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| Columns |

Free Chips, Salsa and Breadsticks at Chevy's and Olive Garden, Urban Forager's Guide Vol. 2

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After urban warriors load up on free breakfast compliments of the nearest big-chain hotel, their stomachs will need more.

What to do? Drop into the nearest Olive Garden for some free bread sticks, or try the free chips and salsa at Chevy's of course! Managers at these restaurants say there's not much they an do if people come in, munch a little, and leave.

It turns out that sitting down and pretending to be a patron at a restaurant is another sneaky, and easy, way to score some free grub when you're in a pinch.

According to service manager Luis Gutierrez at an Olive Garden in West Miami-Dade, individuals occasionally dip into the fancy Italian chain restaurant just to fill up on their bread sticks. He revealed there is nothing much they can do. It's just part of the business. Single patrons aren't much of a problem, but groups of people at one time is a different story, he says.

When a patron is seated at Chevy's, servers deliver a basket of freshly made tortilla chips and a saucer of their homemade salsa. How's that for a healthy and free snack?

Don't worry too much about getting caught, since it's impossible to tell who is going to buy something and who's not."We have to serve them," says Chevy's manager Yvonne Tafur. "I haven't seen it happen here yet, but if it does then we just have to talk to the customer in a nice way and be like 'It's a restaurant man, c'mon.'"

Maybe they just haven't been caught yet.

If you have scruples, pay a couple of bucks for a soda or beer, Tafur says unlimited chips and salsa can be had.

However, back on Calle Ocho at La Carreta, it is a different story. Here guests are typically served a few slices of toasted garlic bread and water after they're seated. But good luck getting even that when the place is packed, and it usually is.

During busy hours, individual patrons may not even be so lucky to receive the free bread, usually it takes at least a party of two, says manager Luis Soto. And be careful because he keeps his eyes out for freeloaders. Soto can usually spot them by their low-key demeanor.

"I give you bread, then you get of here," says Soto. "This is not a place for charity."

If you came for bread, he'll give you bread alright. And, he says, if people are desperate,e he might provide a free meal consisting of rice and beans, plantains or some chicken. All you have to do is ask, he says. "I don't have to give them steak or lobster," says Soto. "Everybody's supposed to eat everyday but not everybody makes it."

So foragers, scoring grub this way may seem like a no-brainer, and the food choices are extremely limited, but it's effective--and free.

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