free birthday food in san diego, ca / 2012 edition

I turned 34 this year. It’s not a significant number. I can still say I’m in my early 30’s but I think I’m just shy of being bumped up to the next demographic group. I sure don’t feel like 34, not that I can really imagine what it should feel like. In my 34th year I can say that I’m happy. I’m content. I have a job that I enjoy, a boyfriend I adore, and I don’t feel like I’m lacking anything. I’m hoping for good karma and continued happy times.

As I do every year, I look forward to my birthday instead of shunning it away. I drag out the celebration by getting a bunch of free, delicious food into my belly. Or maybe I like hearing strangers wish me a happy birthday when I present my coupons? (Truth: It is definitely the former.)

I kicked off the year by getting lunch at Rubio’s.

[Rubio’s Street Taco Plate – $6.59 value]

Rubio’s Beach Club sends you email offers as well as a coupon good for 1 item up to $7.99.

This is the Rubio’s Street Tacos plate ($6.59) with one chicken, one beef and one carnitas taco, plus beans and chips. Of the three, I liked the beef the best, though really, I probably should have stuck to seafood here since that is their namesake. The chips were warm (a plus that has not always been the case) with a decent side of beans.

Coupon notes: Sent two weeks before birthday. Expires on birthday. Can use your phone to show coupon or you can print it out. Rubio’s Beach Club signup.

Panera Bread also treats you for your birthday by loading a “special offer” onto your My Panera card.

They don’t tell you what the offer is though, but let me spill the secret for you – it’s good for one bakery item.

When I found out what it was, I think I gave a little bit of a pouty face because I said, “Aw, I really wanted a bagel.” The guy serving me though instantly said, “What kind of bagel would you like?” and I told him I wanted the pumpkin bagel. He went ahead and rang up a chocolate pastry in it’s place, letting me get my pined for pumpkin bagel. How sweet!

Coupon notes: Free offer is loaded onto your My Panera card. Expires 60 days after your birthday. I got an email notice about my special offer 4 days before my birthday. Can pick up a card in store or join My Panera online.

I have skipped El Torito in the past but I decided it was high time to try out this deal. I haven’t been to El Torito in ages, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The nice thing about this one – the free chips and salsa!

[Tableside Fajitas Salad – $12.99 value]

Signing up for El Torito’s Email Club yields you a birthday coupon that’s good for one item up to $12.99 – no other purchase necessary. I opted to get the Tableside Fajitas Salad with chicken which clocks in perfectly at $12.99. The salad and the sizzling fajitas are brought tableside and tossed together right before you – you have the option to get the dressing on the side, too, if you fear too much dressing. I walked on the wild side and let them do it for me. The onions and other fajita goodies are also tossed in with cojita cheese, chunks of avocado, roasted pepitas, pico de gallo, tortilla strips and a serrano-grape vinaigrette. Overall very delicious and fresh. I was surprised at how tasty it was!

My waiter also brought me a mini flan! Probably the cutest mini flan ever.

Coupon notes: Sent about 1 week before birthday. Expires 1 week after birthday. Doesn’t specify, but I printed this one out. El Torito Email Club signup. No other purchase required. Good up to $12.99.

[Mini Club Supreme with roast beef, turkey, swiss, bacon done “Mike’s Way”]

This is another one of the deals I haven’t used in years past because I thought I didn’t really like Jersey Mike’s. I went a couple of times when they first started popping up in San Diego and I tried their hot sandwiches – which I didn’t like. This time around I went for a cold sandwich and found it to be a much better experience.

The meats and cheeses are sliced fresh when you order your sandwich. I got the Club Supreme (roast beef, turkey, swiss, bacon) and I got it “Mike’s Way” – which is with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, mayo, olive oil and vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. The cold sandwiches are way better than the hot ones with the fresh slices of meat and cheese. The bacon was also surprising good – very crisp and it tasted like real bacon, not like those flimsy pieces of “bacon” found in fast food restaurants. Glad I finally decided to drop in and get this deal!

I actually got the “mini” sub because I didn’t want to eat a regular sized, but this deal is good for the regular sized sub.

Coupon notes: Coupon emailed about 1 week before your birthday. Can only be used on your birthday with the printout and photo ID. Good for any regular sized sub and a drink. Jersey Mike’s Email Club signup. No other purchase required.

[“the best burger in town” – $15 value]

The Pearl Hotel is our new “go-to” place for birthday meals. This year we went here for our friend Chris’s birthday in July, Jake’s birthday earlier this month and my birthday. I think each time we all got the burgers. I’m totally in love with this burger, which I shared with Jake. It has a thick slice of smoked gouda, a mess of this delicious grilled, caramelized onions, spring mix of greens (hiding behind my burger) and a perfect burger bun from Con Pane. I swear the bun alone makes me want to eat this burger over and over again, forever.

[daily mac and cheese – $11]

Jake and I also shared the daily mac and cheese – which was a pulled pork and jalapeno macaroni and cheese that I LOVED. It had a nice, creamy, smooth base with chunks of seasoned pulled pork and just enough jalapeno to give the whole dish a spicy little kick without overpowering the whole dish. I liked it more than Jake did, who thought it wasn’t cheesy enough (I thought it was a good balance).

Coupon notes: No actual coupon or signup required. Must be used on your birthday, proof with ID required. Good for one entree. I’ve only gone here with Jake, so I’m not sure if another purchase is required.

[red velvet and peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes – $3.50 value]

For the final stop of my actual birthday, Jake and I went to Sprinkles Cupcakes in La Jolla.

I got the peanut butter & chocolate cupcake (foreground) and I got Jake a red velvet cupcake since I knew he wouldn’t want any of my pb&c one.

