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Free food in Boston?

Bob Dobalina Jan 3, 2008 08:42 AM

Was responding to another thread and recalled that when you order a sandwich at Falafel King on Winter Street, almost always you'll get handed a falafel dipped in hummus while your sandwich is prepared...yum!

Also, the apparent trend at the Brookline Pomodoro to give everyone a free dessert. (At least it seems to happen with some regularity).

Also, I don't think they still do it, but Namaskar in Davis used to start everyone off with a little non-alcoholic sweet appertif that had threads of saffron in it.

So free, sampled, customarily comped - where do you get free goodies at places in Boston?

(I guess the amuse bouche genre counts could be mentioned too, although I am thinking something that is not necessarily advertised/expected. Bar snacks I think definitely qualify too.)

  1. p
    pattycpatty Jan 9, 2008 07:59 AM

    Cheese spread and ritz crackers at Dandelion Green in Burlington. One half head of garlic, olive oil and dipping bread at Vinnie Testa's in Arlington. Peanuts at Pizza Uno bar in Porter Square, Cambridge.

    1. pamalamb Jan 9, 2008 06:53 AM

      La Voile has some really light fried puffs if you order a drink at the bar, and a lovely amuse buche before dinner, including some fantastic salami and one of the best Caprese-inspired bites I've had in a long time.

      1. b
        betta Jan 8, 2008 04:41 PM

        Fruit with the check at Vinny's at Night.

        1. a
          AnneM Jan 5, 2008 05:05 PM

          TV Diner (Billy Costa) had Roger Berkowitz tonight. Apparantly because it's National Soup Month (something like that) Legal Sea Food is giving out free chowder on Jan 15 at certain locations, not all.

          3 Replies
          1. re: AnneM
            SeaSide Tomato Jan 6, 2008 06:18 AM

            How abpout the tasty apple drink at the bar at Eastern Standard--crisp!

            1. re: SeaSide Tomato
              MC Slim JB Jan 6, 2008 07:09 AM

              I haven't had that one. Is it free?

              1. re: MC Slim JB
                SeaSide Tomato Jan 9, 2008 07:16 PM

                Hi ---I can't say that it always is free, but we--two of us who grew to a group of 6-- were given small glasses of it from the friendly barkeep. So tasty. I did ask what was in it and, since it was a few weeks ago--and maybe also because it was the first of a few other drinks:) --I can't recall the exact mix. I believe it was an apple-infused vodka, apple brandy and something else. This was not like the ubiquitous sour apple martini. It was clear and apple-y and great!

                This was the Friday night before Christmas, so may be it was a little gift in the "spirit" (pun intended) of the season and not usually free--I assumed it was always so.

          2. k
            katielp Jan 5, 2008 04:31 PM

            Noir at the Charles hotel sometimes give us free mixed nuts/trail mix (they're really good--with cranberries and wasabi peas).
            Trader Joe's usually has little paper cups with samples of something--soup, tortellini, bean burrito--it can be almost anything, and you can take several.
            Last time I went to the Neighborhood for breakfast they gave me so many additional/unordered things that it felt like they were free--cream of wheat, small glass juice, etc.
            Maybe not what you had in mind, but Starbucks are pretty good about giving out free samples of both food and drink, especially their newest concoctions.

            1. Eatin in Woostah Jan 5, 2008 04:38 PM

              Back in my poor post-college days in Waltham, we'd go to the Iguana Cantina. $5 would buy four $1 dollar drafts (Busch) with a $1 tip and all of the free chips and salsa we could eat.

              These days, I love the sweet hot tea (ginseng?) served at the end of the meal at Koreana, as well as the fantastic assortment of pickles/kimchee.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                f
                fbf242 Jan 5, 2008 05:06 PM

                Iguana Cantina has free, unlimited tacos on Thursday nights with the purchase of a drink.

                On that topic, I heard a rumor that Iguana Cantina is closing... anyone know more?

