I'm a tightwad. When I was a freshman in college living on my own, I had no choice but to be cheap. I lived on macaroni and cheese and Ramen noodles. But what college student didn't?
Now, I can afford to eat a little better, and I do when I'm at home. But when dining out, I'm still a penny-pincher. I try and keep lunch under $5 and dinner for two under $20. When I go out drinking, I look for beer busts and drink specials.
What follows is a guide to filling your belly and satisfying your alcoholic urges for $5 or less.
1 Warehouse Wednesdays at Spaghetti Warehouse -- Even a fat man can get full here for $4.99! All day on Wednesdays, that price gets you a seven-ounce bowl of spaghetti with tomato, marinara, or meat sauce, bottomless soup or salad, a loaf of bread, and a non-alcoholic beverage.
2 The China Doll -- Don't let the hot pink facade or its ghetto-fied location fool you. This Chinese and Thai restaurant on Lamar has some of the best Chinese food in town, and about half of its menu is under $5. I usually go with the Vegetable Fried Rice ($3.25), which is enough to feed at least three people. I'm also a fan of the vegetable soup for two, a clear broth with fresh steamed veggies and crispy crackers for $1.85. Their meat entrees are equally cheap.
3 Lunch Buffet at Pho Hoa Binh -- No wonder this place is so hip. For $5, you can eat your heart out at Pho Hoa Binh's lunch buffet, and it's a vegetarian's dream come true. Nearly half of the buffet selections are tofu dishes.
4 Black Bean Soup at Café Olé -- I know what you're thinking. I can't get full on one bowl of black bean soup. And that's probably true. But don't forget about the freebies. With a free hefty basket of warm tortilla chips and a large bowl of salsa to start you off, this hearty soup with a hint of lime for $4.50 should tide you over.
5 House Salad at Central BBQ -- This large salad for $3.99 is a true value since even the bowl is edible. The bed of iceberg lettuce is topped with red cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cheese, and pepperoncini peppers and your choice of dressing.
6 California Classic at McAlister's Deli -- Olive salad, provolone and mozzarella cheeses, lettuce, tomato, bell pepper, and onion on pita bread with your choice of chips, potato salad, or a fruit cup. All for $4.69. This is one of my all-time favorite lunches, and the prices remain the same through dinner.
1 Beer Bust at The Buccaneer --This place has the King of all Cheap Beers -- Pabst Blue Ribbon -- on tap, which means they reign supreme catering to poor, Midtown hipsters. Even better, on Thursday nights, it's all-you-can-drink for just $5.
2 Beer Bust at Metro -- By far the cheapest beer bust in town. For $4, drink all you want from 9 p.m. to midnight as you watch the city's loveliest drag queens strut their stuff. Now that's value!
3 Beer Bust at the Hi-Tone -- This is also a Pabst Blue Ribbon bust. For $5, drink until you drop or until the keg runs dry, whichever comes first. DJs Sex Pot Piper and Franswa spin old-school tunes until midnight.
4 Too Tall Tuesdays at Newby's -- You and your fellow tightwads will be in heaven on Too Tall Tuesdays. Special items are just $2 ($2 Coors Light, $2 burgers, $2 off all Red Bull drinks).
5 Pitchers at Neil's -- For only $4, you can get a pitcher of Miller Lite or Bud Light. It's best to bring friends and take turns buying pitchers. By the time you finish four, you'll each have a good buzz and money left to burn elsewhere.
6 Bloody Sundays at the Blue Monkey -- On Saturday and Sunday mornings, head over to the Blue Monkey and try one of their thick and spicy Bloody Marys for just $2.50. Perfect for curing that hangover from too much beer the night before. Not an early bird? No problem. The special runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
7 Trolley Night on South Main -- This is a tip for true penny-pinchers who have no class. Hop from art opening to art opening on trolley night, helping yourself to a free glass of wine at each show. If you know the artist, you can have two or three and no one will mind. It's a good buzz, you see some good art, and you don't have to drive.