Carb controversy: best free restaurant bread


Avi Joshi ‘26 is a prospective English major and an active member of Metal Club and the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. He loves to play drums and cook. Contact him at

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

Unfortunately for the college student budget, nothing in life is free except for hugs, hotel soap and using your friend’s HBO Max password. Well, actually, there is one other thing that’s not only free, but also readily available and undeniably delicious: free restaurant bread. Free bread is the cornerstone for most chain sit-down restaurants. Olive Garden propagates the idea of unlimited breadsticks; Red Lobster reels people in with the Cheddar Bay Biscuits. But I am here to discuss the best of the best: who comes out on top with the best free restaurant bread?

But before I reveal my answer, I would like to talk about what simply cannot be classified as the best free restaurant breads. Now, the quick answer to this question might be the obvious Olive Garden. That might surprise some of you because, I mean, the commercials make it look so good. But that’s the thing — while the commercials make it look good, they don’t guarantee it will actually be good. The Olive Garden breadsticks are nowhere close to the best bread. They are boring, lack flavor and have no unique quality. It feels like I’m eating a stick of Play-doh most of the time. 

Well, what about Outback Steakhouse? My knowledge on this specific bread is quite limited as I have only been there once. When I had it, it gave me the impression of a worse version of Cheesecake Factory’s free bread. It was dryer, less flavorful and did not have the oats sticking on the outside — a key feature of the Cheesecake Factory brown bread. Unfortunately, Outback also does not come close to being the best free restaurant bread. 

Speaking of Cheesecake Factory, how is its bread? Well, it’s pretty damn good. A bonus that Cheesecake Factory adds is the addition of two types of free bread. Not only does the customer receive the famous brown bread, but also small pieces of baguette to accompany it, and all of this is served with beautifully whipped butter. Both types of bread are delicious and crunchy. It might seem like I am giving the award to the Factory but, surprisingly, this free bread will never be the best. It wins points for presentation, and it wins points for taste, but it loses points for ambition. It simply is not unique enough to be considered for the title. 

Let’s talk about Cracker Barrel. Now I know that Cracker Barrel is more of a Southeast thing, but I am considering it in the running for best free bread because, well, I’m from the Southeast. Say whatever you want about Cracker Barrel — how the food is honestly pretty mid or how there are always so many old people there — but one thing is true: the free bread is fantastic. The options of cornbread and biscuits are offered, and they are accompanied by blackberry jam and soft butter. The biscuits are flaky and fluffy; the cornbread is sweet and delicious yet dry. The competition is close, but the dryness of the cornbread can catch up to me and leave my mouth feeling too dry. 

But if none of these restaurants have the best free bread, then who does? I know the anticipation is building, but there is one more restaurant I need to talk about before we get to my personal favorite: Red Lobster. Unfortunately, it too does not have the best free bread. Some of you may think that isn’t surprising if you have never been to Red Lobster. Others who have been there will note that the statement I made will be hard to prove. Cheddar Bay Biscuits are incredible; they’re intensely buttery and the best kind of flaky. The flavor is unmatched and, in combination with the menu, they are close to the best. However, the reason I cannot allow myself to crown Red Lobster as the best is because I think there is a restaurant who does it just a bit better. Before I talk about that restaurant, let me just say how close of a battle it is between the number one and Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits. 

What could possibly be the restaurant that beats out all of the above? It’s a restaurant very close to my heart and a restaurant with a lot of spirit. 

After much anticipation, I must declare Texas Roadhouse as the chain sit-down establishment with the best free bread. The rolls at Texas Roadhouse are perfect — baked to perfection and slathered in honey cinnamon butter. Then when the basket is placed in front of you, you also get extra honey butter to dip into. It perfectly accomplishes what the rest of the breads mentioned before couldn’t, featuring the ability to perfectly complement your meal while also being perfect to eat by itself. Yes, the other breads can be eaten by themselves, but they do not compare to the flavortown that is the Texas Roadhouse rolls. Texas Roadhouse rolls are carbs at their finest.


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