Recently I had a completely free meal at a place called Noodles & Company, thanks to their "Noodlegram" club. They have pasta/noodles in a variety of styles, from Italian to Asian to American (including the most delicious macaroni and cheese ever), at an ordinary price of about $5-8. After signing up for "Noodlegrams," you receive a free meal after you sign up, and another every year around your birthday.
I was glad to discover it, since I've been enjoying a nearly identical program at Flat Top Grill for over three years now. Flat Top is a really fun, creative, and tasty restaurant, where the idea is create-your-own, all-you-can-eat stirfry (priced at about $15). You just load up your noodles and rice with your choice of sauces, spices, vegetables, and/or meat and they'll cook it up for you and serve. (You can even have them make it for you in soup, salad, or mu shu forms.) They don't have as many locations-- mostly in the Chicago area, although there are a couple other locations in the midwest and one in Arlington, Virginia.
In both cases, I love the deals because: a) there are no strings attached, no "buy X, get X free," so your meal is genuinely free (except for tip, or if you choose drinks, dessert, etc) and you can go by yourself if you'd like; b) they give you at least a couple of weeks leeway so you can choose when to go; and c) you get a free dish at sign-up plus you'll find a coupon for another one every year on your birthday, so it's a free gift that keeps on giving! The only downside is the (rare) promotional e-mails, but they don't bother me. If you have these restaurants in your area, I recommend signing up!
Does anyone know of other good deals like this?
- I haven't tried it yet, thanks to plentiful dining coupons in my area, but I've heard good things about Restaurant.com-- a site where you can pay $10 for restaurant gift certificates worth $25 to tons of places. If you're interested, be sure to hunt around first, since there are often discount codes that'll bring that price down to $4-$5.
- The "Free Stuff" forum at FatWallet often has good deals (it's where I found out about Noodles & Company), although it can be a bother to wade through dozens of posts about things that may be free but probably aren't worth the hassle.
- Here's a post at Seattle Simplicity about getting free meals through mystery shopping... sounds like it's a result of finding a particularly good mystery shop company, though!