Finding the right place for any occassion


BYOB, it simply means bring your own bottle; but for many people, it seems to mean being cheap. The truth of the matter is that BYOB is an integral part of any city's restaurant scene, laws permitted. And if it’s prohibited by law, move. You can always count on a politician getting between you and a good time!

Seriously though, BYOB is good for a restaurant and its consumers, particularly when a well-considered corkage fee is charged in exchange for gracious service and good stemware. By bringing your own bottle you can elevate your experience at many restaurants, please your own palate and save some coin while you’re at it. The restaurant, on the other hand, gets a couple of covers that typically indulge themselves off the menu and some free cash for hosting these bon vivants. The only challenge is finding the right restaurant!

Check out these great choices for almost every occasion, and tell us about your favorite BYOBs in your city!

Entertaining the Underlings

When you have to take a group of professionals out, but can’t spend too much money, or want to teach them a thing or two about wine, finding a BYOB option can be the perfect solution. Since this is still a professional event, you’ll want to keep it classy, but it’s probably also a bonding moment so having fun is essential.

Keens Chop House in Midtown is not only a New York institution (since 1885), it’s also a mighty fine steakhouse with some of the best lamb in town (their signature mutton chops).  The classic steakhouse menu includes old time favorites such as oysters, shrimp cocktail and crab cakes, but the real attraction here are steaks and chops, though lobster, fish and chicken all grace the menu.

Corkage at Keens is $20 a bottle for any wine that is not on their list. Calling ahead is recommended. Keens also has banquet rooms available for your private events.

Keens Chop House
72 West 36th Street
New York, NY 10018

Dining on One’s Own

Being in a new city and on your own can be intimidating, but hitting up a BYOB restaurant can cure that. Not only will you find your scene if you choose wisely, but you’ll also have something to share, besides your scintillating personality.

The best way to track down the BYOB scene is to look for great restaurants that have zero corkage nights. These are sure to bring out wine lovers and sharers in droves, and Lyon Bouchon Moderne’s Monday nights are no exception.

The classic bistro décor oozes casual conviviality and the menu, a veritable smorgasbord of French-influenced cuisine from around the world, is both exotic and comforting at the same time. A perfect place to explore unfamiliar wines and introduce neighboring tables to great new pairings.

Lyon Bouchon Moderne
118 Greenwich Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Impressing the Boss

Sometimes you have to pull out all the stops, even if you can’t afford all those stops. So what can you do? BYOB - I see you’re catching on. Many great restaurants know that their clients, affluent and knowledgeable as they are, probably keep a few bottles in the cellar, so it’s not surprising that many allow corkage, with limitations and predictably high fees, of course.

There are many great restaurants in New York City, but the ones that have been getting all the buzz about having the best food must be Eleven Madison Park. Chef Daniel Humm has been on a tear, with cuisine that seems to be moving farther ahead of the pursuing pack with each passing season. Dining at Eleven Madison Park is a bit of a game, you order main ingredients rather than whole dishes, imbuing each meal with whimsy and surprise that many haven’t felt since those glorious days of childhood!

Yes, this does make food and wine aspiring a challenge, but if you stick to some of the great, adaptable wines you should be safe. Just pack along some great Chablis and Riesling, and a pair of mature Premier Cru Burgundies and you’ll be fine! Just keep it under four bottles, which will cost you $35 each. Once you hit five bottles you’ll get hit with an additional $250 sommelier charge, though that does buy you impeccable service. On second thought, make that three bottles of Burgundy!

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Bringing a Date

A lot of people might see taking a date to a BYOB restaurant as tacky. If you’re busting out the two-buck Chuck, it is. If you’ve put some time and effort into selecting the ideal wines for the evening, it sure as hell isn’t, and it saves you the hassle and potential pitfalls of perusing the wine list.

