Paying L.A. Weekly Back With More Free Samples, Hobo-Style

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Photo: A Girl With Tea via Flickr

Squid Ink explores a subject we know just about everyone has an interest in: Where to get free food samples! Whoo-hoo! The writer nudges us towards free beer tastings at The Surly Goat, well-known food court staples like See's, and that glorious hangout that ensnares child and parent alike: Costco! Since they've asked readers to uphold "the hobo code" and offer their own strongholds of free samples, we do have a few standbys that have gotten us through leaner times. So,where do we go to get our samplin' on?

Whole Foods: There's a sweet science to shopping here. If you put any two items in your basket, no matter where they comes from or how much you think they are, you're guaranteed to go short-of-breath once the cashier rings it up and you discover that box of crackers and package of hummus actually costs $17.95!!

Okay, exaggeration aside, Whole Foods typically lives by a policy that allows you to try anything they carry for free if you ask. They'll even open a box off the shelves for you to try one of their products, though we're yet to see the shameless soul pursuing that angle. Why take it to the extreme when you can hit the pizza station for a generous sample slice, stick your hand in the cheese Thunderdome for a cube of cheddar (or six), and if you're so lucky to have a beer bar at your Whole Foods, like the one in Venice, they'll pour you a miniature glass of draft brew, allowing you to taste things like chipolte-spiced beer and Red Seal for free. We have seen a dude putting his hand into the free fruit baskets outside and popping them into a bag, so be warned you might bring home a free sample of H1N1.

Other samples we like to take advantage of taste around town include weekend stations set up at Sawtelle's Nijiya Market, where various vendors set up to offer tastings of prepared frozen goods like mochi and pork gyoza. And who can resist a return sweep by the stations at Trader Joe's, where everyday a new pre-made product gets previewed alongside a tanker of lemonade and coffee. And not just lemonade, but usually something along the lines of kaffir lime-strawberry-mango-kumquat lemonade.

And Squid Ink nailed the generous portions offered at Menchie's, whose competitor Pinkberry usually gives you enough of a swirled sample to satiate you away from a full order, though you kinda have to back out sheepishly at that point (just say you left your wallet/dog/baby in your car). Monarca Bakery, like See's, usually offers an incredible sweet edible or two on its counter-top, something we've seen at various locations of Nothing Bundt Cakes, as well.

With enough gas in the tank, you may never need pay for a meal again. That is if you want to survive literally one bite at a time.

Moochers United: Top 5 Places to Get Free Samples [Squid Ink]