Time to update this list since it's been a couple of years and things have shifted a bit on the birthday freebie front. Some places have changed their programs; others have opened or closed restaurants in the Boston area. It's a constantly revolving list, but you can have a very filling birthday month with a little planning.
I recently celebrated my birthday and figured it might be worthwhile to share the places where you can get free stuff on your birthday. I’m including the rare offers that give you something free without having to buy another meal (though there are plenty of those offers out there) or including those that give you a free appetizer or dessert with one or two meals. These are as close to free as possible, though, of course, you need to tip and buy drinks in the sitdown places.
Most of these places are chains and some are more plentiful than others (I kept it within 128, but some of these are a bit of a distance away from Boston proper). All but Bitsuteki require you to sign-up in advance. Most are just for their “fan club” or equivalent, but some take a little more work (see Notes). Only one required me to provide ID (though most can require it if they like) and that was the only one that required me to show up on my actual birthday (some gave me all month - others a week or so). All the offers let you know about your gift via email or mail.
Free Meal (or Sandwich Equivalent) for One:
Fire & Ice - free meal
Not Your Average Joe’s - free entrée + dessert
Uno’s - free entrée
Boloco - free burrito/salad/smoothie (See Note 1)
b.good - free burger/salad
Au Bon Pain - free sandwich
IHOP - free pancake meal
Bisuteki Tokyo - free entrée (See Note 2) (they also gave me dessert, though it's not advertised)
Moe's Southwest – free burrito
Earl of Sandwich – free sandwich
JP Lick’s - free sundae (See Note 1)
Einstein Brothers - free bagel
Starbucks - free beverage or food item
Dunkin Donuts - free beverage (postcard)
Baskin Robbins - free ice cream cone
Pollo Comparo - free dessert
Panera – free sweet
Godiva - $10 to spend in store or online
Note 1: Boloco and JP Licks use a card from the same vendor to access their guest rewards. These cards are free, but you have to either 1) add money to the card (even $1 is fine) or 2) use the card when you purchase something. After you register the card online, you will get birthday and other freebies.
Note 2: Bitsuteki Tokyo is the only one that requires you 1) come on your actual birthday and 2) show your ID.
Note 3: Starbucks requires you get a gift card and register it online. They now add the birthday gift directly on the card, rather than by mail.
The absolute best program is Landry's Select Club (formerly McCormick & Schmick’s Preferred Guest Program), but it requires an initial outlay of cash. Sign up for their Select Club program and pay a one time fee of $25, which you get back in the form of credit on your card to use in the first month. For your birthday, they will credit $25 to your card which you have to use during the month. The program now includes the Oceanaire, Morton's and the Chart House in Boston and the Rainforest Cafe in Burlington.
If you have any suggestions for next year, feel free to add a comment.