Thursday, January 15, 2009

Entertainment on the cheap: Where to go without breaking the bank

Published in the Portland Phoenix

You've paid your rent and your tuition, and bought your books and groceries. Yes, you're broke. But that's no fun. Now what?

Fortunately, Portland is rife with budget-friendly activities and events. Some places have weekly specials — we've compiled a bunch here — and there are plenty of others, as well as venues with occasional deals. Here's what to look for, and when.

Look your best
JONATHAN DOUGLAS SALON AND SPA (345 Fore St., has $99 "economy crunch packages" combining several services for one price. Choose "The Feel Good," with a basic manicure and pedicure, shampoo, haircut and style, and a brow wax, or unwind with "The OohLaLa," a one-hour Swedish massage and a "Get Acquainted" facial.

O2 SALON AND SPA (605 Congress St., has "recession packages," too, including a 30-minute massage and a pedicure for $80 (a $10 savings).

STUDIO ONE LTD. (151 Middle St., is giving new clients 15 percent off services by Kate and Robin.

Each week GOODWILL STORES (244 St. John St., in the Union Station plaza; find others mark many of their clothes and accessories (and other items) as half-price with special tags.

And on Wednesdays, the SALVATION ARMY STORES in Portland (49 Alder St. and 30 Warren Ave.) have half-price specials on marked items.

Refuel the engine
For a quick pick-me-up, grab a "recession special" coffee at FREAKY BEAN COFFEE COMPANY stores in Westbrook (855 Main St.,, Scarborough (264 US Route 1, and 2 Cabela Way), and South Portland (740 Broadway) — it's 99 cents for a small drip coffee and $1.99 for a small latte.

Also calling its deal a "recession special" is BRIAN BORU (57 Center St.,, which offers lunch for $7. That includes a soft drink; if you want to upgrade to a local draft beer, add just $2.95.

O'NATURALS in Portland (83 Exchange St., has specials just about every night, under their "economic bailout plan." If you work at nearby businesses, stop in on Mondays for 20 percent off (show your business card, nametag, or pay stub); Tuesdays they give 20 percent off with a college ID. Wednesdays are family night, with a free kid's meal if you buy an adult one. Thursday two guys can go in and buy one meal and get a second free; Saturday the same is true for two women. And Friday is "date night," when any couple gets 20 percent off.

On-the-go diners will want to stop by the new JOE'S NEW YORK PIZZA (420 Fore St., to check out their slice-salad-drink combo deals.

At ANTHONY'S ITALIAN KITCHEN (151 Middle St., you can buy one dinner and get the second at half price on Friday and Saturday nights.

Westbrook's Italian-cuisine standby, Casa Novello (694 Main St., 207.854.9909), has two-for-one entrees on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Back in Portland, SHAY'S GRILL PUB (Monument Square, has a $4 quesadilla special on Mondays.

Every day is special at the EMPIRE DINE AND DANCE (575 Congress St.,, with a $6 burger deal that includes fries. Bring a friend — it's two small burgers, not one big one, so it's perfect for splitting.

There's always free popcorn at ROSIE'S (330 Fore St., 207.772.5656) and THREE DOLLAR DEWEYS (241 Commercial St., — though the management obviously prefer if you order something to eat or drink with your popcorn. And if you order a drink at the ARMORY LOUNGE (20 Milk St.,, you get free snacks.

The MAINE SQUEEZE JUICE CAFÉ (5 1/2 Moulton St., 207.775.6673) sells 16-ounce containers of really yummy soup for $3 (and, while this is moving into the next section, amazing flavor-explosion smoothies for $5).

Quench your thirst
The WHITE HEART (551 Congress St., has your back when it comes to drinking on the cheap. Every night they offer Portland Phoenix readers' favorite drink special: $4 for a PBR pounder and a shot of Evan Williams. Mondays are half-price wine night, when certain bottles — not glasses — are discounted. On Wednesdays, get $3 well drinks, and on Thursdays pay $5 for a PBR pounder and six wings.

The GREAT LOST BEAR (540 Forest Ave., has "short" beer nights on Mondays and Tuesdays — get a 22-ounce draft for the price of a pint. And on Thursdays, selected pints are $2.50 between 5 and 9 pm.

At MESA VERDE (618 Congress St., 207.774.6089), Thursdays bring $6 margarita pitchers — which are nicer when it's warmer, we'll observe, but are still pretty good in wintertime.

On Mondays and Tuesdays at the DOGFISH BAR AND GRILLE (128 Free St., has $2.50 drafts from 4 to 7 pm.

If you're up late, CHEF ET AL. (408 Forest Ave., has you covered. After 10 pm, appetizers are half price, and drinks are $1 off with a college ID. (The discount is also available to teachers and restaurant workers, regardless of student status.)

And UNA not only offers $5 specials on beer, wine, martinis, and other cocktails from 4:30 to 7:30 pm every day, but extends the deals all night long on Tuesdays. And on Thursdays there are even more, with $3 beers.

Catch a flick
Look, we all know about and the various TV shows and films there for free viewing (with just a few ads). But if you, like us, believe that it's better on the big screen, Tuesday's your day at the NICKELODEON (1 Temple St.,, with $5 admissions all day and all night to every film.

And if the film you want is no longer in theaters, it's certainly at VIDEOPORT (151 Middle St., 207.773.1999), which has daily rent-one-get-one-free deals: Mondays you can choose your freebie from horror, incredibly strange, sci-fi, thriller, or Japanimation; Tuesdays pick an action or classic film; Wednesdays pick comedy or foreign; Thursdays get a free film from any category; and on Saturday and Sunday, rent two and get one free from any category. (Also, on Fridays, you can get a kid's video free without even renting another film!)

Dance it up
Fridays are "college night" at the HIDDEN DOOR (the nightclub inside Styxx, at 3 Spring St.,, with no cover if you show your college ID. Also, there are 50-cent drafts until midnight, and a not-to-be-missed human disco ball.

There's tons of no-cover karaoke all over town. For just one example, head downstairs at the ASYLUM (121 Center St., on Wednesdays. Thursdays, the downstairs club at the Asylum has a retro dance party with no cover.

Another no-cover spot with lots of variety (stand-up comedy, live bands, and an acoustic open-mic) is SLAINTE (24 Preble St.,, which also has half-price glasses of wine on Mondays and Tuesdays, and beer specials Monday through Thursday.

And don't forget...
If you'll forgive the shameless self-promotion, we suggest you don't miss OUR LISTINGS — every week, we compile everything that's going on in greater Portland, southern Maine, and seacoast New Hampshire, complete with times and costs. To stay current, pick up the Portland Phoenix every week and choose your favorite activities!