Illustration by Adam Vieyra
Much of this issue of CityBeat is devoted to helping readers find the best-tasting meal for their buck. But what about the readers who don't give a rancid meatloaf about taste and only care about shaving pennies—like so much gyro meat—off the monthly food budget? Well, we can help there, too, with this list of venues where (though it may require a little deception and minor ideological compromises) you can eat like a king. Well, at least like the King of Deadbeats.
Art openings: Next to Marcel Duchamp's infamous submission of a urinal to the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibition, the second greatest development in modern art was the big chain grocery stores' creation of those big plastic appetizer plates. Each week, a handful of galleries open their doors to patrons, offering small meals in exchange for a few nods and hums. After all, the experience of mixed-media collage using found objects is totally enriched by cheddar cheese cubes and plastic cups of red wine.
Church socials: Recently on Larry King Live, a pastor from West Virginia exclaimed: “Gluttony is really the only one of the seven deadly sins that is widely accepted in the church.” That's great news, right? We won't be so crass as to recommend church-hopping to fill your stomach with the wafer-thin flesh of Christ, but we will point out that organized religion loves to lure with lunches. Take San Diego's Christian City Church, aka C3: In a recent YouTube video, a buff evangelical pumps his free spirituality courses with the offer of his wife's nacho chili dip. O Father, fart in heaven!
Blood banks: Speaking of turning blood into wine: Usually after a good Samaritan donates blood—say, through one of the eight San Diego Blood Bank centers—the medical staff offers free juice and snacks to help alleviate the faint-headedness. Of course, emptying the veins to fill the stomach is kind of like that Stephen King story where the shipwrecked surgeon shoots himself up with heroin, then eats his own limbs to survive.
Political events: It's not really kosher for candidates to pay voters directly for their support, but it's a perfectly acceptable notion that the quickest way to the ballot box is through the citizen's stomach. Many events aimed at the general public are free (county supervisor candidate Juan del Rio was dishing out tamales, beans and rice last Sunday), but the really classy food usually comes with a minimum contribution price tag (usually between $500 and $2,300). Here's how you get around that: Show up and immediately ask for the donation envelope, stuff it with a blank piece of paper, seal the sucker, return it and chow down like Bill Clinton on a jog.
Free samples: Walk a few laps around a mall's food court and you can collect enough toothpicked chicken slices to make your own teriyaki bowl. Grocery stores—particularly Sam's Club, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's—are also prime spots for sample dispersal. If you collect it all in a Tupperware, then shake it all about, you've got what we like to call “Hobo salad.”
Shoplifting: We are not recommending you purchase a pregnancy costume like something out of a Jane's Addiction video, but the point's still valid: The main consequence of stealing food is receiving more free food, albeit from the San Diego County Sheriff's food service division. (And for more on that, please see Page 10.)