Checking Boxes

I Voted on Election Day and Ate Nothing but Free Food

Our writer took Houston restaurants up on their pledge to offer complimentary grub for casting a ballot.

By Joanna O'Leary November 8, 2018

See, I voted! Now give me food!

I needed zero incentive to vote on Election Day, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy standing in line for hours on end while my stomach growls.

Fortunately, a bevy of Houston businesses conveniently exercised the workaround whereby they can (legally) offer freebies and discounts to those who demonstrated having voted. And this intrepid, insatiable reporter hit as many of them as possible. Here's my Election Day diary:

7 a.m.: I rise and shine to head to the polls as early as possible. Queues move faster than expected and I have a pleasant chat with an elderly gentleman who informs me with a very straight face that he will be voting for Vladimir Putin. Why? “He doesn’t lie about killing people!” Point taken.

9:15 a.m.: Sporting my brand-new “I Voted” sticker, I drive to the Main Street location of Boomtown Coffee, which garners me a free fresh drip coffee. I need more than just caffeine and am tempted to purchase a fruit parfait, but gratis is the name of the game today.

10:03 a.m.: I am possibly East Hampton Sandwich Co.’s third customer of the day and definitely the first one to humbly request my complimentary chocolate chip whoopie pie for showing off my sticker.

11:18 a.m.: After filling my gas tank, I realize my own personal tank still needs a top-off, so I continue my baked good binge by stopping by Small Cakes. The lovely ladies behind the counter inform me their location is not giving out cupcakes as advertised, but I am welcome to a red velvet cake pop. I’ll take it!

1:30 p.m.: My elevated blood sugar enables a few hours of solid medical editing, but come early afternoon I’m ready for some proper food. I brave the construction on South Shepherd to go to The Classic All Day, which is offering perhaps the best election day deal: a completely costless lunch or dinner comprising a starter and an entrée. I nosh on a refreshing crispy rice salad tossed with Thai basil, San San tofu, and peanuts dressed in a kaffir lime vinaigrette while catching up on emails. Although I could easily finish the generous portion, I take the remainder to go in favor of concentrating on my second course, a hefty porterhouse pork chop smothered in bacon butter and accompanied by sauerkraut and Brussels sprouts (which I substituted—for free!—for the standard roasted potatoes).

3:45 p.m.: I decide the best way to fight the food coma that threatens to force me to nap in the middle of the day and fuel for my spin class is (more) dessert. I’m craving cookies, so first it’s to Michael’s Cookie Jar, where I select a still-warm chocolate chunk cookie in exchange for flashing my proof-of-voting badge.

A free red velvet cookie from The Dessert Gallery? Heck yeah.

4:30 p.m.: For the sake of comparison, it’s necessary to weigh the merits of this comped cookie with another on offer. Fortunately, The Dessert Gallery Bakery & Café isn’t far away, and they reward me for casting my ballot with a free, ultra-rich red velvet cookie dipped in white chocolate.

Free crinkle fries, along with a lettuce-wrapped burger, at Shake Shack.

7:03 p.m.: Still sweaty from SoulCycle, absolutely ravenous, and still determined to get more meal mileage out of my sticker, I stop at Shake Shack in Rice Village. I’m okay with shelling out a few bucks for a single hamburger because that purchase gets me a free side of piping hot crinkle fries, which I devour in an equally hot minute. (Hey, I saved carbs by having my burger wrapped in lettuce.)

8:15 p.m.: It’s been a long day of, um, eating, and while I in theory want to stay up to watch the results, my nerves can’t deal with the insipid television commentary. To relax before hitting the sack, I make my last stop at Sud Italia, where I slowly sip a glass of wine, compliments of my now not-so-sticky-sticker. 

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