Sometimes — especially the end of the month when rent is almost due and you may be stretched extra thin — dining out isn't really an option. But you need to eat ... and you'd still like to have a drink or two, right? New Orleans has a decent selection of bars that solve this dilemma, where free food (and often music) accompany the purchase of a beer. Here's a list of places with few to no strings attached: Have a seat at the bar, order a drink and free food will soon come your way.
The happiest hours
At Il Posto Cafe (4607 Dryades St., 504-895-2620, www.facebook.com/ilpostocafe), a happy hour special on Mondays and Wednesdays will get you deals on drinks and free appetizers. The casual Uptown Italian cafe offers complimentary roasted Brussels sprouts, thick slices of crusty ciabatta slathered with hummus and sweet potato chips from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Glasses of wine are $1 off and Abita beers are $2.
Just steps off Bourbon Street, Orleans Grapevine (720 Orleans Ave., 504-523-1930; www.orleansgrapevine.com) features one of the city's more unusual happy hour specials. Every day from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight, the bar serves complimentary slices of bacon to patrons at the bar, usually about three pieces per drink order. The same happy hour features a $5 specialty cocktail and four selected wines for $5 a glass or $18 for the bottle.
It's no secret that Twelve Mile Limit (500 S. Telemachus St., 504-488-8114; www.facebook.com/twelve.mile.limit) is the place to be on Monday nights. Mid-City dwellers in the know pack this neighborhood bar on the corner of Baudin and Telemachus streets, where two free family meal services start at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Past dinners have included meatball sandwiches, fried chicken, pizza, jambalaya and lasagna. Show up early; the food goes quickly. Bonus for sports fans: Bring a New Orleans Saints or Pelicans ticket from the same night and your first drink is free.
Tucked away on a sleepy block of Bienville Street near New Orleans City Park, Mick's Irish Pub (4801 Bienville St., 504-482-9113) serves weekly food specials at least three days a week, sometimes more. Long-standing favorites include free red beans and rice on Mondays, hot dogs and chili on Tuesdays and pasta on Thursdays. While the red beans special starts around 5 p.m., the other weekday offerings usually get going around 1 p.m. and last until the food runs out.
Free food and tunes
A popular hangout during New Orleans Saints games, the casual Superdome-adjacent bar Handsome Willy's (218 S. Robertson St., 504-460-7365; www.handsomewillys.com) serves free food every Friday year-round. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., the bar's "Funk & Crunk" party features music from a local DJ and free food, often tacos or nachos.
While New Orleans is no stranger to cheap deals on bivalves, nothing beats free oysters. Every Friday at Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., 504-895-8117) beginning at 7 p.m., oysters are shucked and passed out for free. A local pianist provides entertainment, and the scene is known to get boisterous. The oysters tend to run out around 9 p.m., so show up early and don't forget to tip your shucker.
Mid-City watering hole Banks Street Bar & Grill (4401 Banks St., 504-486-0258; www.banksstreetbarandgrill.com) features three nights of free food and live music, and there's never a cover charge. On Mondays, there's live piano music, free red beans and rice and $3 shots of Jameson all night. Wednesday evenings, local blues-rock band Major Bacon holds court and free BLTs are offered. On Sundays, also known as "Spaghetti Western" night, the bar doles out free spaghetti while Ron Hostream and the Mid City Drifters provide the soundtrack. Tip: Come wearing cowboy boots or a cowboy hat and your next round is on the bar.
If you've got $10 to spend, that will buy you a cover charge, live music and free food at a couple of local clubs. Thursday night at Vaughan's (4229 Dauphine St., 504-947-5562) features free red beans and rice at the popular Bywater bar, plus music till the wee hours from Corey Henry & the Treme Funktet. On Wednesday nights at the Candlelight Lounge (925 N. Robertson St., 504-525-4748) the Treme Brass Band holds court. Despite the cover, drinks here are relatively cheap and there's always some type of free food, usually a huge pot of red beans or jambalaya. Be prepared for a packed house and dancing.