Pop That Corkage: A Cross-country BYO Roundup

by Tannaz Sassooni on 29 January 2007 3 comments

wine and cork

For me, drinking wine at a restaurant is a classic image of living large: sipping rich purply red from a bulbous stemmed glass, laughing at your companion's urbane chatter, and enjoying the moment. But often the restaurant markup on a bottle of wine is twice or even three times what you'd pay retail, prohibiting this picturesque scene for those with tight purse strings. Fortunately, plenty of restaurants allow you to bring your own bottle. And diligent folks across the country and the internet are tracking them down.

[I know, I know, my third post in a row about drinking large on a small budget. I assure you I don't have a problem, I just had to ride the wave and wrap up the trifecta. Now read on so you too can drink wisely, you lush!]

Of course, bringing a bottle of wine to the restaurant is not an occasion to break out the Two Buck Chuck: the idea here is not to be cheap, sullying your restaurant experience with a bargain wine. Rather, bring along a wine that will complement the meal -- perhaps a bottle you've been waiting for a special occasion to uncork, or one that suits the cuisine you're having. Remember that the restaurant is offering you a service: not only does the waiter have to serve something you have not paid for, but there is also a cost to providing and washing glasses and replacing any that might break. And every bottle you bring in is one fewer bottle that the restaurant will sell. So, while some restaurants will allow you to bring in wine for free, restaurants may also charge a corkage fee -- often between 8 and 20 dollars, but sometimes up to 50 at higher-end eateries -- to cover these costs. Nonetheless, tip generously. And, as several online articles on BYO etiquette suggest, offer a glass to your server. I love this idea -- it's such a gracious gesture to give back to the very people whose hospitality makes our restaurant experience worthwhile.

Following is a roundup of lists of restaurants across the country (with a couple in Canada and the United Kingdom for good measure) of restaurants that allow you to bring your own wine, complete with corkage fees.

Atlanta

atlcorkage's Wiki - Slim list, but lots of personal notes.

LocalWineEvents' Atlanta BYOB List - Free corkage in HOTlanta.

Chicago

Dr. Vino's BYOB Forum - Chicago, plus the suburbs, plus a few strays in Berkeley, Edinburgh, and London.

Los Angeles

The Delicious Life's Screw You! How Much it Costs to BYOB - Extensive list with lots of links to The Delicious Life's irreverent and fabulous restaurant reviews.

K-Mozart's list - Sip slowly and hobnob with the classical music set. Includes Orange County.

Yelp/Richard A's Cheap Corkage and BYOB - With links to all the LA Yelpers going on about their favorite restaurants.

New York

Littleviews' BYO NYC Wine Tasting - A list of restaurants with a corkage of $15 or less.

NYCorked's Corkage Wiki - Includes info on glasses and service.

New York Magazine's BYOB List - 50 spots that dull the pain of the price of a meal in NYC.

Philadelphia

DiningInfo's QuickFind - Search near you, or just hit 'Go' for the full list.

Pittsburgh

About's BYOB Restaurants in the Greater Pittsburgh Area - A sortable list of spots with a corkage of 3 dollars or less.

San Francisco [Strangely, I was unable to find a list for San Fran. But I'll give you the following instead.]

Vinography's The Great San Francisco Corkage Debate - Get some popcorn, this is gonna take a while.

What you get when you search for 'san francisco byo' on Google

Seattle

The Seattle Times' Reader Recommendations - Includes tips for taking wine to a restaurant.

Texas

VinUnici's BYOB Short-list - With a few notes on the food at each restaurant and a wine recommendation for each.

Toronto

BringMyWine's list - Drink up in Canuckistan!

United Kingdom and Ireland

Bring Your Own Bottle Directory - From a UK wine expert.

Washington DC

eGullet Forum's Places That Allow Corkage - This is a forum thread, but it includes extensive corkage info for DC

So, drink wisely, and I'll end this with a toast: May you always have old wine, old friends, and young cares.

[oh, and, hey MShades, thanks for the photo!]

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Andrea Karim's picture

Don't be hatin' on the Chuckster. Can I pour my Charles Shaw into an empty bottle that used to contain an expensive wine, or do they check the integrity of your cork at the door?

Tannaz Sassooni's picture

two buck chuck is a friend of mine.  especially for using in recipes, but i certainly have it straight from the glass every now and then.  and i do believe it'd be totally fine to carry a bottle to the local curry house or somewhere equally casual.  just don't expect the sommelier at chez panisse not to look at you funny when he takes the corkscrew to humble chuck.  then again, if you're paying a 50 dollar corkage on a 2 dollar wine, i'd look at you funny too.  =)

Andrea Karim's picture

I have to say, if I was headed to Chez Panisse, I might actually just forego wine altogether. I completely agree with the assessment that it is incredibly fun to sip a nice red from a fishbowl-sized glass with a teeny stem, but if I'm going to be even slightly frugal about going out for a fabulous meal, I might skip the booze altogether, or imbibe at home. Or, order by the glass. I'm sure that pegs me as a total foodie outcast, but I'm thinking that a large corkage fee pretty much counteracts the point of the BYOB concept to begin with.