                1. re: fbf242
                  l
                  LStaff Jan 7, 2008 06:49 AM

                  After the enchilada's I had there a few weeks ago, I wouldn't be surprised. Seems like the fillings (chicken and beef) were prepackaged, heated up in a microwave and thrown in a tortilla. Gordon Ramsey needs to save this place from itself. The vegetable one tasted like cardboard. Only saving grace was the strong margaritas.

              2. s
                smf48 Jan 4, 2008 02:58 PM

                Oreo cookies at the bar at the Sail Loft -- had them a few weeks ago (pre-New Year's diet). A yummy treat, especially after many drinnks!

                1 Reply
                1. re: smf48
                  p
                  phatchris Jan 5, 2008 04:41 AM

                  The little cast iron pot filled with eggplant, tomatos, olives, and capers at Marco that they serve with the bread.

                2. ScubaSteve Jan 4, 2008 08:05 AM

                  does Mortons (BB) still do the free steak sammiches during happy hour?

                  1. gini Jan 4, 2008 07:19 AM

                    Fomaggio in Huron has an awesome assortment of cheeses, olives, baked goods and crackers on all occasions. Their wine tastings are also great.

                    1. b
                      Bostonbob3 Jan 4, 2008 07:08 AM

                      Savenor's almost always has free samples at the checkout counter (usually new items they're putting in stock: breads, cookies, cheeses, etc.).

                      Also, haven't been in a while, but Grill 23 always had their fab homemade potato chips free at the bar.

                      1. DavisSquare Jan 4, 2008 06:31 AM

                        Dave's Fresh Pasta always has samples out; usually 4 or 5 cheeses, breads and olive oils, olives, and some kind of spread. Often they also have little cookie bits near the register and they always have free hot (hot hot) cherry peppers at the register. My daughter likes to come with me just for the free samples.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: DavisSquare
                          m
                          maryv Jan 4, 2008 06:35 PM

                          Plus, free wine on Friday and Saturday afternoons last summer!

                          1. re: maryv
                            b
                            Blumie Jan 4, 2008 07:26 PM

                            Since giving away alcohol is illegal in Mass., I suspect you just don't remember having paid for it. ; )

                            http://www.mass.gov/abcc/education/ed...

                            1. re: Blumie
                              ScubaSteve Jan 5, 2008 05:12 AM

                              be that as it may, i've been comp'ed drinks at many places and know of several liquor stores that offer free samples during tasting events.

                              1. re: Blumie
                                DavisSquare Jan 5, 2008 05:25 AM

                                IANL (and you are!), but Dave's along with much bigger places like Trader Joe's often have wine tastings. There must be some exception to the law for tastings. I suspect that c. 138, § 12 you reference is only for bars/restaurants and that package stores (like Dave's and TJ's) are licensed under a different section which allows tastings. Right?

                                Also, it's not just in the summer. Dave's has wine tastings about once a week, I think, all year round. You'd be amazed at how many people say no to a free wine sample.

                                1. re: DavisSquare
                                  b
                                  Blumie Jan 5, 2008 10:01 AM

                                  There is an exception for tastings, and if that's all it is, it's generally permitted.

                                  "As of September 1, 2001, only wine tasting and malt beverages tasting (or so-called "beer tasting") are authorized by Massachusetts law. These wine tastings and malt beverages tastings can only be held at premises licensed under Section 15 ("package stores") or restaurants, hotels or function halls licensed under Section 12. Each wine tasting or malt beverages tasting event must be conducted in full compliance with the conditions set by the state Liquor Control Act."

                                2. re: Blumie
                                  m
                                  mvi Jan 5, 2008 07:44 AM

                                  Slightly different here but a couple of the hotels I stay in when I visit Boston have some "free" things and it's not limited to the paying guest. One gives away wine in the evening. As the person in the room, I know I am indirectly paying for this, but my guests get it free. And there's no limit. The lobby gets pretty noisy at this time but you can always bring your wine up to the room.

                            2. soxchik Jan 4, 2008 04:22 AM

                              At Sound Bites (my FAVORITE breakfast place) you usually get a free fruit salad plate at breakfast if you are a regular. I'm not sure about other times of day since I'm generally only there for breakfast. I don't think it takes much to become a regular there either, the owner seems to have an exceptional memory of his customers.

