Photos and Words by Marisa Kent
The end of the 2013-14 academic year is upon us, and unless you’ve got an incredible amount of restraint, you’ve probably been out of dining points since mid-March. So what’s a burnt out senior to do on a weekday night at 11:30pm, or even a Saturday when all the bars on the usual Allston strip are just too loud and paying more than $5 for anything seems egregious? Fortunately, there is plenty of cheap food available well into the night, provided that you know where to look. A few select BU-area bars mark the secret locations of some of the best gastronomic deals in the city, provided, with one exception, that you’re 21 or older. If you’re a freshman, a sophomore, or a junior whose birthday falls later in the year, you’ll have to wait a while to take advantage of this sacred information, but I guess that’s the price you pay for having at least one more year of rose-tinted collegiate youth ahead of you. Enjoy it!
First up is The Avenue, a low-key bar and restaurant located near the intersection of Harvard Ave. and Comm. Ave. Every night after 10pm, and all day Monday, The Avenue offers $2 burger deals along with its already affordable menu and extensive beer selection. If you’re looking for a wild night on the town, this probably isn’t the place for you- there are plenty of bars a block over on Brighton Avenue for that- but it has a laid-back, chatty atmosphere that lends itself to a relaxing night out. In the words of the guy in the fleece pullover and backwards baseball cap seated at the table next to mine, “this place is so chill. I wish I’d known about it earlier.” And unlike a certain establishment down the road that boasts an oppressive deluge of flat screen TV’s playing clashing ESPN broadcasts and tacky music videos- you know exactly which place I’m talking about- The Avenue keeps its sports broadcasting to a lively two-channel maximum, and if you’re there late enough, may even be playing one of those 30-minute Male Pattern Baldness Solution infomercials. (Those are just great when you’ve got one or two beers in your system.) The place also gets bonus points for playing Nas’ Illmatic in full on my most recent Tuesday night visit.
But onto the burgers! The Avenue prides itself on its burgers- its slogan is “Because Great Burgers Deserve Great Respect”- and rightfully so. And although I may have momentarily bristled at the fact that the $2 burger deal only applies to two of the items on the fairly expansive menu, most of the burgers cost around $5, which is still a pretty good price. (For all you vegetarians and vegans out there, The Avenue does offer a very good veggie burger, but the $2 deal does not apply.) On my most recent visit, I ordered the Avenue Burger, which arrived at our table within two minutes. Despite costing less than half of the price of a Big Mac, it didn’t taste cheap- the meat was just juicy enough, and though the fixings were spare, the signature sauce lent the burger a satisfying aftertaste. It was an ideal 11:30pm burger, greasy enough as to feel like an indulgence but not so much so that I regretted ordering it. The $2 deal proved to be a smart business move, because I ended up ordering two more burgers after that.
On the opposite end of the BU bar-crawl range is The Lower Depths, located right next to Kenmore Square on Comm. Ave. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you’d probably recognize the façade- anyone who’s spent time in East Campus knows the familiar blue sign with white block letters, right next to India Quality. (Have you been to India Quality? Go to India Quality.) Unlike the more popular Allston bars, The Lower Depths is frequented by a largely post-grad crowd, and actually tends to be more crowded on weeknights. It also happens to boast a great food-and-drink selection, including a $1 hot dog special, which applies all day, every day as long as the place is open. The fact that the place is cash-only may initially seem like a mild bummer, but there’s an ATM right outside the front door, so it shouldn’t present much of an issue.
Apparently the name “The Lower Depths” comes from a Maxim Gorky play that was later adapted into a Kurosawa film. Hip!
If you’re under 21 and in desperate need of a $1 hot dog, you’re in luck- before 10pm, all ages are admitted, and even after 10pm, you’re technically allowed in provided you don’t try to sneak in a beer order (the place is fairly small, so the bouncer will be able to keep an eye on you.) The basic condiments come free- everyone who orders a hot dog is presented with a caddy of ketchup, mustard, relish, and hot sauce- and you can also order “Pimp Toppings” like guacamole for an additional fee. To be honest, I was expecting my hot dog to be a standard, almost disappointing affair, the absolute bare minimum put forward for any item on the menu- and for $1, I was fine with that! However, The Lower Depths is serious about its hot dogs, and for a third of the price of the ATM fee I had to pay after realizing I was out of cash, I was served a satisfying, straight-off-your-uncle’s-barbecue frank that was lightly scorched in just the right way. And while The Avenue’s $2 burger deal doesn’t apply to its veggie burgers, beef and veggie dogs alike are provided for just a dollar at The Lower Depths.
BONUS: It’s slightly outside the range of the usual drag, but Silhouette, the place with the huge mural across from Allston’s Burger King, serves unlimited free popcorn to anyone who sits down at the bar. Even better, drinks are absurdly cheap- my Coors Light (I’m weak! Sorry!) only set me back $3.50.
BONUS BONUS: I’ve just been informed that The Avenue serves 25 cent wings every Tuesday. If you’re reading this on a Tuesday, what are you waiting for?