Best Place for Free Happy-Hour Food

Il Fornaio

Downtown's Italian chain eatery Il Fornaio isn't on most people's list of cheap eats. Except during happy hour, that is, when drinks are moderately priced (beer $3, wine $4) and the food is 100% free. In the bar, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, the staff sets out a small buffet of whatever the chef feels like making—usually bruschetta, some sort of pizza, and a couple of surprise treats. One time it was a so-so chicken salad; once it was an incredible couscous salad; and once opening the silver chafing dish revealed a mound of calamari. Jackpot! No one monitors the spread, and multiple trips never get a second look. Plus, they're pretty good about restocking if something runs out. If you want in on this deal, be warned: After the recession hit, the bar suddenly got a lot busier, so arriving early is a must. Seats are limited, and standing room pretty much doesn't exist.—Suzie Rugh

 
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