A lot of eateries are thanking veterans by offering free meals or discounts on Veterans Day, which is Sunday, Nov. 11, or the following day, Nov. 12.
Last year I took my husband, Kim Phillips, out for the free Veterans Day lunch at Applebee's in Bountiful. Of course, our family wanted to honor him, but there was also a little curiosity on my part. For several years I have written about restaurants offering a free Veterans Day meal, and I wondered what the experience was like. Often, when restaurants offer some type of free meal, it's super-crowded or not worth the hassle.
We got to the restaurant about 3:30 p.m., which is a good time to avoid possible crowds because it's between the lunch and dinner rush hours. Although a lot of tables were taken, no one was waiting in the lobby. So we were seated immediately.
Veterans had a special menu with several entrée choices, and Kim chose the Double Crunch Shrimp. He said his meal was great, although he didn't realize the shrimp was going to be deep-fried. (Ah, but what puts the crunch in "double crunch," dear?) My daughter and I ordered from the regular menu. The hostess also gave us a $5 voucher to use on a future visit to Applebee's, and thanked Kim for his service. Those words of thanks still mean something to him, because when he came home from Vietnam, war protesters were calling soldiers "baby killers" and most Americans just wanted the war to be over. There was no hero's welcome.
While we were finishing our meal, the lobby area began to fill with diners waiting to be seated. It was interesting to watch people walk in and try to guess where or when they served their country. Kim talked to one man who served in three wars: World War II, Korean War and Vietnam.
There was an unspoken feeling of camaraderie among the diners, and we felt like we were part of something a little special.
I don't know what the experience is like at other restaurants offering Veteran's Day dining, but I suspect you would do well to avoid "rush hours," especially near a military installation such as Hill Air Force Base.
I've compiled a list of free meals and discounts being offered, from press releases, the website themilitarywallet.com and phone calls to local restaurants. Things to remember:
In some cases, the decision to participate is up to the individual franchise owner, so you should call ahead or check the company website to verify that the outlet in your particular location is participating and what type of identification is required.
Required military identification or proof of service may vary. This could include a military I.D. card (active/reserve/retired), current leave and earnings statement, drivers license with veteran designation, photograph in uniform, a veterans organization card such as the American Legion or VFW, or discharge paperwork. Or wear your uniform if your branch of service permits this.
Some of the free meals are offered only to veterans but most include active duty military.
Tips are not included in the special offers, so I would tip on what the free meal would have cost you.
Check the dates; since Veterans Day falls on a Sunday, some places are offering their celebration on Monday.
Here's the list of free meals and discounts:
Red Robin: A free Red's Tavern Double burger on Nov. 11 for veterans and active duty military.
Krispy Kreme: A free doughnut on Nov. 11 to active military, retirees and veterans.
Little Caesars Pizza: A free Crazy Bread for veterans and active military at participating stores on Nov. 12.
Sizzler: A free entrée with the purchase of another entrée of equal or lesser value on Nov. 11 for veterans and active military.
Texas Roadhouse: A free lunch chosen from 10 different entrees on Nov. 11 for active, retired or former U.S. military.
T.G.I. Friday's: A free lunch on Nov 12, for all U.S. military personnel and veterans.
The Olive Garden: A free entree from a special menu on Nov. 11 for veterans and active duty military.
7-Eleven: A free small Slurpee on Nov. 11 from 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. for veterans and active duty military.
Lone Star Steakhouse: Free appetizer for veterans and active duty military on Nov. 12.
Outback Steakhouse: A free Bloomin' Onion and a Coca-cola product from Nov. 7-11, available to active duty veterans and military personnel (see outback.com/companyinfo/veteransday.aspx ).
Applebee's: A free meal chosen from a selected menu on Nov. 11 for veterans and active military (see /www.applebees.com/veterans-day-menu ).
Chili's: A free meal from a selected menu, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Nov. 11 for veterans and active military.
Denny's: Free all-you-can-eat pancakes from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. on Nov. 12 for all active military and veterans.
Famous Dave's: A free meal from a selected menu on Nov. 11 for veterans (see www.famousdaves.com/promo/veterans-day ).
Golden Corral: A free meal on Nov. 12 for any person who has ever served in the United States Military (see www.goldencorral.com/military ).
California Pizza Kitchen: A free individual pizza and non-alcoholic drink on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12, for all veterans and active military (see www.cpk.com ).
Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor and author of "Soup's On!" She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.
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