The Twin Cities’ Best Birthday Deals, Ranked

A woman holds a slice of birthday cake at a restaurant

It’s 2018, and you’re still paying for stuff on your birthday? Cut it out!

You should be having no trouble living the high life on the cheap in this ad-happy world of email blasts, newsletters, Facebook fan pages, and coupon codes. Companies are just dying to get you on their e-lists, and they’ll be more than happy to persuade you with a little some’m some’m for free on your birthday. There are so many, in fact, it would be really nice if someone would line up the local specials you absolutely MUST hit, listed apart from the unworthy.

Well, here I am!

This isn’t the only birthday freebie list, not even close, but this IS the only list you’ll find with only the 15 best listed. No empty calories. Listen, I don’t like listicles any more than you do. A lot of people asked me for this, though, so here it is. I calculated the list using two criteria:

Value Score: Value score is how much you get free measured against the establishment’s offerings. This matters because you can’t reasonably expect Jersey Mike’s to go dollar-for-dollar with, say, Lindey’s Steak House because the prices are drastically different. A free sandwich isn’t as valuable as a free steak, of course, but this is why Mike’s makes the list while chain restaurants offering free appetizers did not. The baseline for the formula scores a high-priced free meal as a 5.

Degree of Difficulty: What do you have to go through to redeem it? Almost every deal “costs” your email address at the very least, and I’ll provide links to the sign-up pages. The other major factors are whether it requires a purchase and your time frame to redeem it. If it’s too much a pain in the ass to redeem, I leave it off the list. It’s your birthday. You ain’t got time.

This is by no means a complete, “Bottom line!” list. If I’m missing one, tell me and I’ll consider adding it! Thanks to everyone who has left comments on the site and on social media. Keep throwing ’em at me, I’ll keep putting ’em away. Last update: August 24, 2018

Let’s dive in!

1: ACME Comedy Company (Sign up here)
What you get: Four free tickets!
Value Score: 20
Degree of Difficulty: 2
I’ve never seen a bad show at the ACME, and here you go getting $60 in tix. There’s a tiny proviso in that you can only cash it for Tuesday-Thursday shows, but you have all month to figure that out. Seriously, the only hard part is finding friends who won’t back out at the last second (good luck with that, though).

While you’re at it, their Insider Club gets you into a free show once a month on top of that!

2: Tria (Website)
What you get: A free dessert, and a dollar amount equal to your new age off a bottle of wine!
Value Score: 9
Degree of Difficulty: 3
It’s a fancy restaurant in North Oaks, yes, but the prices aren’t as bad as you’re probably imaging. Sweetening the deal: your new age is your discount off a bottle of wine! That new number doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? Just get there within three days before or after your birthday and you, too, can chug a bottle of Llama with steak and potatoes.

3: CARA Irish Pubs (Sign up here)
What you get:
A credit for $25
Value Score: 7
Degree of Difficulty: 1.5
Um, yeah, so $25 will buy you a Vincent Burger AND leave you with enough to get a good head start on your birthday buzz. The credit goes onto your CARA Pub Club card, which means you need a CARA Pub Club card. Check out what you get with it, though! This credit gets wired on a few days before the big B, and you have two weeks to spend it once applied. This is good at any CARA location, though, and you’ve probably got one not too far away. (Read my Cooper Pub review here)

4. First Avenue/7th St. Entry/Turf Club (Concert Calendar)
What you get: Two free tickets to a show
Value Score: 13+
Degree of Difficulty: 4
Thanks to Alison for pointing out a big one that had gone unnoticed: First Avenue offers a free concert ticket for you and a friend on your birthday, even if the show is sold out. Once you’re in, you’re given a ticket for a free bottle of champagne. If it was good enough for Prince, it’s good enough for you.

There was some back-and-forth in the comments about whether this included the 7th St. Entry and the Turf Club, but I cleared it up with First Avenue themselves. It’s good at all three!

5a. Red Cow (Sign up here)
What you get: A free burger!
Value Score: 5
Degree of Difficulty: 1
That’s right: a burger from that place you’ve been hearing about, free-ninety-nine. You’ve got three weeks after you receive the email to cash it, and it’s good at any of their four locations. The only way this gets easier is if they just mail you the damn burger. Oh, and they toss you a $10 gift certificate for signing up for their e-club. That’s almost another free burger right there. Did I mention these burgers are f*cking great? They’re f*cking great. (Read my Red Cow review here)

5b: Red Rabbit (Sign up here)
What you get: A free pizza!
Value Score: 5
Degree of Difficulty: 1
The brains behind Red Cow took some new dishes out of their sleeves last year with Red Rabbit, a sister restaurant focusing on pasta and pizza. What does Italian food have to do with rabbits, you ask? THAT’S THE WRONG QUESTION TO ASK! You’re here to find out what you get for your birthday and the “something fancy” they promise on the E-Club page was revealed by Minnesota Skinny Reader and Official Gangster Nichole Robbins as … a free pizza! Same deal as Red Cow: you’ve got three weeks from its arrival to print it and spend it. Also similar to Red Cow, you get that $10 gift certificate right away for signing up. (Read my Red Rabbit review here)

7: Cherokee Tavern (Website)
What you get: Free 10-oz steak, or tuxedo chicken dinner
Value Score: 5
Degree of Difficulty: 4
This one requires premeditation, but you cannot miss it. Here’s how it works: the Thursday of the week of your birthday, bring a friend who’s willing to spend at least $15.95 and you get your steak or chicken on the house. No email club, just bring your ID and your most reliable friend/s (take no chances). I’ve been living in this area for nine birthdays, and I haven’t missed this once. Not. Once.

