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The Best Deals on Restaurant Gift Cards This Season

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Greetings, Hail Mary holiday shoppers. It's the week before Christmas (and the week of Hanukkah) and you're thumbing through Hot Dish thinking about what kind of gifts to get for that very special person you just remembered you had to grab a gift for.

Whoa, slow down. Don't run to that boutique-y shop and grab a pint glass that says TOKYO and NEW YORK on the side. Consider instead grabbing a gift card from an area restaurant because though it is certainly better to give than to receive, in a lot of cases you can do both with the holiday gift card deals at local restaurants.

See also: The 10 Best Do-Gooder Holiday Activities for Food Lovers

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1. Parasole Restaurants : Buy $100 in gift cards receive a $25 gift card for yourself

The Parasole company was one of the first companies in town to do holiday gift card incentives right. For years they've been offering gift cards at Burger Jones, Chino Latino, Manny's Steakhouse, Muffuletta, Pittsburgh Blue, Mozza Mia, and Salut Bar. It's a simple deal: If you drop $100 in gift cards you walk out with a $25 gift card for yourself. So treat your friends, and treat yourself at the same time. Note: Your gift card won't be usable until December 25. But if you have free time for wining and dining before December 25 we are so jealous we hope you do pay full price.

2. Davanni's : Get a free $5 gift card for every $25 you buy

Sometimes spending $100+ on gift cards at one restaurant can just be a little much. One of the nicest things about giving a gift card is that you can tailor it to how close you are with the person. A $10 gift card is a solid way of saying "thank you for delivering my newspaper on time" or "I forgot you when I counted all my aunts on my dad's side." And who is going to be mad at a $10 gift card to one of the tastiest pizza spots in the Twin Cities? Even Ebenezer Scrooge would get a tingle of holiday joy for a slice of deep dish on someone else's dime.

3. The Green Mill: Buy $100 in gift cards, get $20 (good for January + February 2015)

Caution! This deal is awesome but be sure to read the fine print. In our opinion a complimentary gift card that is only good for two months is still a legit gift. And everyone needs an excuse to treat themselves well in January and February in this Minnesota weather. And for our money the Green Mill has one of the most legit and diverse menus of the big food chains active in our regions. So we will accept the limited period of time the gift card is usable since it's a great meal.

Any more strings attached and we are out of there. Although it is a discontinued offer, the Melting Pot restaurant had a gift card offer that read more like an apartment lease. We don't need all that, Melting Pot.

4. Big Bowl, Wildfire, and Tucci Benuch: Buy $100 in gift cards get $25 in Holiday Bonus Certificates

Lettuce Entertain You runs a bunch of restaurants across the nation and in the Twin Cities, with their main focus on Big Bowl, Wildfire, and Tucci Benuch. These restaurants are very gift-card friendly. They aren't likely to ruffle a lot of feathers and they are the kind of spot a whole family can agree on. On the other hand, the conditions on the Bonus Certificates offer is a little convoluted for our liking. The cards are only good from January 2, 2015 to April 8, 2015. So far so good. You can't use them on delivery orders, private parties, or catering events. That sounds decent too. But you can't use them after 3 p.m. on a Saturday? Hm. We understand Saturdays are a high-traffic day and giving away food on a day you could have a customer paying full price is not the best for the restaurant. But from a customer service point of view it seems like a hard deal to remember and to manage. What if that's the one day your family can head out for a meal? So we'll give this one the buyer beware note. The restaurants in question might be good choices for the whole group, but it's not as as sweet a deal as some of the others listed here.

5. Pizzeria Lola: Buy $100 in gift cards, get $20 free in gift cards

You don't always have to go with big restaurant groups to get in on the gift card magic. Pizzeria Lola, the little southwest pizzeria that could, is offering a simple deal with almost no strings attached. If you grab $100 in gift cards you will get $20 back. The only condition is that one can't use them the same day they were purchased.

6. Broders' Pasta Bar: Buy $100 worth of gift cards in any denomination and get a $20 gift card free

For the pasta lover or wine lover in your life (the gift card can also be used at their wine bar, Terzo Vino), Broders' offers a tidy little deal -- a free $20 gift card that you can use for one extra gift, or keep all to yourself. Either way, someone's getting some extra Italian lovin' this holiday season.

7. Saffron: Buy $100 for them, get $25 for you, buy $50 for them and get $10 for you

The good folks behind Saffron have put together a scalable package for gift cards that is really simple and enticing. With two price points you can still get a little kick back for yourself. Grab a $50 gift card for someone on your list and you'll still walk with a $10 gift card for you.

8. Murray's Steakhouse : Purchase a $100 gift card and receive a complimentary $25 gift card

The folks down at Murray's serve up an awesome steak and they often get overlooked in the great steak debates in the Twin Cities. But they are definitely doing everything right in the gift card department. Buy $100 in gift cards and get a no-strings-attached $25 gift card -- the gold standard for gift card deals. So grab one of these and you're almost a quarter of the way toward a silver butterknife steak for two.

Good luck out there in gift card land. And remember, keep track of the fine print. Nobody wants to end up wasting a gift card because of a pesky detail.

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