                              1. h
                                hargau Jan 3, 2008 10:11 PM

                                Remember the 99 used to give free bright orange cheese type product spread with wheat thin like crackers? They now charge you for that But they will still give you popcorn.

                                Id say most of the responses are not truly "free food". I mean if your going someplace and paying $50-100 per person and you get a single bay scallop on a toothpick is this really free? Funny the power of the word or idea of "free".. I know of websites that offer "free shipping" yet charge 2x the price for the items then others where you have to pay $10-12 for shipping. Yet people go bonkers for the free shipping idea, paying hundreds of dollars more to get it....Same idea.

                                Is the Pickles/peppers condiment bar at Firefly's free? Or is this calculated/added into each meal. Perhaps all meals could be $1 less if they removed it?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: hargau
                                  hiddenboston Jan 4, 2008 05:04 AM

                                  You can still get that nasty-looking blob of orange cheese stuff with crackers for free at The Winthrop Arms in Winthrop.

                                  I just remembered one of my favorite free items; Donohue's in Watertown gives you unlimited bowls of unshelled roasted peanuts for free, though sometimes you have to remind them, especially on a busy night. The only downside is, well, it's unlimited, which in my case is the kiss of death. [Think Homer Simpson at Captain McAllister's all-you-can-eat buffet. ("'Tis no man. 'Tis a remorseless eating machine.")] Needless to say, I don't eat a whole lot the day after hitting Donohue's.

                                  1. re: hiddenboston
                                    Bob Dobalina Jan 4, 2008 05:15 AM

                                    lol....love the Simpson's quote. I am always on the lookout for "floor pie."

                                    On the other side of Watertown, Halfway Cafe has free popcorn.

                                    Thanks for all the responses. :D

                                  2. re: hargau
                                    Prav Jan 4, 2008 07:03 AM

                                    Well, you know what any good economist says, TANSTAFL. :)

                                  3. p
                                    pollystyrene Jan 3, 2008 08:55 PM

                                    Fortune cookies! (At your local American-Chinese eatery, and with ever more foreboding fortunes.) Maybe the gift of canned pineapple is still bestowed at some of these, too.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: pollystyrene
                                      MC Slim JB Jan 3, 2008 09:15 PM

                                      That reminds me: Myers + Chang gives a little comp dessert with every meal. I've had cookies, sorbet, a little bit of fresh fruit, a pudding-y thing, a salt macaroon. The don't do dessert otherwise; it's a nice little freebie.

                                      1. re: pollystyrene
                                        Prav Jan 4, 2008 07:02 AM

                                        Don't forget the inclusion of dinner rolls with some of the old school Americanized Chinese places like the one I lived by in Eastie. Seems to be a Boston tradition.

                                        1. re: pollystyrene
                                          h
                                          heWho Jan 4, 2008 07:15 AM

                                          I had some canned pineapple at Kowloon last night.

                                          As for why I was at Kowloon.... a co-worker leaving the area had to "see it to believe it" before he left. I will say though, had Saugus Wings for the first time and man they were really tasty.

                                        2. m
                                          mmocpi Jan 3, 2008 07:15 PM

                                          Popovers at Anthony's Pier 4 (they also have bean salad and green salad which comes with all meals)

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: mmocpi
                                            m
                                            mmocpi Jan 3, 2008 07:23 PM

                                            correction, marinated mushrooms, not bean salad
                                            p.s. Since Jimmy's is gone, Anthony's now steps in as the place to bring the old folks. In my opinion, their quality has gone up in recent years. And those hot popovers ... can't beat 'em!

                                          2. k
                                            kweesee Jan 3, 2008 07:12 PM

                                            BUTCHER SHOP gives you bread (which is average) but i LOVE the honey and butter they give you to spread on it. my bf and i always get more than 1 extra servings.

