Quest for the Best: Free birthday meal

Banana pudding cheesecake at STIR. (Photo: Staff)

Authored By melisefrey

What’s the seasoning that makes every food on earth taste better? Freeness!

The older I get, the more I have come to appreciate free things.

After suffering through a 45-hour workweek, the thought of spending my hard-earned cash on everyday necessities just feels wrong. Thus my love of free stuff has increased, and that goes double for free food.

Because my birthday was just last week, I focused this month’s quest on the places that offer free birthday treats and meals.

This article is a slight departure from my usual, as I’m not comparing similar dishes from place to place, just the overall value of birthday food gifts. I’ve also included popular chain restaurants so that you can maximize your food fun.

There are a ton of local restaurants that offer free desserts to help you celebrate the next time your birthday comes around.

My favorites include the key lime pie at Public House and the changing dessert menu at Il Primo. There’s also 1885 Grill, 212 Market, Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar and Boccaccia Ristorante Italiano, which each offer an on-the-house dessert, typically with the purchase of an entrée, on your actual day of birth. 

And you can make the sugar high last even in the days following your birthday by signing up for the mailing lists at Ben & Jerry’s (free scoop of ice cream), Panera Bread (free bakery item) and P.F. Chang’s (free appetizer or dessert).

This year, I also somehow lucked into getting a free dessert at Stir. Maybe I just looked sad and in need of cheering up, but I was able to try their amazingly smooth and lightly sweet banana pudding cheesecake. While it’s not free (most of the time), it is delicious and easily worth the regular price.

Slightly more elusive than the birthday dessert is an entire free birthday meal. These restaurants give the gift of a few extra pounds to go along with your latest trip around the sun.

Some of the most noteworthy deals include BiBa’s Italian Restaurant ($10 off a meal-I suggest the shrimp Parmesan with a side of their housemade alfredo), Boccaccia (free pasta and dessert with purchase of entrée of greater or equal value), Provino’s Family Italian Restaurant (free pasta specialty dinner, salad, garlic rolls and dessert), Big River Grille & Brewing Works and Bluewater Grille (buy one, get one free entrée at each) and Mojo Burrito (free burrito, chips and drink).  

With most of these, you can simply walk in and show your ID; however, Big River and Bluewater require an email sign-up.

This year, I celebrated with both Big River and Mojo Burrito.

I used Big River’s buy-one-get-one coupon as an opportunity to try a couple of dishes I wouldn’t normally order. I picked the brewhouse chicken and barbecue chicken pizza. The cheddar mashed potatoes that accompanied the chicken were excellent, with just a hint of intriguing sweetness. Unfortunately, the chicken itself was a little too charred for my taste.

The barbecue pizza, on the other hand, was perfect. The beer-infused dough wasn’t too thin or too thick, and the sweet barbecue sauce mixed with the salty toppings made for a unique and downright addictive dish.

One great thing about Big River’s deal is that you can use it in the days before or after your birthday if you sign up in time. 

Personally, I was most impressed with Mojo Burrito in terms of value and experience. They let me order anything I wanted off the menu and even added in free chips and a drink. Not only did I get a complete and free meal, but the staff was extremely friendly and everyone told me happy birthday down the burrito-building line.

If you don’t require a super-fancy birthday dinner, Mojo’s mouthwatering food and relaxed atmosphere will definitely put you in a good mood. If there has to be a winner, Mojo has my vote by a nose.      

Oh, and I also swung by Firehouse Subs to get a free sub for the next day’s lunch. I recommend you do the same.

I hope this list helps you have a gut-busting birthday and fills you up for several days thereafter. If you have any additions to this list, please comment below!  

Meagan Frey has lived most of her life in Chattanooga but has traveled all over the country sampling regional cuisines. She enjoys cooking, eating, writing and exploring in various combinations. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.