New York City Food Samples – Eat for FREE

By: Staff -
Last Updated: November 10, 2010

One thing New York City has a lot of is free samples. Walking around the city, you’ll encounter shop and market employees handing out free soap, ice cream, cat food, gum, tea, soft drinks, hot food, cold food and a variety of other free goods. In places like Union Square you can’t go more than a few steps without having someone try to hand you something. Not only that, but while buying groceries at markets around the city, you’ll find that many offer food and drink samples to entice you into buying some of their newer products.

Filling Up on FREE Samples around Union Square

Let me tell you a short, true story. Last Friday around 5:30pm I decided to see just how full I could get by walking around and browsing in the several grocery stores in the Union Square area, which is located on 14th Street in Manhattan. I started at Whole Foods. A new Whole Foods opened up a few years ago right on the south side of Union Square. I walked in and headed down the escalator to the lower floor. Right after entering I noticed a lady cooking something in a frying pan. “Bingo!” I thought. I walked up and asked what was cooking. “Red Snapper”, she said after handing me a large chunk of the fish in a paper cup. I took a few bites. It was excellent.

After the Red Snapper I continued on my way to the cheese section. There I found a massive mound of fresh Cheddar cheese out for sampling. I had a few bites and continued on my way.

Right around the corner I came across another frying pan. This time it was chicken. Another hefty sample was given to me. Not a bad size for a sample; more than a mouthful. Off I went to continue on the mission to get full off of samples.

Around the corner was a young lady handing out samples of a new sparkling wine/beer hybrid. “Care for a sample?” I was asked. After swigging down the cup of very tasty wine/beer, I began to think of where to head to next. “Trader Joe's!” I thought.

Trader Joe's is located on the corner of Third Ave and 14th Street, a short walk from Whole Foods. Trader Joe's has a “Grand Sample Station”, as they call it, at the very back of the store. When I stopped by they were cooking some delicious Curry Chicken. Yummy. After grabbing a sample or two, I was full. I didn’t spend one cent and I had mouthfuls of high quality Red Snapper, chicken, cheese, a small glass of beer/win followed by a helping of curry chicken.

In this section, we’re going to build a list of grocery stores and markets in which you can find free samples. We will expand on this list as we come across locations to add.

2127 Broadway (Between 74th & 75th Streets)
New York, NY 10023

Fairway Market (which has another located in Harlem) has a wide selection of wonderful food and samples of that food! A massive olive and pickle bar can be sampled from. Spoon out an olive and grab it from the spoon with your fingers. Drop the pit in the plastic bins provided next to the barrels of goodies. Fairway often leaves out samplings of their many olive oils and vinaigrettes, which can be sampled with the provided bread. Dip away! At Fairway’s Upper West Side location, there are often samplings of great foods such as pate and cooked fish which are handed out to customers walking between the produce and canned food section. Stop in for a quick and delicious treat!

Gourmet Garage
453 Broome Street
New York, NY 10012

If you’re in the mood for free olives, cheeses and other goodies, this place may be for you. The samples are a bit trickier to find than the ones in some other stores. Look around the cheese tables for samples of cheeses. The olives can be picked out of the olive bar with provided toothpicks. They often have samplings of their chips and dips near the entrance where the fruits can be found. Stop in for a quick treat!

Trader Joe’s – Union Square
142 East 14th Street
New York, NY 10003

This location has a “Grand Sample Station” located at the very back of the store. The best time to go for samples is in the afternoon on weekdays, but you are more than likely to find samples being cooked up and handed out at the sample station whenever the store is open. I’ve had everything from fish to veggies and all for FREE!

Trader Joe’s is also a great place for anyone to grab some great food for dirt cheap. You may want to pick up a few frozen entrees for later while snacking on their free handouts.

Westside Market
2171 Broadway (at 77th Street)
New York, NY 10024

Want to grab a quick and fresh snack on your way home from work? The Westside Market on Broadway and 77th Street is the perfect place. They have a wide selection of freshly made dips ranging from guacamole, salsa and artichoke to more exotic dips like cheddar beer, port wine and cranberry dip. Delicious! They serve them with these home made multi-grain cakes. They’re kind of like rice cakes, but not. Whatever they are, they’re delicious. You can find all the samples right next to the fresh meat section. I like to stop in, grab a bite, and do my grocery shopping because there’s nothing worse than shopping on an empty stomach.

Whole Foods Market – Union Square 
4 Union Square South
New York, NY 10003

We talked a lot about this location in the story above. The best times to go for free samples are between the hours of 5pm and 6pm on weekdays. Yes, the place is packed at this time, but it is also the time when Whole Foods gives out a variety of quality samples. Make sure you go downstairs, as that is where you’ll find the bulk of free food. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the samples. The cooks and employees who are handing them out are knowledgeable and friendly.

From time to time the sushi bar on the ground floor hands out samples of their delicious rolls. You'll find them in small cups on top of the counter where the sushi chefs stand. If there are none out for the grabbing, asking the chefs for a sample often works.