While some folks arrive with oodles of cash to spend on a Bend vacation, others find themselves rummaging between the car seats for change to buy a pint.

Hey, I’m not judging. I already revealed my cheapskate habits with last year’s blog post about Bend’s best lunches for $6 or less.

In that same spirit, I wanted to offer tips for guests looking to save serious cash on snacks and appetizers. Behold, here are some of Bend’s best cheap eats.

 

Free food? Really?

You’ve gotta know where to look, but it’s possible to find free eats in Bend. I’m not talking about the basket of bread that precedes your dinner (though for the record, I’m a sucker for the sourdough at Anthony’s in the Old Mill District).

This is no ordinary popcorn! The herbed popcorn at Drake offers a tasty and FREE treat for diners and drinkers at the restaurant.
This is no ordinary popcorn! The herbed popcorn at Drake offers a tasty and FREE treat for diners and drinkers at the restaurant.

For a small but tasty nibble, head to Drake and nosh on their delicious herbed popcorn. It’s free when you’re drinking or dining there, something I recommend doing if you’ve got a little pocket change to spare (and if that’s the case, their Shrimp-n-Grits with roasted peppers, caramelized onion, bacon, herbs, and pan sauce is TO. DIE. FOR).

But if you’re really scrimping and saving, your best bet is the D & D Bar and Grill. Please understand I use the expression “dive bar” as a term of the utmost fondness and affection when speaking of The D. They have some of the cheapest eats in town, and your best bet is during happy hour. From 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, you’ll find a warmer tray of free (yes, FREE) appetizers. I’ve seen everything from pasta dishes to stuffed tater skins to quesadillas, and they’re free (yes, FREE) for customers drinking or dining. Well drinks are $4 during happy hour, and beer prices range from $2.50 for Pabst Blue Ribbon to $3.75 for microbrews.

 

Cheap eats for fifty-cents to $2.50

There’s tons of great food on the happy hour menu at 10Below Restaurant & Lounge on the lower level of the Oxford Hotel, and you’ll find plenty of items for $4-5 whether you’re hitting happy hour from 4-6 or the one from 9-close.

Grab some tasty fried green olives for just $2 when you're sipping at 10Below.
Grab some tasty fried green olives for just $2 when you’re sipping at 10Below.

But for the cheapest, tastiest treat of all, go for an order of deep-fried green olives for just $2. Deliciously salty with a crisp outer coating, they’re the perfect cheapskate complement to one of 10Below’s divine happy hour cocktails.

A few blocks away at 900 Wall, you’ll find another one of Bend’s tastiest happy hours from 3-6 p.m. nightly. There are ample eats in the $5-10 range (choose the deep-fried green beans at $5 for a splurge) but you’ll also find plenty of options on the lower end of the price spectrum. For just $1.50, choose from an oyster on the half-shell, a jumbo peel & eat shrimp, deviled eggs (you get three halves), tofu fritters (you get two), or a basket of fresh bread. While none of these alone offers a huge portion, it’s a good way to nibble without breaking the bank. The deviled eggs are my personal fave, particularly when you order them spicy and accompanied by a glass of crisp white wine.

For the biggest bang for your buck in this price range, head to Kayo’s Dinner House & Lounge on Monday evening. Starting at 4 p.m., you can get a tasty cheeseburger with fries for just $2.50. The price goes all night through the end of football season. You’ll find cheap deals on other nights of the week as well, including 50-cent oysters on the half-shell Wednesdays and Fridays, and two tacos for $5 on Tuesdays. Their other happy hour prices are pretty reasonable from 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, or hit ladies’ night on Thursdays for happy hour pricing all evening.

Worthy Brewing offers one of the best $3 deals in town on Thursday evenings. Chicken strips with fries or the veggie platter are just two options.
Worthy Brewing offers one of the best $3 deals in town on Thursday evenings. Chicken strips with fries or the veggie platter are just two options.

 

The cheapskate splurge: Grub for $3 to $3.50

The newest brewery on the Bend Ale Trail scene also has one of the best options in town for cheap eats. Head to Worthy Brewing every Thursday at 5 p.m. for their Firkin special. They tap a Firkin (about 10 gallons of beer) and dole out $3 pints and $3 snacks until the Firkin runs dry. These are no wimpy snacks, either. Choose from chicken strips with fries and a choice of dipping sauce, mini corndogs with fries, cheese sticks with marinara, or a crudités plate with dipping sauce. The $3 pricing lasts until the Firkin is empty, which usually takes about two hours.

Another budget-friendly option for grub is the slider menu at Caldera Grille. They have several dozen varieties to pick from, ranging from Hawaiian (ham, pineapple, swiss, and sweet & sour) to BBQ Beef (roast beef & grilled onions smothered in BBQ sauce topped w/smoked cheddar). Ordinarily, the price for two hearty sliders ranges from $4.50 to $5.50, but if you catch them during happy hour from 4-7 p.m. daily, you’ll pay only $3.50 to $4.50. There are 11 varieties at the $3.50 rate, so there’s bound to be something you’ll love. You can check out their entire slider menu here.

Craving something with a bit of Asian flair? Head to Dojo for their delicious happy hour from 4-6 p.m. daily. At the $3 price point, you can get a heaping pile of salted edamame, a hot bowl of miso soup, or my personal favorite, their spicy Thai cucumber salad made with red onion, chili, and cilantro. Their happy hour menu includes a number of tasty items like sushi rolls and sweet potato fries in the $4-$6 range as well, and their delicious coconut martini is always worth a splurge.

Broken Top Bottle Shop is another local hotspot offering some inexpensive options. They specialize in unique, healthy food, with plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free dishes. Grab a cup of their delicious homemade soup for just $3.50, or opt for a single slider for the same price. Flavor combos vary, but recent offerings included a cream of mushroom soup and a slider with grilled zucchini, red pepper, portobello, provolone, and basil pesto. If you’ve got a little extra pocket change, pony up a full $9.50 for a trio of sliders. You can mix and match from the mouthwatering menu.

 

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