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Lowering the Bar: 5 Places to Drink For Cheap (or Free) This Week

Each week, we bring you our top picks for the best places to booze on the cheap in SF.

1. Ana Mandara's Anniversary: Ana Mandara, the Vietnamese fusion restaurant tucked away in Ghirardelli Square, isn't known to many non-tourists in this town. The impressively huge and done-up space will provide a great backdrop to its tenth-anniversary celebration: purchase one of a number of $10 entrees, including lobster ravioli, Vietnamese dumplings, and barbeque shrimp with garlic noodles, and they'll throw in a free beer, glass of wine, or house specialty cocktail. Don't let the tourists have all the fun. (Daily through April 30th, 5:30-10 pm, at Ana Mandara, 891 Beach St., North Beach.)

2. SF Vintner's Market: Everyone moves out to San Francisco with dreams of spending lazy weekends wine-tasting in Napa, but the need to drive a car afterwards tends to throw a wrench into those plans. Any event where the wines come to us-- and where Muni can take us home-- is music to our ears, so we're excited about this weekend's SF Vintner's Market, where over 300 wineries will sample and sell their wares, all from the comfort of Fort Mason. But that's not all. Our friends at Drink Me magazine have extended a $10 discount to LTB readers, making a day of tasting a mere $20. Sign up here, and be sure to pace yourself. (Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11, 12-4 pm, at Fort Mason.)

3. Hop Dog Happy Hour: Marcia Gagliardi, better known to SF foodies as the Tablehopper, has been cutting a wide swath through the foodie social scene as she celebrates the release of her first book. A team-up with CUESA has led to this inspired event: $15 buys you four hot dogs (from Absinthe's Jamie Lauren, 4505's Ryan Farr, Show Dogs, and Da Beef) and four cocktails (made by bartenders from 15 Romolo, Alembic, Range, and Absinthe). Hot dog, indeed. (Wednesday, April 14, 6-8 pm, at the Ferry Building, 101 The Embarcadero.)

4. Blue Jay Cafe Specials: Not to be outdone by the competitive Divisadero beer wars that have most places on the strip offering $2-3 drafts, Blue Jay Cafe now has a different special six days a week. Monday brings half-price drinks all night, Tuesday is $1 PBRs, Wednesday gets you a free second side dish with any order, Thursday boasts $2 sangria, Saturday has 2-for-1 mimosas at brunch, and Sunday is just like Saturday, except with bloody marys. And all that's on top of their daily happy hour, when drinks are half off and kids eat free. Whew. (Specials almost-daily, happy hour daily from 5:30-7, at Blue Jay Cafe, 919 Divisadero St., NOPA/Western Addition.)

5. House of Shields, Anytime: The long-running House of Shields may be in ownership turmoil, but that didn't prevent Broke-Ass Stuart's crack team of cheapskates from enjoying $4 well drinks and $2 PBRs on a recent trip to the venue. Those aren't happy hour prices, they're just prices, and the combination of conference attendees, Financial District escapees, and colorful neighborhood residents usually ensures a good time. Dennis Leary, if you're reading this, we hope you'll keep the party going. (Daily at House of Shields, 39 New Montgomery St., SOMA.)