Even though it’s usually out of a box, straight from a can, or has been sitting under a fluorescent heating lamp for hours, there’s still something undeniably delicious about free food at a bar (we’re thinking it has to do with all those Happy Hour drafts you actually had to pay for). Plenty of places around Manhattan offer noshes for nothing, though you can usually guarantee that these aren’t the classiest establishments the city has to offer (spoiler alert: Le Cirque didn’t make the cut on this list). The next time you find you’ve blown your monthly food allowance on Restaurant Week, visit one of these dives that dish out food for free – just remember to bring the Tums.
Rudy’s Bar & Grill
627 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10036
Though this run-down Hell’s Kitchen dive had been around for a few decades before surfacing on most New Yorkers’ radars, it’s now known across the board for two things: dirt-cheap booze and free full-size hot dogs, served lukewarm off the rotisserie. There’s also free popcorn doled out from behind the bar, which you can wash down with Rudy’s Red, a watered-down, house-brand brew served in a plastic bucket. Revel in all its mediocrity sitting at a duct-taped red leather booth or from the stone-lined backyard “garden” open year round, thanks to a heated tent.
325 E 14th Street
New York, NY 10003
Hot off the brick oven heels of Brooklyn’s Capone’s and Alligator Lounge comes this crocodile-themed hipster hangout (crocodiles appear as the door handle and all through the ceiling), bringing free pizza to the too-skinny, jean-clad youth of downtown Manhattan. If the photo booth, Skee-Ball machine, Big Buck Hunter and several erotic photo hunt consoles don’t keep you occupied, perhaps the never-ending six-slice personal pies, which come with the purchase of each and every drink, will. Toppings cost $2 for the first and $1 for each additional one.
The Watering Hole
106 E 19th Street
New York, NY 10003
A mural of various animals dressed for a night on the town behind the bar and year-round Christmas lights only begin to set the eclectic stage for this neighborhood hangout, formerly known as Tracy J’s Watering Hole. When college students aren’t crooning their hearts out to karaoke, they can enjoy a buffet of free food Monday through Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m. The chef serves up whatever he wants, from pizza and pasta to Caesar salad, chicken wings and fries, and the only thing you can be sure of is that it’s all free.
375 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10016
A rootin’ tootin’ good time every day is what you can expect at this gritty Southern roadhouse, where happy hour doesn’t end with the work week. Every day, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., city slickers drink $6 lime and strawberry margaritas and $4 drafts under wagon wheel chandeliers. A stuffed bison above the bar will give you something to look at while munching on complimentary nachos and chicken wings, served right when happy hour begins. Keep in mind that free food goes pretty fast, especially at a bar, so if you show up late you might miss out. Stick around for live alt-country, rockabilly, and bluegrass music at no cost – Norah Jones has been known to take the stage on occasion in this rough hewn former horse trailer.
127 E 47th Street
New York, NY 10017
The corporate suits and ties of Midtown in need of a cheap drink and light snack at the end of the day will be pleased to try this perfectly cozy happy hour spot right around the corner. While the first floor may resemble the average NYC watering hole, there is a candle-lit living room hideaway just up the stairs, complete with a working fireplace and couches, just waiting to be plopped down on, bordering the room. Aside from the appealing décor, the drink specials give this place a big thumbs up from us. All day Sunday – Wednesday and until 9 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the bar serves up $3 Bud Light drafts, $5 cosmos, peachtinis and appletinis, and $5 shots of Patron, Jagermeister and Jameson to its thirsty patrons. A heaping bowl full of popcorn (complimentary of course) and you’ve got yourself one satisfying and inexpensive happy hour.