Miami's Ten Best Spots for Free Food

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We don't know who first said, "Nothing is free except my love," but it must've been someone important. It's still true today, especially in the restaurant industry, where everything seems to be à la carte. Look at some of your recent checks and notice how eateries are even tacking on a buck or two for "filtered" water. Sure, food prices are climbing, but it's sad when we ooh and ahh over a basket of house-baked bread.

Finding something free, or at least included with the price of your meal, is becoming ever more difficult. Here are a few spots that give you a little something extra with your order.

10. Happy hour snacks at Tobacco Road.

Miami's oldest bar hosts a 6 p.m. Friday happy hour that lasts as many minutes as the institution's age (it turned 100 in late 2012) and sells a handful of drinks using the same pricing scheme. The Road also offers a variety of free bites including everything from smoked chicken wings to slider-size brisket sandwiches and pulled-pork tacos.

9. Biscuits and bacon butter at Oak Tavern.

The Design District's 40th Street has long been Michael Schwartz's turf. His flagship restaurant is on one end and a pizzeria named for his son is on the other. Louis Vuitton recently moved into the neighborhood, but for a long time you went that way only to boost your locavore cred or buy a $7,500 couch. David Bracha's Oak Tavern is another reason to take a stroll along that same road. Meals here start with a free homemade biscuit and bacon butter. Bacon butter! Amir Ben-Zion's Gigi in midtown makes you pay for bacon butter when it's on the menu.

8. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar's Southern Social.

Most restaurant giveaways are for women, and with good reason. Lure a pack of ladies in the door with free food or drink, and paying men will follow. Yardbird hosts its Southern Social during National Bourbon Month (September) from 4 to 7 p.m. It offers a variety of free snacks, including fried black-eyed peas, candied spiced peanuts, and house dill pickles.

7. Bacon at Prime One Twelve.

A few things happen when you visit Prime One Twelve. You arrive promptly for your reservation but learn you'll be waiting an additional hour because Rick Ross and Lil Wayne are going toe-to-toe on double-cut rib eyes and truffled mac 'n' cheese to see whose entourage gets diabetes first. You head to the bar for an $18 cocktail to kill some time, and there's bacon. Thick, crisp, salty, savory bacon in glass goblets. It might be a cramped bar, but suddenly all is right with the world.

6. Matzoh and black bean purée at the Café at Books and Books.

Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan saves us from the faux intellectuals at Barnes & Noble and helps lead Miami Book Fair International. As if that weren't enough, the simple Lincoln Road location always has fresh, fairly priced food and great people-watching. We also like that they never use club-hostess rejects to entice diners in for a meal. Books & Books ditches bread and butter, instead offering a thick black bean purée with squares of broken-up matzoh (the cracker-like flatbread Jewish folks eat during Passover).

5. Pig roast at Brother Jimmy's.

Who cares if it's a celebrity-owned chain restaurant? Every Friday afternoon, Brother Jimmy's in Mary Brickell Village roasts up a whole hog and dishes out the porky goodness (plus crisp skin) to a horde of pan-Latin yuppies. In Miami, the smell of roasting pork draws people out like sharks in generously chummed Key West waters. Along with the happy-hour crowd, you might see neighborhood bums or even a passing


 filling their plates with pork and barbecue sauce.

4. Smoked fish dip at Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market.

There are plenty of Garcias in Miami, though few are as famous as the owners of this restaurant and market overlooking the Miami River. The yellowtail and shrimp you enjoy at night likely gave their lives earlier that day, and here every meal starts with a basket of Saltines and a little bowl of savory smoked fish dip. If you ask nicely, they'll bring out a much larger bowl, with much more dip, for free!

3. Truffled poprcorn at Bourbon Steak.

No pee-covered bar nuts at Michael Mina's Turnberry Isle outpost in Aventura. Instead, during the restaurant's 6 to 8 p.m. weekday happy hour, bartenders dish out small bowls of fresh popcorn coated in rich, earthy truffle butter. After you've had your fill, sit down for a steak, all of which are poached in fat before grilling, and Bourbon's duck-fat fries, which

CNN in late 2012 ranked as the nation's best


2. Free pizza at Casola's.

We remain firm in our belief that the only time to eat Casola's oversize pizza slices is between 1 and 4 a.m. Nevertheless, the cash-only institution is open around the clock. Better yet are the endless pies they bake and slice into free squares for customers to munch on while they wait. We're not saying we've tried it, but it is possible to get your fill off that free pizza while waiting for your order to be heated and boxed.

1. Appetizers at Il Gabbiano.

On the first floor of a bayside condo tower, Il Gabbiano has long held its place as a downtown hub for deal-making power players who impress women with their rented Ferraris. Despite sky-high prices, the folks at Il Gabbiano treat you right. Each meal starts with an onslaught of free bites. There are little toasts piled high with fresh, sweet bruschetta, hunks of salty Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and garlic-fried zucchini slices. To cap it all off, each meal ends with a shot of limoncello -- a puckering lemon liqueur -- that makes paying the check a bit easier.


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