                                            1. s
                                              Scruffy The Cat Jan 3, 2008 07:08 PM

                                              I was offered (and happily accepted) a free fresh baguette after I completed my purchase at John Dewar's in Newton today. It was a lovely loaf, so good that I almost ran back to find out who had baked it. Great crust and crumb, with a well-rounded malty flavor that indicates a good, slow rise. Mmmm. They also offered jelly beans and some of those foil-wrapped christmas chocolate balls, but somehow that didn't appeal quite as much. ;-)

                                              I couldn't figure out why they were giving them away and forgot to ask. But I'll be back, and maybe that alone was the reason for the freebie.

                                              1. Prav Jan 3, 2008 01:04 PM

                                                Don't forget the various Korean restaurants that provide banchan (side dishes - a deliciously varied spread of pickles, if you're at the right place) with your meal.

                                                1. b
                                                  Blumie Jan 3, 2008 11:40 AM

                                                  Perhaps not what you had in mind, but don't forget the free samples at Costco. You can make a meal out of them! Be careful of getting run over by one of those oversized Costco carts, though; Costco patrons go crazy when a new platter of samples is put out.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Blumie
                                                    hiddenboston Jan 3, 2008 11:42 AM

                                                    Do they give free samples of their hot dogs? Their franks are really good!

                                                    1. re: hiddenboston
                                                      b
                                                      Blumie Jan 3, 2008 11:44 AM

                                                      No, but at $1.50 for the jumbo Hebrew Nats, with unlimited soda refills, they might as well be free.

                                                      1. re: hiddenboston
                                                        e
                                                        edgewater Jan 4, 2008 02:35 AM

                                                        Funny, you should say that. Julia Child always liked the hot dogs @ Costco.

                                                      2. re: Blumie
                                                        e
                                                        EllenMM Jan 4, 2008 06:40 AM

                                                        You're referring to the "vultures" my daughter so loves to see in action when we shop there. You'd think there were major food shortages in the area.

                                                      3. g
                                                        Gabatta Jan 3, 2008 11:36 AM

                                                        We eat at Douzo a lot, and generally get an complementary app from the sushi bar. It varies from visit to visit.

                                                        Pickles and pickled veggies at ECG for everyone.

                                                        1. p
                                                          patiofixture Jan 3, 2008 09:46 AM

                                                          Maybe the Pomodoro people like giving out free stuff. The one in Boston doesn't do dessert. But a couple of times, after longer than expected waits outside on cold days, the waitress has brought out calmari and marinara to eat on the sidewalk.

                                                          1. Prav Jan 3, 2008 09:42 AM

                                                            I don't think this counts, but sometimes my roommates bring back leftover pizza from Pizza Republic at the end of the day. ;) It's discarded with the understanding that people regularly come pick it up.

                                                            Okay, that definitely doesn't count. Haha.

                                                            1. ScubaSteve Jan 3, 2008 09:23 AM

                                                              does the bacon fat and rye bread at Cafe Polonia count?
                                                              MMmmmMMMmmm bacon fat.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: ScubaSteve
                                                                hiddenboston Jan 3, 2008 10:26 AM

                                                                I forgot about the fat with the bread at Cafe Polonia. There's nothing quite like spreading a big gob of fat on a piece of bread...good one, ScubaSteve!

                                                                1. re: hiddenboston
                                                                  f
                                                                  FoolForFood Jan 3, 2008 12:18 PM

                                                                  What about the bagel chips/garlic cream cheese at Zaftig's?

                                                              2. h
                                                                heWho Jan 3, 2008 09:22 AM

                                                                Ivy used to give free cones of gelato (more like ice cream) at the end of meals. I don't know if they still do.

                                                                South End Fromaggio always has great free cheese samples available

                                                                Less favorable, but....
                                                                Panera - free bite size bread samples
                                                                Fresh City (which I loathe) gives free cinammon pita chips

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: heWho
                                                                  m
                                                                  maryv Jan 3, 2008 03:59 PM

                                                                  Bread samples at When Pigs Fly in Davis Square, too.

                                                                  1. re: maryv
                                                                    b
                                                                    bak Jan 5, 2008 09:04 AM

                                                                    I didn't know there was When Pigss Fly in Davis Square, I stop on my way to visit my sister in Maine at the one in Kittery, do they have the same varity of breads as Maine?

