There’s nothing quite like celebrating your own birthday. Once a year, on this day, we are special in the eyes of everyone we know and receive more “Happy Birthdays” from complete strangers than we can accept without a little embarrassment. But here in Ann Arbor birthdays are given extra appeal. Dozens of local shops and restaurants have decided that the only way to make a girl's birthday better is by giving her an insane amount of free stuff. Three days ago was my birthday and even though it was a Monday, there was still time to explore this suddenly new and quite generous version of Ann Arbor. However, since it simply isn’t possible to cash in on all the free goodies offered to those special people with birthdays, the following are a few of the places that are not only worth the money on regular days, but offer completely free, no-strings-attached birthday specials.
Ben and Jerry’s
In the great state of Ohio, we don't have Ben and Jerry’s ice cream stores. Ann Arbor, however, has seen the value of this always delicious, always flavorful, and always a guilty pleasure brand of ice cream. Yet, although its wild, kitchen-sink flavors and witty names make it one of my favorite ice creams, it can get a little expensive depending on the amount. But if you’re lucky enough to be in Ann Arbor on your birthday, the store give you a free scoop of ice cream.
I chose “Phish Food”- my go-to for that annoying chocolate- marshmallow-caramel craving.
If you haven’t been to Iorio’s Gelatoria, it’s not too cold yet to enjoy some of this delicious gelato. They change their flavors every week and offer a good range of fruit sorbets, cream-based gelatos, and seasonal favorites. I’ve never been disappointed at Iorio’s, partly because they let you try as many flavors as you want, and partly because rich, thick, creamy gelato has a way of softening criticism. Iorio’s also gives you a free small scoop on your birthday- a $3.45 value.
I tend to prefer the alcohol-based flavors myself – brandy, chocolate stout, rum raisin – but was swayed this time by the spiced apple. On the steps of the church at the corner of State and William, my friend and I shared these slowly melting treasures, enjoying the free, though perhaps the last, ice cream run of the season.
Schakolad Chocolate Factory
Schakolad is on Washington St. close to its intersection with Main St. They offer cases and cases of chocolate classics including chocolate dipped fruits, nut clusters, and, of course, truffles. On your birthday you can a free piece of chocolate, though if you’re nice it seems like you make be able to get two. Always attracted to alcohol, I chose the Grand Marnier truffle and the kind gentleman across the counter also gave me a raspberry truffle. The chocolate is of good quality- smooth and creamy with a deep flavor and none of that waxiness that come with brands like Hershey’s. The interior of the truffle is a flavored chocolate ganache which is always appealing, though sometimes overshadows the other flavors. Needless to say, there could have been a more pronounce Grand Marnier and raspberry flavor, but both were still quiet enjoyable.
These bubble tea shops always seem a little intimidating. There are so many choices - from the type and flavor of the tea to the color and shape of the bubbles. There are many extra things you can add to your drink as well to make it just the way you like it. For you birthday you can get a free drink, classified more specifically as a free medium bubble tea. Thoroughly overwhelmed and a little scared to spend too much time staring agape at the extensive menu board, I went with something simple: a mango green tea drink with the standard black bubbles. They also offer mango flavored bubbles and bubbles shaped like stars- all of which was just too much to handle right then. The drink was tasty, maybe a bit too sweet, but when it’s free, I guess I can’t be too picky.
Cake Nouveau bakery looks like the inside of Tim Burton’s house. The bright pink, purple, and lime green walls were covered in all sorts of Halloween decorations. Although a bit of a hike down Packard St., Cake Nouveau offers elaborately decorated cakes as well as “cake truffles,” and on certain days - cupcakes. Their birthday special is one free cupcake or two cake truffles. Because cupcakes are only available on Fridays and Saturdays, Cake Nouveau generously states that you can come the Saturday before you birthday to get one. So I went Saturday and the cupcakes they had available were also dressed in spirit with flavors like candy corn, Butterfinger, and red velvet decorated with a candy butcher knife covered in edible blood. As luck would have it, they also had a 2 for 1 special going on so by buying one $2.50 cupcake and it being my birthday, I got two for free.
Pictured are the red velvet, chocolate truffle, and Butterfinger. Overall, the cupcakes were pretty good. The buttercream frosting is smooth, light, and silky smooth. It could have been the fact that I got the cupcakes later on in the evening on a Saturday, but they seemed just a little dry, though the frosting quickly rectified this. The flavors were good and since they had so many Halloween-based flavors, I’m anxious to come back around the Christmas holiday to see what they come up with. But at least for this visit, it was definitely worth the money.
So there you have it, just a few of the numerous birthday specials Ann Arbor has to offer.
For a more extensive lists of birthday deals, check out this website. http://arborwiki.org/Birthday_Deals