8: Lindey’s Prime Steak House (Sign up here)
What you get: A gift certificate for $25
Value Score: 5
Degree of Difficulty: 3
That’s enough for a steak! Two things to consider, though: 1) the certificate comes in the mail, which leaves you SOL if the wind gets a hold of the mailbag on its way to your house; and 2) you’ve got a two-week time frame, within seven days before or after your birthday. You might already have a lot planned. Cancel one. You can’t miss this. (Read my Lindey’s review here)

9: Great Waters Brewing Company (Website)
What you get: A free entree!
Value Score: 5
Degree of Difficulty: 2
Pretty simple stuff: you’re emailed a coupon and you’ve got two weeks to go cash it. There’s no price ceiling on the entree, so get what you want. I got the fish and chips, and I was pretty happy with that. I also had a Vulcanus Rex Imperial Red IPA, and I was really happy with that. Go to their homepage, scroll all the way to the bottom, and hit Subscribe. Fill that in and you’re set.

10: 6Smith (Website)
What you get: THUN-DER! De-ne-ne-NEEHH-NEH-neh-NEEHH-neh-neh!

A piece of birthday cake on a white plate at a restaurant

Value Score: 4 in the real world, Infinity on the Internet
Degree of Difficulty: 2
No single dessert would make this list, but 20 in one? We’ll make an exception. When I had my birthday dinner here in 2016, they decorated the table for us and brought this monster out at the end. I needed my entire party of 14 to finish it, and we barely did. Call ahead and they’ll take care of you. (Read my 6Smith review here)

11: Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room (Sign up here)
What you get: A free entree (up to $13)
Value Score: 5
Degree of Difficulty: 2
So you’re reading the sign-up page like “Yeah, yeah, I’ve read all this 20 times today,” and then you see something that just about knocks your ass out of your chair. That’s no joke: you get a gift from Craft and Crew Hospitality on your birthday, and you get another one on your half-birthday. And don’t sleep on that 5 percent cash back you get on every dollar spent at their locations.

Craft and Crew Hospitality has a few restaurants under their umbrella, but I’m pointing you specifically to Stanley’s for their tap list and their dog patio. Don’t forget to grab a drink up at Al’s Place. (Read my Stanley’s review here)

12: Free Cheeseburgers (Sign-up for Red Robin, Crooked PintRuby Tuesday)
Value Score: 2.5-3
Degree of Difficulty: 1-2
Red Robin burgers are perfectly fine, thank you very much, and did you know they offer unlimited French fries?! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! You get it toward the start of your birthday month and you’ve got all month to use it. Same with Ruby Tuesday: their burgers are okay, and the voucher covers your first $11.

Crooked Pint offers you – not just a free cheeseburger – a free Juicy Lucy! Minnesota stand up!

13: Jersey Mike’s (Sign up here)
What you get: A free sub AND a free drink!
Value Score: 4
Degree of Difficulty: 1
From the site, “Every year on your provided birth date, we will send you a one-time use coupon for a free regular sub and 22oz fountain drink. The offer is valid anytime for the next year.(!!!) Your Email Club subscription must be confirmed at least 24 hours before your birthday to ensure your receive the offer.” Do it! Now! Jersey Mike’s makes a legit sub. Don’t be the idiot who has to wait another 300-some days.

14: Denny’s (Website)
What you get: Free grand slam!
Value Score: 4
Degree of Difficulty: 2
You just need your ID and it needs to be on your birthday. If you’re just waking up and you’ve a Denny’s nearby, aces. Order extra stuff. Pay $4 and get a table of food. Drink their glorious tar-coffee until you’ve got lightning coming out of your fingertips. Denny’s.

Last: Wild Bill’s (Website)
What you get: Ten minutes hunched over a toilet and a brutal hangover, most likely.
Value Score: Oh boy.
Degree of Difficulty: I don’t even know how to score this.
Bring four friends to Wild Bill’s on the Friday of your birthday week and be showered in free drinks, a free boot mug, a free birthday shot, and a birthday toast! They call it “Buck Wild Birthday Fridays” but we’re a little too old for this, right?


(Unsettling silence)

A breakfast meal with hashed browns, eggs, bacon, ham, and toast
Grand Slam, Denny’s, made grander

The Comments Section of This Post
I’ve had some great readers post links to other birthday deals. Many of them didn’t make the cut, but hey: you’re already here, so scroll on down and see if any of them pique your interest! Big shout out to Mark, who left me a few highlight-worthy deals down there.

