No such thing as a free lunch? That's just what we tell the suckers to keep 'em off our turf. You stick with us, kid, and you'll soon be eating 1,000 calories a day out of tiny white cups. The free sample phenomenon is a beautiful thing, and we have spent countless hours (but no dollars) researching where exactly you can get the most plentiful or highest quality complimentary bites. In something resembling the words of Kipling, "For something less than a rupee a day a man can feed himself sumptuously in Los Angeles, even though he be bankrupt. Remember this if ever you are stranded in these parts." And, of course, if you have your own spots to score gratis snacks, respect the Hobo Code and clue us in with a comment.
5. The Surly Goat: This West Hollywood beer bar (home to a serious beer drinker's happy hour) boasts an ever-changing and very well curated selection of craft brews, featuring a wide range of styles from the serious hop punch of a Double IPA to the smooth chocolate and coffee flavors of an Imperial Stout. In order to fully appreciate the diversity, and to make sure you like what you get, they offer small taster glasses of each of the current taps. Unfortunately, unless you possess some serious suavity, you'll probably be expected to buy a drink or two after you sample.
4. The Food Court: It may fall squarely on the quantity side of the picture, but there is no doubt that the food court is a great place to search for samples. Whether it's the generic Asian of Great Khan and Panda Express or yesterday's stromboli at Sbarro, you're sure to get all you can handle. There's even dessert at Wetzel's Pretzels, Ice N' Cream, or See's.
3. The Cheese Store of Silverlake: Sunset Junction's magical gourmet wonderland is the polar opposite of the food court, at least where samples are concerned. They offer morsels of bread for dipping in a small but shockingly diverse selection of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, and, naturally, they've always got some strange and delicious cheese for the toothpicking. If you do intend to purchase some cheese, the knowledgeable staff behind the counter will take your palate on a serious journey, as they suggest (and offer samples of) varieties from around the globe. They'll lead, but you have to make the ultimate decision about what kind of cheese is the right fit for your Williams-Sonoma plates and the spicy zing of your Alsace Gewürztraminer.
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2. Menchie's: Finally, the intersection of quality and quantity. Menchie's is a rapidly growing power in the self-serve frozen yogurt wars, and that can only be good for us free-samplerians. They guarantee that each location will have at least ten flavors, and the sample cups are laid out on a platter for the filling. Simply pick up a cup, choose a flavor, and enjoy; it's just too bad the toppings are off-limits.
1. Costco: The overeater's paradise also happens to be a freeloader's wonderland. There are tables and tables of delightful little snacks which come straight from the supplier to the freezer to the toaster oven to you. And, as an added bonus, the store is so big that by the time you've finished a lap, the shift will have changed and you can start all over worry-free. If you include the bikes to ride around the store, the basketball to be played in the aisles, and the home gyms to burn off all the free samples you've been eating, Costco is far and away the best place to pig out without touching your wallet.