It may be true that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but if it is your birthday — and you live in the Twin Cities — it’s remarkably easy to find a free dessert, and even the odd cocktail if you look for it.
Actually, what’s true is this: If you are willing to join a loyalty club and like a good chain once and a while, it’s possible to get all sorts of comestibles for free at places like Red Robin, Noodles & Co., and Famous Dave’s. Hell, you might even get that lunch. However, we narrowed our scope to the locally grown eateries and found, to our great delight, a surprising number of freebies, though their generosity be limited to desserts.
So here, for your birthday pleasure, is a short yet diverse selection of restaurants where you can follow up a good — and sometimes even fantastic — meal with a dessert that is not only free but likely quite tasty.
Boca Chica: This nearly 50-year-old Mexican restaurant regularly makes the Cities “best of” lists, most notably for its margaritas. On your birthday, you can expect a free ice cream sundae and a snapshot of your party.
Craftsman: Chef Mike Philips, who recently won our 2009 Silver Whisk Award for Best Chef, is best known for artisan approach to food — specifically, charcuterie. Follow up a plate of duck bolognese or rabbit confit with your choice of any dessert on the menu, which changes with the seasons.
Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter: If it is songs, smiles, and schnitzels you’re after, this is the place. Well, we can’t promise songs, but the Stillwater restaurant serves authentic Bavarian cooking — and celebrates birthdays with a free dessert of your choice.
Happy Gnome: Chef Mathew Hinman cooked under both Dennis Marron and Russell Klein, so while it proclaims to be a neighborhood pub, it also serves pheasant tartlet… and a free dessert of your choice, if it’s your birthday.
Highland Grill: From turkey burgers to the famous Steak Salad Murphy (medallions of beef and goat cheese!) this is a good, low key birthday option and it comes with a free dessert of your choice.
I Nonni: Although we wish I Nonni would go local, it is still an award winning Italian restaurant and a truly pleasant place to spend an evening. Plus, if it’s your birthday they’ll bring you a free dessert, your choice. Che sera, sera!
The Lexington: Its wood paneling and chandeliers belie a supper club that loves nothing more than a birthday party — after all, it has celebrated 80 of them. Finish off a classic seafood or steak dinner with a piece of free triple-layer chocolate cake.
The Loring Pasta Bar: A romantic atmosphere, eclectic menu and live music — what more could you want? Free dessert, your choice of any on the menu!
Mancini’s Char House & Lounge: St. Paul’s most famous steakhouse does it right: If it’s your birthday, everyone at your table will get a free piece of white cake, including a candle!
Manny’s Steakhouse: Hey, it’s your birthday, you’re worth a $50 steak or, if you’re not, perhaps a nice Oysters Rockefeller. Either way, it may hurt less if you follow it up with a free piece of chocolate cake.
Meritage: Russell and Desta Klein’s French brasserie has taken the Cities by storm, winning accolades — including best restaurant — from nearly every paper in town. Go there on your birthday, eat the moules and pomme frites, and then enjoy a free glass of champagne or dessert of your choice.
Moscow on the Hill: It claims to be the only Russian restaurant in St. Paul and it is most certainly the only restaurant period offering a free shot of house-made cherry vodka for birthday boys and girls (of a certain age).
Muddy Pig: This sweet little pub, famous for its expansive beer list, is the only venue on our list that celebrates birthdays with a free rail drink or tap or domestic beer. Huzzah!
Punch Neapolitan Pizza: What could be more traditional for a birthday party? Punch serves it up crispy hot from a wood-fired oven. Say it’s your birthday and you’ll get a free bread pudding or tiramisu.
Saji-ya: Reports from the blog-o-sphere say this is where the hipsters go to get their sushi and teppanyaki. If it’s your birthday, you can choose between a free bowl of green tea ice cream or mango cheesecake.
Oceanaire Seafood Room: Well, it is national, but it continuously wins “best seafood” awards from Zagat and the like. Among other dishes, the restaurant offers the day’s fresh catch prepared with a variety of sauces, from blue cheese to wakame. Plus, who can turn down a free baked Alaska?
OM Contemporary Indian Cuisine: The menu is the brainchild of award winning chef and cookbook writer, Rhagavan Iyer and showcases flavors found throughout India. The restaurant celebrates birthdays with a free dessert called Enlightenment, which was described to us as a combination of mango and puff pastry.
A final word: If you plan to ask for a free dessert, bring your I.D. Oh yeah, and happy birthday!