If you go out to the bars often, you have surely lived through the following scenario:
You wake up groggy the morning after a particularly fun night out. The headache that you knew was coming has set up shop inside your skull and as you try to piece the night back together you eventually pick up your wallet and cringe as you look inside to see what is left … “Six dollars??!!??!” you shout in disbelief, “but I had over $200 in there last night!”
One of the main downsides of going out is the cost. And sadly, the more you imbibe, the looser you tend to get with your bankroll. “Shots for everyone!” you are known to shout, as you make it rain bills down upon the bar (the very bills you will be searching for come the morning).
In an effort to help you avoid giving your wallet a beating every time you head out for a night, I am launching a new column. Welcome to My Last $20. Each week I will head to a local bar and see how far I can stretch $20 while still having a great night out.
Here are the rules:
The goal is to spend $20. Sometimes I may be slightly over or slightly under, but not by much.
It’s not always going to be about getting the cheapest thing. While yes, there are many great happy hours out there (and I will likely visit many of them) the focus here will be on enjoyment. If that means getting one truly amazing drink that is rather expensive and then skimping a bit on the food option, so be it. If they have popcorn on the menu for $1 but a really great lobster mac for $6, I’m probably getting the lobster mac. For the most part I’m going with quality over quantity, but you never know — it all depends on what the situation is at each bar. If a place has great live music, amazing atmosphere or a particularly solid quizzo night, those can all be factors as well.
It’s not just dives. The goal is to be able to spend $20 bucks anywhere. It might be a scruffed-up biker bar or a fancy pants casino lounge. My job is to get you in and out without having to wash dishes.
Tax and tip are not included. The tip is up to you, tax is just a part of life, but for the purposes of this column, they don’t exist.
This week I decided to spend my last $20 at … The Iron Room
The Iron Room sits on the outskirts of Atlantic City and is well known for their incredible cocktail program (particularly the bourbon selection, which is by far the best in the city) as well as their menu, which attracts foodies from all over, thanks to a list of incredible dishes dreamed up by Chef Kevin Cronin.
While a traditional night out at The Iron Room is not a cheap affair, they offer a variety of specials throughout the week. If you play your cards right, you can definitely get a lot for a little.
What I got:
I stopped in on a Wednesday after hearing a tip that their list of sandwiches is half price all night on hump day. This turned out to be true and I doubled down on the great deal by coming during their nightly happy hour which runs from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Happy hour features a long list of small plates as well as deals on specific cocktails. I began with a cocktail called “First World Problems” which turned out to be a complex, yet delicious blend of sugar, dram black bitters, angostura, Clement Martinique VSOP and lime. At $7, the price was right.
Next I ordered the truffle mini mac off the small plates menu which features dishes that run from $3-$7. This dish was $7 and well worth it as it is merely a smaller portion of their classic Udon mac and cheese that has been a fan favorite on the menu (and a personal favorite of mine) for years.
Finally for my entrée I selected the Southern fried chicken sandwich), which features a large breaded chicken breast with lettuce, buttermilk chive dressing, sambal and cheddar on a brioche bun. The sandwich was superb, with a nice hint of spice from the sambal and a touch of sweet from the Formica brothers brioche it was served on. Like a much better version of what you might find at Chik-fil-A. Normally $13, this sandwich cost me just $6.50.
The drink, appetizer and entrée came out to a grand total of $20.50. Pretty darn close to $20. Not bad for my first time out.