Choosing this restaurant is really a tough call to make. There are many ways to a woman’s heart; great food, romantic décor, spending a lot of money. Did I just say that? One of my favorite ways to win a woman over is to talk to her. Yes, with my mouth, not texting, so a quiet space is priority number one and that is a precious commodity here in New York City.

La Grenouille fits the bill and in fact rolls up every imaginable way to win a woman’s (or man’s) heart in a smartly tailored space! The menu is classic French cuisine, superbly executed, and deserves to be paired with some top-notch wines. I would be partial to a nice vintage Champagne (this is a date, after all) and older Cote Rotie here, though a nice Pinot Noir would be splendid, particularly with the fine aged cheese available at the end of your meal. Corkage is $50 a bottle, so make those wine purchases count!

La Grenouille
3 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022

Saving a Buck

Sometimes you’re not in the mood for a fancy meal or a big ticket. This is actually one of the great opportunities to BYOB, since there are so many affordable and interesting restaurants in New York that allow BYOB to augment their poorly tended wine lists. Many of the great ethnic restaurants are BYOB-friendly, though sometimes you do get what you pay for.

If you’re looking to save a buck, I would assume you’re willing to travel a bit to do so and in this travel, you will be well-rewarded. In Queens, one of New York’s so called outer boroughs, lies one of the great restaurants of New York City: SriPraPhai.

This purveyor of killer Thai food is an easy walk from the Long Island Railroad’s Woodside station. The menu is your typical Thai menu, but the quality of the food is a revelation. Fragrant, light, deftly spiced, it’s simply amazing. Dishes like these scream out for your favorite off-dry whites like Riesling and Chenin Blanc, and you can pop as many as you want for $10 a bottle. How’s that for saving a buck?

64-13 39th Avenue
Woodside, NY 11377

Celebrating the Big Deal

So you want to celebrate in New York City, but want to bring your own wine. I like the way you roll. For me, celebrating means three things: splurging with friends in a special place, so we’re looking for a restaurant that is both at the top of their game and able to host an increasingly boisterous table until wee hours of the night.

While Beacon may not be the most expensive restaurant in town, it is special. Their wood-fired grill handles the brunt of the culinary load and it shows. I love the smoky essence the oven lends to the menu and if you plan ahead you can snag a great table upstairs away from crowds you’re going to disturb.

There is plenty to love on Beacon’s menu, but the stars really are the wood grilled steaks and the sumptuous wood-roasted seafood. Now's the time to break out some creamy California Chardonnays and a couple of bottles of your finest Bordeaux.  For $35 a bottle, you’ll be ensured great service and good glassware.

25 West 56th Street
New York, NY 10019

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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Quadrix
    96423 16

    Nice article. I live in Chicago where many restaurants have BYOB policies. What's unfortunate is many seem embarrassed to announce that there is a fee for corkage often making it a bit uncomfortable at the beginning of the meal. Restaurant owners should make their policy clear to the wait staff and train them to embrace the client who chooses to drink from his own collection. Typically they order more, tip better and return more often. Wait staff can build a strong following by making this a pleasant ritual . My favorite in Chicago is Bandera's on Michigan avenue. They have no fee and a great staff that takes real interest in the wine I have selected for the evening. This makes for a great experience for me and my guests.

    Bill Martin - Chicago

    Aug 23, 2011 at 3:23 PM

  • Here in the Dallas area we have a few places we love that are BYOB, and most have very modest corkage fees of $1 to $3 per glass. For true Italian, try MoMo's on Forest Lane. Incredible risottos and Gnocci, as well as innovative pastas and salads. For American Italian, we love Aboca's in Richardson (SW corner of Beltline and 75). If they have Rack of Lamb, order it!

    Andrew Chooljian - Dallas

    Aug 23, 2011 at 3:41 PM

  • @Mortgagema, I grew up in Plano. I used to go to a little Italian place called Covinos with very small corkage fee every Friday night. Place is VERY casual, very small, and the food is the real deal.

    This is a great article. Snooth party at Beacons anyone?

