So you're really, really broke. We get it—we're journalists. The cheap eats within these pages are inexpensive, sure, but not on a living-the-dream budget. I decided to see if I could eat even more cheaply—and I totally won, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days for just $8.39. Here's how.
Friday, breakfast: PSU sports bar The Cheerful Tortoise (1939 SW 6th Ave., 224-3377, cheerfultortoise.com) offers a breakfast special for $1.99: half a plate of hash browns, an egg (maybe two) and a couple pieces of toast. Everything's got an oily sheen, but it's nothing worse than at your standard greasy spoon.
Friday, lunch: The bizarrely anachronistic Leo's Non-Smoking Coffee Shop (837 SW 11th Ave., 228-1866, cash only) looks like a cross between a doctor's-office waiting room and a 1950s diner. The service is old-school: When I left my seat momentarily, I returned to find a laminated slip of paper reading "Reserved" at my place. The prices, too, are Atomic Age: Nothing on the menu tops $5. Try the egg-salad sandwich ($2.95); with fresh-tasting eggs and zippy mustard, it has a classic, brown-bag charm.
Friday, dinner: During its Aperitivo Happy Hour every Friday evening, Holocene (1001 SE Morrison St., 239-7639, holocene.org) serves free appetizers. The bite-sized dishes are unmistakably mass-produced, but tasty. One recent evening, they included rice salad with refreshing Asian pear, silver-dollar-sized sausages dabbed with snappy mustard and decadently moist apple cake with creme anglaise.
Saturday, breakfast: A plate of scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and bacon at IKEA's cafeteria (10280 NE Cascades Parkway, 282-4532, ikea.com/us/en/store/portland/storeInfo) costs 99 cents. But, as with the Swedish furniture maker's stylishly designed but sloppily constructed home products, looks can be deceiving. The eggs are of some Scandinavian dystopia, more Soylent Green than dairy, while the bacon's texture is reminiscent of accidentally eating a piece of a wrapper.
Saturday, lunch: The banh mi at Binh Minh Bakery (6812 NE Broadway, 257-3868) are $2.50. They aren't the best Vietnamese sandwiches I've had—both the bean curd and the pulled pork come on properly crispy baguettes, but are filled somewhat skimpily—but Binh Minh boasts an uncommonly wide selection.
Saturday, dinner: Tiki karaoke bar the Alibi (4024 N Interstate Ave., 287-5335) serves a free Hawaiian buffet every Saturday at midnight. Load a plate with macaroni, surprisingly well-prepared pulled pork and teriyaki-sauce-coated chicken wings, then order a Singapore Sling—it'll take both kinds of fortification to really sell "I Wanna Dance with Somebody."