There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but if it's your birthday, it's remarkably easy to find a free dessert, and even the odd cocktail if you look for it. Here's an abbreviated lineup of birthday options.
Boca Chica: This nearly 50-year-old Mexican restaurant regularly makes "best of" lists, most notably for its margaritas. On your birthday, you can expect a free ice cream sundae and a snapshot of your party.
The Craftsman: Follow up a plate of duck bolognese or rabbit confit with your choice of any dessert on the menu, which changes with the seasons.
Happy Gnome: Chef Mathew Hinman cooked under both Dennis Marron and Russell Klein, so while Happy Gnome proclaims itself a neighborhood pub, it also serves pheasant tartlet ... and a free birthday dessert of your choice.
I Nonni: A free dessert of your choice. Che sera, sera!
The Lexington: Finish off a classic seafood or steak dinner with a piece of free triple-layer chocolate cake.
Loring Pasta Bar: A romantic atmosphere, eclectic menu and live music. What more could you want? How about free dessert -- your choice of any on the menu?
Mancini's Char House & Lounge: St. Paul's most famous steakhouse does it right: Everyone at your table will get a free piece of white cake, including a candle!
Manny's Steakhouse: Hey, it's your birthday, you're worth a $50 steak or, if you're not, perhaps a nice Oysters Rockefeller. Either way, it may hurt less if you follow it up with a free piece of chocolate cake.
Meritage: Enjoy a free glass of champagne or dessert of your choice.
Moscow on the Hill: It claims to be St. Paul's only Russian restaurant, and it is most certainly the only restaurant, period, that offers a free shot of house-made cherry vodka for birthday boys and girls (of a certain age).
The Muddy Pig: This sweet little pub, famous for its expansive beer list, is the only venue on our list that celebrates birthdays with a free rail drink or tap or domestic beer. Huzzah!
Saji-Ya: Reports from the blogosphere say this is where the hipsters go to get their sushi and teppanyaki. If it's your birthday, you can choose between a free bowl of green tea ice cream or mango cheesecake.
Om Contemporary Indian Cuisine: The restaurant celebrates birthdays with a free dessert called Enlightenment, which was described to us as a combination of mango and puff pastry.
A final word: If you plan to ask for a free dessert, bring your I.D. Oh, and happy birthday!
The Beer Dabbler brewfest makes its way to the St. Paul Winter Carnival (5th and Sibley Sts.). Brave the elements and sample from 40 different beers for $20 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m Saturday.
Stop by Azia at 7 p.m. Sunday for an "Iron Chef" viewing party. Minnesota's own Sameh Wadi of Saffron will square off against Masaharu Morimoto.
The Heavy Table team writes about food and drink in the Upper Midwest five days a week, twice a day, at www.heavytable.com.