find plenty of labels that younger Hill staffers might want to snatch up and at prices that even the lowliest legislative assistant can stomach. A recent trip turned up Coach handbags for less than $100, a BCBG frock for $25 and a smattering of Lilly Pulitzer preppiness for less than $50. 

202 Seventh St. SE.

Charlie Palmer Steak Most diners at the upscale restaurant are putting their tabs on fat expense accounts, but the prix fixe lunch at this airy, light-filled power spot is tailor-made for those who must pay their own way. A $25 lunch is certainly a splurge, but its worth it: three elegant courses, always with an entree steak option. 

101 Constitution Ave. NW. 202-547-8100


A Deal Every Day of the Week


Start off the workweek with a happy hour thats low-key but classy: Zest American Bistro on Barracks Row offers an under-the-radar daily special that wont wreak havoc with your budget. From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., decent wines and rail drinks are $5, while beers are $4. And the foods an even better deal, with a menu that includes a hefty burger on a buttery brioche and a side of fries for $6. 

735 Eighth St. SE. 202-544-7171


If its Tuesday, its taco night at the Argonaut. Seriously good fish tacos are $3 each (or $2 for chicken or tempeh), a bargain for cilantro-flecked, corn-tortilla-wrapped goodness. Bonus: Happy hours at this undersea-themed H Street pioneer knock a buck off draft beer.
1433 H St. NE. 202-250-3660


The Star and Shamrocks Reuben sandwich, possibly one of the best sandwiches on Capitol Hill, is half-price on hump day. Five bucks for slabs of rye bread piled with house-cured corned beef and from-scratch sauerkraut? Yes, please.  

1341 H St. NE. 202-388-3833


Early bird specials are for retirees or people who can leave work at reasonable hours. Save your appetite for later, when Tunnicliffs Taverns late-night menu kicks in. Beer-sopping bar classics, such as burgers and pizza, are all $7 at this Eastern Market tavern.

222 Seventh St. SE. 202-544-5680 


On Fridays, Hamiltons Bar & Grill offers one of the best beer deals with $1 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the beloved brew of hipsters and blue-collar workers. A party-like atmosphere and out-of-the-way location make it a solid spot to kick off the weekend.

233 Second St. NW. 202-347-6555


Nothing says, Hello, weekend! like a daylong Bloody Mary bender. At funky gas-station-themed Trustys Full-Serve Bar (dig the schoolbus-turned-bar upstairs), all the Bloody Marys or screwdrivers you can swill will set you back a wallet-friendly $14. 

1420 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 202-547-1010


Nothing wards off the dread of another week of Congressional session or cures a hangover from Saturdays Bloodies like (another) daylong Bloody Mary bender. And with the Pour Houses bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas during its weekend brunches, you can imbibe among friends and on the cheap. Endless trips to the Bloody Mary bar are $13; while all the mimosas you can (not should) drink are $15. 

319 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 202-546-0779


Totally Free! 

Weve all heard that adage about nothing being free. But whoever first said that must not have spent much time on Capitol Hill, where there are loads of freebies to be found if you know where to look. 

Heres what you can get without forking over a single dime:


So they look a little like something your middle school cafeteria might have served, but with a few shakes of hot sauce and a cold beer, the tacos that the Hawk n Dove offers up Friday nights are perfectly satisfying. The gratis food starts flowing at 5 p.m. sharp.

329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 202-543-3300


Settle in at the upstairs piano bar of the Banana Café during happy hour, and youll probably see platefuls of on-the-house nibbles emerging from the kitchen. Quesadillas, mozzarella sticks or zucchini sticks make great accompaniments to the drink specials ($3 margaritas, rail drinks and domestic beers are available from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.). 

500 Eighth St. SE. 202-543-5906

Fresh Produce

The vendors at Eastern Market might call those plates of tomato slices or peach wedges samples, but we sometimes call them lunch. Many of the farmers hawking their produce set out plates for tasting, and some even serve their veggies sprinkled with salt and pepper for your grazing enjoyment. We wont judge if you come back for thirds.

225 Seventh St. SE. 202-698-5253


From Gershwin melodies to Sousa marches, military bands crank out some of the finest (and free-est) music in the land. The U.S. Navy Concert Band plays patriotic and popular tunes at
8 p.m. on Monday nights on the West Front of the Capitol.
The Presidents Own also has weekly gigs around Capitol Hill: Catch the U.S. Marine Band on Wednesdays on the Capitols West Terrace and during their Friday parades at 8:45 p.m. at the Marine Barracks (both are free, but youll need reservations for the parade). Add a blanket and a few sandwiches, and youve got date night.


Forget the movie-industrial complex, which will rip you off with $14 tickets (and thats without the handling charge) and $8 popcorn to go with those overly slick CGI effects. Funkier and cooler are the free movies at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. The roomy H Street theater screens films Thursday through Sunday in four different series: Gay 101 (featuring flicks such as Milk and Victor Victoria), musicals (everything from My Fair Lady to Dreamgirls), family (classics such as The Goonies and Shrek) and the oeuvre of Spike Lee. 

1333 H St. NE. 202-399-7993

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