By Juliet Farmer

Thanks to the recession, everyone is looking for ways to stretch their dollars these days. In a healthy economy, most partiers won’t bat an eye at dropping $100 for a night on the town. But nowadays? I don’t think so! Luckily, Sacramento offers plenty of spots to spend your night—complete with food, drink and merriment—without spending your whole paycheck. There’s a walk-able few block in Curtis Park, an area of Midtown that’s spread out yet worth the drive (or long walk), a night that start downtown and ends in Old Sacramento, some Land Park spots in close proximity, and a gallery-filled stretch of Midtown. Here are the top options for a $30 night out.
Hideaway Bar & Grill/Gunther’s Ice Cream/Coffee Garden
2565 Franklin Blvd./2801 Franklin Blvd./2904 Franklin Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95818

Photo Credit: Juliet Farmer

The Hideaway Bar & Grill has happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Unique menu items include fried pickles ($5), friend green tomatoes ($7), chips and gravy ($6), fried mushrooms ($6), and beet salad ($7). Plus, daily drink specials allow you to stretch your dollar. When you’ve had your fill of food and drink, head to Gunther’s Ice Cream Shop for a scoop of Birthday Cake (my fave) for $2.60, then head across the street to Coffee Garden for free open mic night (every Thursday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.).

Insider tip: Gunther’s closes at 10 p.m., so plan accordingly.

R15/Old Ironsides/Townhouse Lounge
1431 R Street/1901 10th Street/1517 21st Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Photo Credit: Juliet Farmer

If you’re out on Saturday night, start at R15’s happy hour (from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily) featuring $2 wells and domestics, $3 house cab and chardonnay, $8 pitchers, and appetizer specials such as $3 fries or Thai noodle salad, $4 quesadillas or Angus sliders, $5 cheese pizetta, and $6 pepperoni pizetta. Then, get ready to dance the rest of the night away at Old Ironsides, where a $5 cover will get you into Lipstick, the best dance spot in Sacramento on the first Saturday of the month starting at 10 p.m., or Fascination on the second Saturday of the month starting at 9:30 p.m.

Insider tip: If you’re out on Wednesday evening, head to Townhouse Lounge for free 80s night!

Il Fornaio/River City Saloon
400 Capitol Mall/916 2nd Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Photo Credit: River City Saloon

Il Fornaio offers free (yes, free!) appetizers during their happy hour Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. And we’re not talking lame stuff—this is good food, including pizzas, bruchetta, fried cheese balls, salami, pasta, and more, as well as drink specials. Once you’ve filled up on food and drink, head to River City Saloon in Old Sacramento for karaoke on Fridays from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Insider tip: Il Fornaio validates parking for two hours if you park in the attached garage.
Riverside Clubhouse/Avid Reader/Tower Cafe
2633 Riverside Blvd./1518 Broadway/1600 Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95818

Photo Credit: Juliet Farmer

Riverside Clubhouse has not one but two happy hours, one from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the other from 10 p.m. –to12 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Their happy hour fare includes 12 appetizers, with prices starting at $4. Enjoy crispy calamari, taco spring rolls, and lobster fritters, and wash them down with a beer (bottles are $3.50 to $4, drafts $4.50). Wednesday nights from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., tacos are a mere $1 each, and their perfect pairing, Coors Light, is $2 each. Fridays from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. are Mojito nights, where a splurge-worthy pitcher will set you back just $12. Next, head over to Avid Reader (open until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday) and peruse the magazines, books and such, then cross the street to Tower Café for something sweet to eat (Tower closes at 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday).
Luigi’s Slice/Various Galleries/Rick’s Dessert Diner/The Golden Bear
1050 20th Street #150/2322 K Street/2326 K Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Photo Credit: Route 40 Diner

On any given Second Saturday, I like to start my night at Luigi’s Slice, where for less than $5, I can fill up on a huge piece of pizza before walking it off at local galleries, such as Axis Gallery (1517 19th Street), Kennedy Gallery (1114 20th Street), MAIYA Gallery (2220 J Street), and Gallery 2110 (2110 K Street). After perusing the local art scene, I cap off the night with a sweet treat at Rick’s Dessert Diner, or, if the mood strikes, a nightcap at The Golden Bear next door.
Juliet Farmer was born and raised in Sacramento, where she resides with her husband, two cats, and rescued greyhound. She is a freelance writer who regularly writes about food, pets, health and wellness, entertainment, and more.