                                                                    1. re: bak
                                                                      m
                                                                      maryv Jan 5, 2008 05:41 PM

                                                                      The Davis Square store is only about a month old. I think they have the same variety as the Maine stores. Lots of different kinds of bread, plus a few olive oils and jellies and things.

                                                                2. Aromatherapy Jan 3, 2008 09:19 AM

                                                                  The bean salad at Turkish Family. The chickpea salad or braised gizzards at J&J (Somerville). Both are quite filling--maybe more so for the lone diner than for a party. Fried wonton skins with sweet-sour sauce and a little dish of slaw at East Asia.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Aromatherapy
                                                                    MC Slim JB Jan 3, 2008 09:33 AM

                                                                    How could I forget the fasooleeye piaz at Brookline Family? That's one of the best dishes there, and a ridiculous portion, for free. I always have to remind myself not to fill up on it. A really wonderful salad.

                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                      c
                                                                      Cork Jan 7, 2008 11:01 AM

                                                                      Everything at the Brookline Family resto is delicious - the bean salad (a nice big plate, even for two) is a great hint of what is to come....

                                                                  2. MC Slim JB Jan 3, 2008 09:19 AM

                                                                    Do bread baskets count?

                                                                    I was one admirer of the truffled popcorn at Om, but I wonder if that will continue now that the original chef is out. A very bad sign for that place.

                                                                    The bar at Brasserie Jo offers an excellent crudite of julienned carrots in vinaigrette in addition to excellent baguette and butter.

                                                                    Union Bar and Grille does that superb mini-skillet of cornbread, also with excellent butter.

                                                                    Sage does foccaccia with a very fine fresh-tomato sauce, almost like a romesco.

                                                                    Garlic/white bean dip with good bread at the Franklin Cafe.

                                                                    At Taberna de Haro, I often get comped a plate of patatas ali oli, a cold, garlicky potato salad, and a very typical free tapa in Spanish tabernas. But I've been going there a long time; I don't think everyone gets this.

                                                                    Free sangria at Angela's, the only way they can serve it without a license.

                                                                    Hardboiled eggs at the bars of the B-Side, Brasserie Jo, and at least one other place that escapes me just now.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                      k
                                                                      kt1969 Jan 3, 2008 12:04 PM

                                                                      Actually, I've always gotten that free "potato salad" at Taberna de Haro also, and I'm not really a regular, so I assume everyone gets it. And it's YUMMY! :)

                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                        finlero Jan 3, 2008 02:12 PM

                                                                        Love that crudite at Brasserie Jo and, along similar lines, the pickles at East Coast Grill.

                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                          k
                                                                          kweesee Jan 3, 2008 07:11 PM

                                                                          the bread @ petit robert bistro is REALLY REALLY good. they import it from montreal

                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                            Joanie Jan 4, 2008 06:57 AM

                                                                            No eggs at the B Side when I was there two Saturdays ago.

                                                                            Did anyone mention popcorn at the Halfway Cafe?

                                                                            1. re: Joanie
                                                                              d
                                                                              DanInCambridge Jan 4, 2008 11:41 AM

                                                                              Eggs(and condiments) at the bar at BSide when I was there 2 weeks ago. Maybe just a weeknight thing.

                                                                              1. re: DanInCambridge
                                                                                litchick Jan 8, 2008 06:13 PM

                                                                                I love those free eggs! They have them at Gaslight's bar as well.

                                                                          2. hiddenboston Jan 3, 2008 09:09 AM

                                                                            We received free drinks (including a beer) at China Pearl in Quincy a couple of weeks ago, but my GF thought it was because we had been talking about my Web site a bit too loudly. ;-b

                                                                            I can't think of too many free items off the top of my head other than the usual items (bread, tortilla chips, crackers, etc.). I do know that Armando's in Cambridge gives out free cookies to children, but the rest of us get nothing (except for great pizza!).

                                                                            1. ScubaSteve Jan 3, 2008 09:07 AM

                                                                              i like the mushroom soup starter you get at The Kebab Factory.

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