Caribou Coffee (Sign up here)
What you get:
Free coffee! 
Value Score:
Degree of Difficulty: 1.5
Caribou Coffee’s birthday program is straightforward, sign up and get a free coffee in your email. I signed up, then immediately walked into one because I thought I could use it. Kind of an asshole move, I know. They gave it to me, though, Not long after, I received my offer via text.

Their competitors, Starbucks and Dunn Bros., both require downloading an app. You have roughly 15 seconds to redeem Starbucks’ after using it before it self-destructs (according to their FAQ), and Dunn Bros. … I don’t even know WTF is going on here. You’ll have enough free coffee this month. Just stick to Caribou and leave these ones alone.

Pazzaluna (Website
What you get: A free dessert, and a $25 gift card for your next visit (with free valet).
Value Score: 5
Degree of Difficulty: 3
This isn’t technically a birthday freebie. It’s more like a birthday gift you receive for dining there, but hey! I’m not complaining about a free $25. It won’t cover an entire meal, but it’ll come close. Just stop in during the week of your birthday, and enter your information onto an iPad at the end of your meal. It’ll be in your mailbox within a few weeks.

Free valet might not sound like a big deal, but have you ever tried parking in Lowertown? Free valet is a big deal.

Grizzly’s (Website)
What you get: A free entree, up to $12.99
Value Score: 4
Degree of Difficulty: 5
The eClub is right there on the front page. Boom! It’s a tough out if you live in the Twin Cities, though. There’s only one Grizzly’s in the metro area, and it’s in Plymouth. To complicate matters, this offer is only good on your birthday. If you’re within striking distance of the west side and you’ve got a meal slot free that day, though, some killer burgers and a criminally-underrated tap beer list await you at Grizzly’s. (Read my Grizzly’s review here)

CRAVE (Sign up here)
What you get: $25 $15 off a $50 meal
Value Score: 3
Degree of Difficulty: 10
The loyalty sign-up page works again, but the discount got nerfed! Is $15 off a $50 tab worth it? It depends on how much you CRAVE. Me? I’m most interested in the ANY-versary 15-percent discount. That could be a more worthy reward in the long run. It’s worth a look!

Benihana (Sign up here)
What you get: A $30 gift certificate!
Value Score: 5
Degree of Difficulty: 7
Thanks to Carrie Moritz for pointing this one out. Here’s the thing with Benihana’s $30 gift certificate, though, which you score for signing up for their Chef’s Table club. There are so many restrictions that getting the certificate and actually USING the certificate have their own separate FAQs on the sign-up page. They’re written in a convoluted way, but I’ll try my best to make sense of it.

You’ll receive the certificate within a week of your birthday, from which point you have 29 days to use it. You must print it out. They don’t care if you can pull the email up on your phone. Got it? Good. Now, you must purchase one adult teppan entree at full price. After that, you can apply the gift card to regular-priced menu items and non-alcoholic beverages. You cannot use it on alcoholic beverages, or any discounted items (i.e. happy hour). You can only use it Monday-Thursday, and only during dinner hours. If you’re with a fellow birthday-haver, you must be on separate checks. Will it be expensive? I don’t know – they don’t list their prices online (a practice that absolutely infuriates me).


  1. Glaring omission: First Avenue will let you and a friend get into any show in “the main room” ON YOUR ACTUAL BIRTHDAY (((EVEN IF IT IS SOLD OUT))). And, they’ll give you a drink ticket that is good for a well drink, or a bottle of champagne (albeit a cheap champagne). Just show your ID at the door on the day of show to redeem the offer.

  2. Point of clarification: the offer is only good for shows in the main room AT First Avenue- not just any First Ave booked show at other locations.

    • Point of clarification. This works at the Mainroom, 7th Street Entry our Turf Club. But not other shows where they act as promoter but don’t own the venue.

  3. Unfortunately the Downtowner car wash has been bought out by Mister Carwash recently, and no longer offers birthday washes. That was the best part of driving home from work on my birthday :(

  4. I’ve been collecting birthday freebies for years, here are some additional Birthday Freebies that you missed:

    Au Bon Pain – Free Sandwhich
    Bruegger’s Bagels – Free Bagel
    Sbarro – Free Slice of pizza
    Chammps – Free Mile High Ice Cream Pie
    Kona Grill – $15 Gift Certificate
    Panera Bread – Free Pastry
    Jamba Juice – Free Medium Drink
    Perkins – Free Magnificent Seven
    Auntie Anne’s Pretzels – Free Pretzel
    Hooters – 10 Free Boneless Wings
    Ben & Jerry’s – Free Scoop of Ice Cream
    Firehouse Subs – Free Medium Sub
    Country Kitchen – Free Meal up to $10
    Houlihan’s – Free Entrée up to $15
    Green Mill – Free 1-Topping Deep Dish Pizza
    Stanley’s/The Howe Kitchen/Pub 819/The Bar Draft House – Free Entrée at any of the 4 restaurants up to $13 (works on your half birthday too)
    Crooked Pint Ale House – Free Jucy Lucy

  5. The carwash deal is back on! It is now called Waterwerks and the Golden Valley location at 901 Louisiana Ave S gives a free basic carwash on your bday when you show your ID


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