Shel et al......
Close but you don't catch the golden ring. And, to my personal joy, once again demonstrates the frequent inaccuracies of Wikipidea.
The first saloons to offer the free lunch as we now know it were in New York and the habit started in the late 1850's and then the 1860's, first in the area of 40th Street and 11th Avenue and then in what is now called the Tribeca area with the advent of the opening of major cattle slaughterhouses. The work at the slaughterhouses was physically demanding and the men were given a full one and a half hours for their lunch break. The local bars realized that many of the workers brought lunch from home and realized that the way to attract them would be to offer lunch for the price of a single five cent beer.
The bar owners were not dumb of course, and many of the dishes offered (pickled eggs, pickled pig's feet and ears, roast beef generously seasoned with Louisiana hot sauce, etc) were meant to encourage thirst and thus the consumption of far more than a single beer. In 1860, the price of a shot of Rye whiskey and a beer was indeed fifteen cents.
There is, however, a major connection to Louisiana, and that came about because many of the workers at the slaughterhouses immigrated north from New Orleans when the slaughterhouses there closed. Indeed, among the favorite dishes of the New York Bars and Grills offering free lunches were gumbos. Later, as the habit caught on it did so largely in Louisiana, Miami, Chicago and then moved to the West Coast.
My own memories of bars and grills serving these "free lunches" was as a young boy when, during summer vacation I would spend time on some of the construction sites overseen by my father, and with the bricklayers, carpenters, concrete workers laborers and others making my way to such joints to take part in both the beer and the free lunches. That must have been a good time because even though I was anywhere from 13 - 15 years old at the time, no-one ever asked me for ID. After all, I hadn't come for beer. I had come to eat a nourishing lunch. My own fondness was for the spicy sausages, the salamis, the roast beef, the pickled eggs, the hot peppers, and the pickled pigs' feet. Taken at the bar with Sal DiFilippis, Tony Musci, Louis Bookbinder, Morris Casen, Ike Simmons and others of "the crew", among the best of youthful memories.