Pop That Corkage: A Cross-country BYO Roundup

By Tannaz Sassooni on 29 January 2007 3 comments

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, this is 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, 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.

1. Atlanta

Thrillist has put together a list of the best BYOB eateries in the ATL.

2. Chicago

Dr. Vino's BYOB Forum has Chicago covered, plus the suburbs.

3. Los Angeles

The Delicious Life's "Screw You! How Much It Costs to BYOB" is an extensive list with lots of links to their irreverent and fabulous restaurant reviews.

4. New York

Littleviews' BYO NYC Wine Tasting is a list of restaurants with a corkage of $15 or less. New York Magazine's BYOB List shares 50 spots that dull the pain of the price of a meal in NYC.

5. Philadelphia

Visit Philadelphia has you covered with a great list of BYOB restaurants in the City of Brotherly Love.

6. Pittsburgh

About's BYOB Restaurants in the Greater Pittsburgh Area is a short list of spots with a corkage of $3 or less.

7. San Francisco

OpenTable has a list of free corkage and BYOB spots in the San Fran area.

8. Seattle

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

9. Texas

Thrillist has BYOB in the Lone Star State covered in Austin and Dallas

10. Toronto

Enjoy free (or cheap) BYOB in this bustling Canadian city with a list from Corkage Toronto

11. United Kingdom and Ireland

Here's an extensive Bring Your Own Bottle Directory from a UK wine expert.

12. Washington DC

OpenTable shares great spots for free corkage and BYOB in the DC area. 

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

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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.