The cake is peanut butter flavored and is rich, moist and quite tasty. There are bits of chocolate in the cake with a rich milk chocolate frosting and jimmies on top.I really liked that the cake itself was peanut butter and that it was a really full-bodied flavor – not just a “eh, this is sort of peanut butter flavored” cake.

Jake didn’t like the Red Velvet cupcake. Well, he liked the cake part, he just didn’t like the frosting. He didn’t think it tasted much like the cream cheese frosting that he’s used to.

Coupon notes: Emailed the day before your birthday. Can show email on your phone plus a photo ID. Can only be used on your actual birthday. I Love Sprinkles Birthday Club signup. No other purchase required.

[Pesto Cavatappi – regular sized bowl – $5.49 with grilled chicken – $2.49]

I was really into trying the places I’ve skipped in the past and this is another one that falls into that category. I stopped by Noodles & Company to pick up my free bowl of birthday noodles.

I got the Pesto Cavatappi (curly pasta, basil pesto, garlic, mushrooms, tomato, wine, cream, Parmesan and Italian parsley) with Parmesan crusted grilled chicken breast.

A little light on the pesto flavor, overall I thought it wasn’t bad. The chicken I would pass on – maybe just get regular grilled chicken since it was a little overkill on the Parmesan. I think it’s interesting that they do different regions of food all in one place. If it comes in a bowl, you may just be able to get it here. Food wasn’t exciting enough to make me want to come back soon though – will probably end up being a “free birthday only” kind of meal. Reminded me a little bit of Pasta Bravo – does anyone else remember that place?

Coupon notes: Max discount $8.45. Must print out coupon and show your ID. Emailed one week before birthday. Expires two weeks after birthday. Noodlegram email signup. No other purchase required.

[city wok chicken – full order – $11.50 value]

This is a “new to me” restaurant for this year – City Wok in Mission Hills!

Jake and T tagged along for this one and kept snickering about the “City Chicken” that we ordered. Yes, it’s a South Park reference. Jake actually asked our waiter about the South Park thing and he was really cool about it – saying a lot of people would mention it when they came in and that he didn’t mind as long as they were respectful about it – I’m sure they gotten prank calls like the ones the South Park boys do, too.

We ordered just the one entree – a full size order of City Wok Chicken which is a stir fried “spicy” chicken with a caramelized orange sauce. The chicken is battered and the sauce is almost an glaze. The orange flavor is not super strong and it also didn’t taste spicy to me – though, I avoided eating the actual peppers in the dish.

Steamed white rice is included; fried rice is an additional charge. We were still a little hungry after sharing this, but it was still enough to feed us – probably better just for two or to order an additional dish.

Coupon notes: Sent one week before your birthday. Expires 13 days after your birthday. Good for one entree, no other purchase required. You only get one chance to print out your coupon. City Wok email list signup.

Last but not least… the free scoop from Baskin Robbins (regular sized scoop, value: $2.59).

I always get the same thing: chocolate and peanut butter. Nothing beats their luscious ribbons of peanut butter!

Coupon notes: Was emailed 5 days before birthday. Expires 5 days after birthday. Must print out and present coupon. No other purchase required. Baskin Robbins birthday club signup.

There’s lots of other offers out there for free milkshakes, desserts and buy one get one free offers, but I think these one are the best offers out there (besides the Benihana $30 certificate which I didn’t get a chance to use this year and the free prime rib at the Boathouse which happened on my actual birthday and I decided I’d rather have the Pearl’s delicious burger). I featured the ones that don’t require something else and are completely free to use. I hope to find new items for next year – if you have suggestions, please comment and let me know!

Until next year… go forth, my friends, and celebrate your birthday for an obscenely long amount of time!


18 thoughts on “free birthday food in san diego, ca / 2012 edition

  1. My birthday has come and gone, so I’ll have to remember this for next year. My favorite us the Rubios deal. Daphne’s has a goood birthday coupon, too.

  2. One I’ve been meaning to try – Ruby Tuesdays offers you a free burger (any way you want it, any upgrades) when you sign up for their birthday club. I’m not entirely sure about the expiration, but it does not require any other purchase.

    1. Hi Christina – We don’t have Ruby Tuesday in SD, too bad. There is one for Red Robin that goes on your loyalty card, I believe, but I didn’t get any kind of notice about this year so I didn’t check that one out. Last year they gave you a free burger but I’m not sure if it’s the same case now.

      1. re: Red Robin, it was still a free burger of your choice this year. Other than that, I don’t go to Red Robin at all! Too bad Fat City (near the airport) is closed. They had a free birthday meal deal. I went there last year.

  3. Yay, free bday food!

    About the Pearl, I went this year and that was the best birthday meal I’ve ever had. One thing, at least for me, they didn’t even ask to see my ID! Seriously, I was expecting them to check (I remember reading your post on that last year) but I guess they “trusted” me! I haven’t done El Torito’s before, but I usually do Benihana’s (great deal), Rubio’s and Red Robin. Haven’t tried the Boathouse either. Thanks for all the info! 🙂

    1. Hi CC – Yeah, they actually didn’t ask for my ID either, but it states that on the website. Jake showed them his ID without being asked. Boathouse is pretty decent – you only need to make 1 other purchase which can be a drink or an appetizer or something.

  4. What a great post, Mary! Good call on the Pearl’s burger – my favorite burger in town! I gotta sign up for all these birthday clubs! I’m only on Rubio’s and Panera’s! Thanks! 🙂

    1. Hi Janice – The Pearl’s burger is my favorite burger, too! There’s lots of good birthday deals out there – hope you get to try them all on your next birthday!

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