Happy Hour Freebies: Schroeder's

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San Francisco has a longstanding tradition of bars offering free food to customers. In the hard-drinking Victorian era, the "free lunch" was a staple of the city's saloons. By the 1970s, the free buffets had shifted to happy hour, and poor SF State and City College students flocked to places such as the Iron Pot (torn down for a high-rise office building) and the Assay Office (now the far-from-free Bix), where they could get an ample dinner for the price of one beer.

These days, free food is hard to find. One place that keeps up this noble tradition is Schroeder's (240 Front). On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 4-6pm, happy hour customers can help themselves from a rotating selection of appetizers, usually including delicious spicy meatballs, decent garlic fries, and edible fried chicken, while enjoying selected German draft or bottled beers at reduced prices.

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The place is worth a visit anyway for its campy-retro-Bavarian atmosphere. Schroeder's has been in its present location since 1959, but some of the furnishings, which include elaborate beer steins and taxidermized deer heads, were brought over from the previous location and date back to the early 1900s. The goofy Herman Richter murals depicting German drinking scenes were painted in 1932 and restored in 1998 by David Boysel.

Know of any other happy hour freebies? E-mail me, please!

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