You’re walking through South Oakland after a long Friday night, and all you want is a slice of pizza so hot that the cheese is falling off of the crust as you take it out of the box and shove it into your mouth. Meanwhile, you salivate at the pure thought of O fries dipped in that beautiful cheese sauce.
As you reach into your pocket to indulge your cravings, you sadly remember the disappointing fact that you forgot your money (or that you’re a poor college student who can’t afford that ish).
So do you go home and eat cereal out of the box to try and satisfy your savory cravings? Maybe you used to, but not anymore. I’m here to tell you all the ways you can get free food in Oakland at night on the weekends. Starve no more, my friends.
1. The Dollar Trick
This one takes an outgoing personality and the ability to charm/be really annoying until you get what you want.
As you are making your way back from the depths of South O, on the hunt for some delicious Sorrento’s with ranch, approach your fellow street walkers with the following spiel: tell them you have the six bucks for a pizza from Sorrento’s, but that you would love if you could just get one more dollar because you just have to have ranch.
Chances are you’ll get the dollar, because people will totally understand your problem. That, or they’ll throw a dollar at you because they want you to go away. Either way, you got the money. Do this seven times and you’ve got yourself a free pizza plus ranch.
2. Out of Towner
This one is pretty fun because it’s like a weird game of improv between you, your friends, and the poor stranger who looked nice enough to possibly pay for a pizza. Approach this stranger and tell them your friend is from out of town and absolutely can’t leave without trying Sorrento’s/Antoon’s/the O (honestly, whatever you’re feeling) but you totally blanked on cash.
You might have to annoy this person with a sap story and make up a few details like where your friend goes to school, who they’re visiting, why, etc. (which is honestly the fun part). But if all goes well, you will be walking out of that conversation with some cold hard cash because someone understands the problem there is with leaving Pitt and not having a late night South O treat to send you on your way.
3. Salesperson of the Century
This one takes a savvy businessperson with some serious skills in sales — I’m looking at you, CBA students.
The first thing you have to do is buy a pizza. Then, walk down the street with said pizza. Hopefully, you’ll find some starving students who just can’t walk the extra 10 minutes to Atwood Street and are willing to pay big money for the pizza.
Barter for a price, or let them offer. Once, some kid gave me and my friend 20 bucks for a pizza we weren’t even trying to sell. That’s a free pizza and a profit. Not a bad night.
4. Subliminal Messages
So you’re at the O. You’ve ordered your cheese fries and now you’re waiting in line for them to call out your number. As you stand and watch the greasy fried potatoes get shoved into bags, you wish you’d sprung the extra for cheese, or at least could have afforded it.
Try making a subtle comment to your friend that’s loud enough for the person working the counter to hear. “Gosh, I wish we got cheese,” or “Cheese would have been so good,” or “Why does the extra cheese have to be so much extra but so damn delicious?” are all good options.
In my experience, these subliminal hints might just confuse the fry cook into putting that cup o’ liquid gold into your greasy paper bag of deliciousness — FO FREEEEEEEE.
5. Bubble Gum
Not sure if this rule still stands, but sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw.
Personal story here: during my freshman year, some friends and I strolled into Antoon’s ready to lay down five bucks (brief moment of silence for the loss of the $5 large cheese pizza) for one of their delicious and satiating pizzas. The guy behind the counter looks up at us and tells us if we bring him some strawberry bubble gum, he’ll pay for our pizza.
Of course we said yes and scuttled our way over the 24-hour Rite Aid to pick up an 88 cent pack of strawberry Hubba Bubba. Not only did the guy pay for our pizza, but he was also absolutely psyched that it was Hubba Bubba.
So maybe not exactly a free pizza, but less than a buck ain’t half bad. Next time you’re craving some Antoon’s, maybe bring some strawberry Hubba Bubba along for the trip. Ya never knoooooowww.
6. You “Forgot”
This one can be a little bit harder to swing, as local shops know this trick because it’s a little bit older — but it’s always worth a shot. If you’re at the O, tell them they forgot your cheese. Most likely, they won’t care enough to check and they’ll hit you up with a new one.
Warning: Do not try this trick in Sorrento’s. That cashier is on top of her game and marks down every order as she gives it out. Props to her.
7. Just Ask
Hey, you never know, right? Maybe you’ll run into someone who’s feeling extra generous that day. Sometimes the surprising niceness of strangers at 1:30 in the morning is a refreshing change of pace — and maybe you’ll even make a new friend.