In an effort to live with more thrift and grace (and because we're cheap), we bring you 10 of our favorite free food finds. Get in the spirit: Swing by the massive cookbook section at the Burton Barr Library on your way home or swipe some citrus from your neighbor's yard (with permission, of course) and you'll really feel like you've hit the big time. Either way, we love feeling treated.
Here are our 10 favorite free restaurant perks around the Valley:
Free Show Ticket with Lunch on Thursdays: Cocina 10 at Crescent Ballroom If you're a music person, direct your Thursday lunch meet up to downtown Phoenix on Second Avenue just north of Van Buren at Cocina 10, the restaurant at Crescent Ballroom. When you eat lunch there on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., you will get a free show ticket, while supplies last. They tell us that the deal is posted either Wednesday evenings or Thursday mornings (sometime before lunch) on the Crescent Ballroom Facebook page.
Here's what we saw posted on January 8 on its Facebook page: "*WOODEN INDIAN * WHISPERLIGHTS * PICKWICK * SUNDRESSED * YOUNG DUBLINERS * SARA ROBINSON AND THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL * MARIA TAYLOR. Eat lunch, get a FREE ticket to a show!!! (11 a.m. to 4 p.m., dine-in only, 1 ticket per lunch, while supplies last)."
Going by this lineup, you'll score tickets ranging in prices from $5 to $20. And lunch won't set you back much, the menu currently features most items between $5 and $10.
Free Full-Size Cookie with Meal: Chino Bandido Takee-Outee Don't worry about bringing your own red pen or having to learn about the short code customers use for ordering at Chino. They try to make things comfortable and judgment-free (they don't even have mirrors in the women's bathroom). First-timers are hand-held through the process with patience and offered several free samples from Mexican/Asian mash-up menu. Even though you probably could fill up on the samples alone, you'll want to order something and you get one of their free full-size cookies. The cookies are posted on the menu board for 70 cents each, but they're given to you for free with your order. That a pretty nice surprise. The sweet and chewy snickerdoodles are always available, and the second choice varies from week to week. What we've seen rotate through the lineup are the chocolate crackle "volcano" cookies heavily rolled in powdered sugar or the more crispy chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin.
Buck and a Quarter Tacos: Tacos Atoyac Street tacos at Tacos Atoyac are a buck and a quarter -- that's it. Everything here is made in-house and has a helluva lot of fans around town, and as you might already know, Tacos Atoyac won the best taco category for Best of Phoenix 2013. Sure, it's the smaller tortillas, but it's a double layer soft shell and you can order as many or as few of them as you like until you're had enough. The tacos are filled with carne asada, al pastor, lengua, chorizo, tripa, or cabeza and are topped with chopped fresh onion and cilantro. The rolled beef or chicken tacos are also set at the same $1.25 price.
Free Shuttle Service From and to Your Home: The Vig Arcadia and The Vig Uptown The Vig takes having fun seriously and we're thankful. If you live within the surrounding neighborhoods of The Vig Uptown or The Vig Arcadia, the Vig Rig (a 12-passenger van) will pick you up and take you home for free on the weekends so that you may celebrate safely.
The current Vig Rig schedule is as follows: For Uptown, it's Friday and Saturday nights only from about 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. to close. For the Arcadia location, it's that same Friday and Saturday schedule as Uptown's, but the Vig Rig also is available on Sundays from about 2 to 10 p.m. when the weather is nice. They tell us that the summer hours will vary with the weather.
To take advantage of this free swanky service, call Mike at 602-328-6334 for The Vig Rig Uptown and Greg at 602-722-5976 for the Vig Rig Arcadia. The drivers do work for tips, so consider spreading some extra weekend happiness with them.
Kids 10 and Under Always Eat Free: St. Francis You might have seen one of the "kids eat free" deals around town -- perhaps at one of the pancake chains -- but if you want your kids to eat free and eat well, take them to St. Francis where the pizza and burgers are made completely in-house -- no dinosaur-shaped nuggets here. Kids 10 and under have a choice of seasonal vegetables with a buttermilk dip, big burger and fries, cheese pizza and salad or chicken with vegetables and potatoes. Tip: The same folks behind St. Francis also own the Phoenix Public Market Café. There, they keep the kids' meals on the inexpensive side ($3) but also give back to the community with each kids' meal purchase. Two meals are donated to the St. Mary's Food Bank backpack program, which distributes backpacks of food on Fridays to hungry kids to eat over the weekend.
Complimentary Mini-Croissants and Small Chef's Choice Dessert at Lunch: Vincent's Market Bistro French flair, sensible portions, and small prices make lunch at the full-service Vincent's Market Bistro an indulgence you can treat yourself to more often than you think. Entrées are between $5 and $10 (most are about $7.50). There also are specials of the day posted that usually are more expensive, but whatever you choose, you get to partake in the free croissants and sweet jam until the main meal arrives. The croissants are small, but you get several of them. And then just when you thought your lunch was finished, your server will surprise you with a little piece of something sweet which might be cake or pot de crème served in a demitasse cup. It's the type of place to take your mom or meet your sweetheart for a midday date.
Free Toy with Kids Scoop: Churn When your kids want you to take them out for ice cream, and you want to pick up a cute little toy, too, think about Churn on Central just north of Camelback in Phoenix. The kid scoops already come with a mini-cone and a free small toy. Lately, we've gotten cool neon bracelets, but we've also brought home a variety of other little doodads. The kids love them because they give them something to play with while you're savoring your own treat out on the back patio.
Free Print Magazine Copies: Edible Phoenix The spring 2014 issue begins the ninth year of publication of Edible Phoenix. The quarterly magazine focuses on farmers and food producers. It's the type of reading material you want to keep on the coffee table and then save on the bookshelf with the rest of your collection. If you pay for a subscription, you're looking at $28 for the four issues, annually. However, you can score one for free. Where, you ask? At the beginning of each season, they're distributed around the Valley, including farms, farmers markets, and restaurants. The list can be found here. But look to get a copy early, as these are picked up pretty quickly. And if you live in southern Arizona, look for the Edible Baja Arizona magazines, too.
Free Meals for your Birthday and on Customer Appreciation Day: Joe's Real BBQ and Joe's Farm Grill We've headed out Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert for years just to get a bite of a smoky barbecue sandwich and lemon cake for our birthday. As you turn another year older, mark your calendar to visit either Joe's Real BBQ or Joe's Farm Grill, where you can spend $10 as you wish at the restaurant. The fine print says you must come on your actual birthday and bring some sort of identification (driver's license or your kid's birth certificate). Additionally, look for annual Customer Appreciation Days (typically the first Wednesday in May), when free meals are offered for lunch. Bonus tip: Free meals up to $10 are also offered to active military in uniform.
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50 Percent Off Gift Certificates: FnB during its Annual "FnGrooveOn" Sale in November The annual 50 percent off gift certificate sale at FnB might be the biggest bang for your buck on this list. It happens in November, and maybe you've already gotten in on this deal, but if not, scribble in a note on your day planner to keep an eye out -- hopefully the restaurant will do it again. Whatever amount you choose to spend -- whether it's $20 or $100 or more -- FnB will write your gift certificate for double the amount. It calls the annual campaign the FnGrooveOn. The place is cute like that. Watch for posts from co-owner Pavle Milic on Facebook or Instagram. You can order only by telephone, and be patient because, believe us, the phone lines can get busy. Your gift certificate is written out by hand and kept in its own file cabinet at the restaurant. The staff will refer to it when the check comes after you've devoured chef Charleen Badman's ever-changing seasonal vegetable-based menu.