10 Ways to Eat Free in NYC

The only thing the average person loves more than a bargain is something free. Food is one those things people can’t get enough of—especially in New York City, a tourist-driven cultural hub and one of the most expensive cities in the world. Whether you’re a map-wielding tourist, a student on a budget or someone who can barely spread the butter on the toast right, this list of free places to eat in NYC can help you out.

1: Become a mystery shopper. Mystery shoppers get hired by companies to pose as customers in order to critique goods and services provided by another company, including restaurants. Not only would you be able to dine without paying a penny, but you’d get paid a few bucks, too. But beware—there are plenty of mystery shopping scams out there. Legitimate mystery shopping sites require an application and do not charge a fee or advertise in the classifieds.

2: Not only does Ikea have delicious Swedish meatballs and classic American staples (chicken tenders, BBQ, cornbread) for cheap, it also offers free breakfast on Mondays until 11am. Free breakfast comes with scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries. Based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, there are a number of ways to reach them, including a free shuttle bus that leaves every half hour from the Atlantic Avenue station.

3: Open houses and orientation—There are dozens of schools in the city and its outer boroughs. Take advantage of orientations and open houses at colleges near you—even if you aren’t actually interested, most serve free food and snacks.

4: The Watering Hole (www.waterholenyc.com)offers a free buffet from 5:30 to 6:30 with a rotating chef’s menu selection. Food may include anything from wings to finger sandwiches, pizza and quesadillas.

5: Five Guys peanuts – If you’re just strolling the town, why not stop at a Five Guys restaurant to snack out on their big barrels of fine peanuts. They’re free, they’re filling and they’re healthy and natural.

6: The website Freeinnyc.net is a one-stop resource for all things free in NYC, including food and drinks, museum tickets, events, bargains, tours and more. The food selection is updated daily and, if you’re feeling up for it, pair with another free opportunity.

7: Samples, samples, samples- Don’t underestimate how filling these can be. Notable locations for samples include Macy’s at Herald Square, which has visiting chefs in the Cellar Kitchen for hour long demonstrations on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and gives the audience a bite of their creations; Trader Joe’s (any location in the city) gives out snacks on a daily basis (from brownies to tacos); and Agata & Valentina, a premiere Italian marketplace, offer samples of wines, cheeses and pastas on an almost-daily basis.

8: East Village’s Croxley Ales Ale House & Eatery (www.croxley.com) has some of the best wings out there—and with the purchase of a $5 drink, you can reap the benefits of all-you-can-eat. Alternatively, you can swing by on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday for 10 cent wings.

9: Rudy’s Bar & Grill (www.rudysbarnyc.com) continues on with their quarter-of-a-century old tradition of giving away free hot dogs with the purchase of any drink.

10: Dine and dash—If all else fails, you can attempt the tried-and-true method of free food. If you’re bold enough to dine and dash, make sure you make some observations. How busy is the place? Are there cameras? How close is your table to the door? Be forewarned—you may or may not be carried away in handcuffs.

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