The Dollar-Wise Gourmet: Frugal Eats for Furlough Fridays


9 a.m.
I started with three breakfast beignets for $2 at Willie’s Burgers (2415 16th St.). These plump pillows of dough are fried to golden perfection, then prettily dusted with powdered sugar. Mine were made fresh to order—well worth the 10-minute wait.
Total: $2 for 3 beignets

I’d heard great things about Lalo’s Restaurant (5063 24th St.), a tidy family-owned eatery with amazingly cheap deals. Here, I gobbled down two tacos—one carnitas, one chicken—for $1.25 each. They were served on soft corn tortillas and topped with red sauce, chopped onion, cilantro and a single slice of avocado. What stood out most was how incredibly fresh the ingredients were. Don’t come here if you’re in a hurry—the food is prepared and served with love, and that takes time.
Total: $2.50 for two tacos

4:30 p.m.
I headed over to Revolution Wines (2116 P St.), where you can grab a $2 glass of wine during happy hour (4–6 p.m.). A surprise awaited me: live music, starting at 5 p.m., but only on Fridays. I had a ball sipping Revolution’s 2008 Chardonnay and listening to the band.
Total: $2

5:30 p.m.
At Fuzio Universal Bistro (828 J St.), all appetizers are $3 during happy hour (3–7 p.m.), so I tried two. The twin crab cakes were lovely, served with a zesty aioli sauce, but I liked the “firecracker” lettuce wraps (regular price $7.50) even better: a generous pile of spicy marinated chicken studded with water chestnuts and portobello mushrooms, served with two sauces (sweet chili and hoisin). A tasty carrot ginger salad comes on the side.
Total: $6

6:30 p.m.
Barely slid into Il Fornaio (400 Capitol Mall) in time for the famous free appetizers (5–7 p.m.). I made a beeline for the spread, piling my plate with pesto-chicken pinwheel wraps, a deviled egg, bruschetta and a fresh strawberry stuffed with creamy goat cheese. As soon as I returned to my table, there was a server ready to take my drink order, answering the question of whether you need to buy a beverage to pig out here for free. Well, of course you do, though Il Fornaio is too much of a class act to hang a sign saying so. I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio for $6—the happy hour price, and fair enough considering all the food I inhaled.
Total: $6

7:30 p.m.
You didn’t expect me to end the evening without dessert, did you? At Bistro 33 Midtown (1020 16th St.), you can score an adorable baby dessert for $3. A server steered me toward the crème brûlée, and I’m glad he did: It was exquisite, the creamy custard contrasting with the crunch of the thin, crackly layer on top.
Total: $3

Grand total: $21.50—and asI’m sure you can tell, I never went hungry. Take that, Furlough Fridays!