Everyone knows Costco is the mother of all free-food stores. If you visit the sample tables often enough and space your visits responsibly (so the lady in the hair net doesn’t call security), you can score a decent breakfast (waffles with 100 percent maple syrup and organic soymilk), some Mexican favorites (chimichangas and quesadillas), even couscous and buffalo wings. But since Costco membership is required (unless you’re sponging off your brother-in-law), the free food really isn’t free. So we thought it prudent to point out that there can be such a thing as a free lunch (or dinner) by sampling at establishments that don't require membership. Let the grazing begin.
Pasta & Co
multiple locations, including University Village
Within walking distance of the UW campus, tapped-out college students can enjoy a sampling of all-natural tortilla chips (with a choice of mango habanero or green ranchero-style salsa), crisp party cups filled with a variety of bean dips and a yummy dessert of coconut cream cake.
multiple locations, including interbay
Health-conscious individuals love getting free fill-ups here. And why not, when you can savor bites of Alaskan salmon seasoned with chipotle spices, or grilled organic chicken? Wash it down with a sample of an Amazing Grass drink, which tastes, um, grassy.
Food & Wine
Pike Place Market
For the artisanal sampler who isn’t afraid of owning up to his or her parsimonious ways, DeLaurenti is cheese heaven—you just have to ask for the free samples. So go ahead. Inquire about the creamy, versatile chistou, a French Basque cheese that blends milk from cows and sheep. Another customer favorite (and with good reason) is the souréliette de Hyelzas—a slightly fruity cheese made from sheep’s milk.
Great Harvest Bread Company
multiple locations, including
What goes well with cheese? Bread, of course. At this carb-loading sampler’s haven, try slices of old-fashioned white or honey whole-wheat bread–slathered with butter or sweetened with honey, just like Mom used to do after school. (For those with gluten sensitivity, the whole-grain spelt is nice.)
OK, this one isn’t exactly free—you have to buy a drink during happy hour (4:30–6:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) But once you’ve done that (beer costs $3), everything on the antipasto table at this Pacific Place spot is fair game. Pizza bites. Bruschetta. Pasta. Absolutely free. What a concept!
Save the Date
Generally held the first Thursday in December, Ballard Market’s holiday open house is prime time for serious free noshing on shrimp cocktail, charcuterie, chocolates, bread, desserts, fruit—something from nearly every department. Happy holidays!