Birthday deals in Ann Arbor are plentiful, especially if you plan ahead
Ann Arbor is one of the best places I know to celebrate your birthday. There are many restaurants and a few stores that will give you a deal on your birthday to help you celebrate throughout the entire day and into the whole week. Note that these specials may change and should all be verified in advance, and that most of them require proof of your birthday so have ID ready.
The first set of specials requires preparation in advance, in that you need to join a club or mailing list in order to get the special. Get ready ahead of time so that you have something to look forward to. Aubree's Saloon in Depot Town will send you a coupon for a free pizza for the week of your birthday when you sign up for their mailing in advance. Ice cream specials from Dairy Queen, Cold Stone Creamery, and Baskin Robbins are all available for those who plan ahead, and BD's Mongolian Barbeque has a Club Mongo that will give you a dinner special if you sign up beforehand.
On your birthday, you'll want to start with a good breakfast. This year I went to the Northside Grill, where they offer you your main breakfast course for free; you have to purchase your drink and pay the tip. Angelo's and Cafe Marie will also both give you a break on your breakfast, with discounts for the birthday celebrant if you bring a friend. If you can't sit down for a big breakfast, stop by either Zingerman's Deli or Zingerman's Bakehouse and pick up half a dozen bagels on the house as their birthday treat.
Deals are not as plentiful at lunchtime, and so my best strategy for a birthday lunch has been to have a late breakfast. Once dinner rolls around, though, you have dozens of choices for places that will give the birthday boy or girl a reduced price for their meal. Enjoy reduced prices at restaurants including Seva, Real Seafood, the Chop House, Metzger's, Palio, Paesano's, and more. The deals vary somewhat, but a common arrangement is either a free entree or for a fraction off the total tab, e.g. a third off for a party of three, or a quarter off for a party of four.
For dessert, enjoy a free bubble tea at Bubble Island, a free gelato at Zingerman's Creamery, a free cupcake at Cake Nouveau, or a free scoop of ice cream at Ben and Jerry's. Some places including Argiero's and Cafe Zola offer a free dessert with your entree.
If you're not hungry, but still want a treat, there are some even more unusual deals. Viking Sewing Center offers 30% off fabric cuts of one-half yard or more on the day of your birthday at their Jackson Road location, and Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase will treat you and up to 5 of your friends to a show - contact them in advance for availability.
This birthday deal list is just a part of a larger project to collect birthday specials on Arborwiki, a city wiki that has been running for the past four years in Ann Arbor. The story of how it evolved is a typical one of such online efforts. In 2004, someone posted a list of a dozen places in Ann Arbor that gave you specials on your birthday to their Live Journal account. This was picked up and repeated in 2005 by another person who added to and expanded on the list, and it was copied into Arborwiki in January 2006. Since then it has become one of the most edited and most viewed pages on that site, with regular community updates as specials come and go and also as readers look to see the best way to organize a long list.
No discussion of birthday deals is complete without an account of a birthday treat that is no more. Bill Knapp's was a regional roadhouse chain founded in Battle Creek in 1948 that in its later years catered increasingly to an older population. Its very popular birthday special gave a percentage off your meal based on how old you were; 14-year-olds received 14% off, and 85-year-olds got 85% off. The sight of a superannuated birthday party singing and eating their Celebration Cakes was common. Bill Knapp's tried to rebrand as a youth oriented eatery in 1998 with a "That was then, this is WOW" campaign; the business reversed course by 2001 when sales slumped as the bright colors and new menus alienated its traditional customer base. Bill Knapp's closed in 2002; its Celebration Cakes are still manufactured by Awrey's, based in Livonia.