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Free food in Boston?

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.)

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

    1. 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. 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

          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

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

            1. re: MC Slim JB

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

              1. re: MC Slim JB

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

                Did anyone mention popcorn at the Halfway Cafe?

                1. re: Joanie

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

                  1. re: DanInCambridge

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

              2. 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

                  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

                    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. 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

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

                    1. re: maryv

                      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

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

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                      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

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

                    2. 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. 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. 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. 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

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

                              1. re: hiddenboston

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

                                1. re: hiddenboston

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

                                2. re: Blumie

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

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: mmocpi

                                          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. 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

                                            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

                                              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

                                                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. 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

                                                  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

                                                    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

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

                                                  3. 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. 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

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

                                                        1. re: maryv

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


                                                          1. re: Blumie

                                                            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

                                                              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, ยง 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

                                                                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

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

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

                                                                1. 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

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

                                                                  2. 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

                                                                      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

                                                                        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. 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. 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

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

                                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                              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. Fruit with the check at Vinny's at Night.

                                                                          1. 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. 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.