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Jan 24, 2018
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Cheap Date: Mediterranean Tuesdays at Venice and Vine

April 12th 02:04pm, 2012

Once upon a time, the patio at The Venice Café was the place to be in the up-and-coming Benton Park neighborhood just west of Anheuser-Busch. Hot summer nights swelled with throngs of regulars and first-timers who sipped tall rum and cokes and frosty bottles of Red Stripe while pondering the mismatched, Xanadu-esque décor that transported them out of the Midwest for a few hours. Some came for the eats: massive plates of beef kabobs and jerk chicken pasta. Others arrived to watch the bartenders drop live mice into the snake terrarium behind the upstairs bar. But most came for the live music – and still do. Beginning at 9 p.m., regular groups of local talent – bluegrass, rock and folk bands – let loose on the downstairs main stage. No cover. No credit cards, either, in this wacky paradise, so bring some actual dollars.

To wash down all that free music you’ll be snapping to, take advantage of Venice’s sweet weekday deals. (You know CheapDate loves weekday deals.) When the sun goes down on Tuesdays, Venice treats patrons to an all-night happy hour with obscenely low prices: $1.50 cans, $2.25 A-B beers, $2.50 rail cocktails and $2 shots. No doubt Venice has begun to show her age – crowds have thinned out and the food is but a distant memory. But with stellar specials and psychedelic scenery, St. Louis’ most eclectic hipster hideout remains an underrated nightlife gem.

Though Venice’s kitchen has closed, the good news is the diverse and über-cheap fare of the South Grand strip is within striking distance. Before grabbing a spot at the bar, swing by The Vine Mediterranean Café and Market to partake in traditional Lebanese finger food. The romantic little venue with a bargain basement menu has earned serious street cred among discerning falafel fiends. Shared plates are always a plus. This place is flush with them.

Start out with the Hummus Deluxe for $6, topped with your choice of chicken or beef. Follow with a pair of grilled, pita-wrapped kabob sandwiches. Two standouts are the Sujok ($6), a spicy Lebanese-style burger composed of peppery ground beef, lamb, onions, peppers, tomatoes and pickles, and the Beef and Chicken Shawarma ($6), which pairs slices of marinated chicken and beef with tomatoes, pickles, and tahini or garlic sauce.

By Matt Berkley

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