    Aug 23, 2011 at 5:10 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 10,520

    It may be my hang-up, but I have always been a tad uncomfortable about bringing my own wine into a restaurant. So, I use a couple strategies to ameliorate my issues.

    First, I will always order something off the restaurant’s wine list. Since whatever I am bringing is probably best mated for the entree, I will generally start off with something as an aperitif. If it is only my wife and I, it will probably be a glass for each of us.

    My second strategy is for use when I am bringing a very special bottle--i.e., something that the server recognizes as exceptional. After I taste the wine and verify that all is as it should be, I'll offer the server a taste. (I have never been turned down on this offer.)

    As a result I find my restaurant experience becomes much more comfortable for me and for the restaurant personnel. On occasion, the corkage fee has been waived.

    This brings up another question. What do they call it if you bring a bottle with a screw cap? Screwage? (Credit to Jerry Mead.)

    Aug 23, 2011 at 6:00 PM

  • Snooth User: Quadrix
    96423 16

    @EMark, Thanks to you and Jerry for the chuckle. I have used both strategies and find it a good part of the overall experience. I have had similar results of disappearing corkage fees which is a side benefit second to allowing the server to share the experience. This also allows you to standout from the other patrons in a good way. I like to also offer a taste to the manager or wine sommelier especially if it is an interesting selection. They really appreciate experiencing something with real time in a bottle.

    Bill Martin - Chicago

    Aug 23, 2011 at 6:31 PM

  • Any information about san diego resturants with this service?

    Aug 23, 2011 at 7:03 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 10,520


    I don't think I've ever visited a restaurant that absolutely banned BYOB. There might be legal issues in some areas, but I live in Los Angeles County, and, so, I know it is not a California issue. However, whenever I plan to visit a restaurant with my own wine, I will call them first and ask about their corkage policy. This prepares me for the tariff, and it helps greatly with the awkwardness of the dining room staff/management when they see that I brought my wine. When I explain that I have already been advised of their policy, things smooth out very nicely.

    Aug 23, 2011 at 7:48 PM

  • Snooth User: Tishy64
    500984 52

    Tartine, West Village- 4th and 11th I think. Teeny tiny place. Very good easy French/American food..Never had a corkage fee...

    Aug 23, 2011 at 9:00 PM

  • Snooth User: markebo
    837926 61

    I have a nice cellar of back vintages of the wines I like to drink,while it might be nice to cook at home or visit like minded friends in their home with a wine to rock our socks off .I find things go to a new level with really fine food that sadly I can't cook.and I love to see how my wines change with different styes of food it can be amazing .In Melbourbe Australia I find fine dinning resturants are now starting to be happy to BYO on monday nights with corkage and some are now offering no corkage. eg ,Da Noi ,esposito to name a few it fills tables on quite nights and everyone is happy.i

    Aug 23, 2011 at 9:31 PM

  • Snooth User: D TOWN
    123864 8

    @ScottLaura-H we live in North Dallas and yes Covino's is a great place with down home Italian fare and a low corkage fee. Another Italian restaurant is Cafe Amore which is low price but pretty good and maybe doesn't even charge a corkage, or must be minimal if they do since I can't recall. Also, for a higher end seafood place try Citrus Bistro off of Royal and Preston. Oh, and don't forget our alltime favorite Greek BYOB, Zorba's in South Plano!

    Aug 23, 2011 at 9:51 PM

  • Snooth User: whauptman
    864967 2

    It's very curious, this BYO concept. In most of Europe we can't do this, at least not that I know about. Unless you call ahead and ask to bring a special bottle for a special occasion. i have never brought a bottle with me, relying always on the cellar the restaurant provides. But why not if the restaurant agrees?

    Aug 24, 2011 at 3:58 AM

  • Snooth User: Jonar
    156583 129

    Villa's Grill, Irving, TX It is a Brazilian type steak place with the servers bringing out: fried bananas, grilled pineapple, sirloin (regular and garlic), lamb, bacon wrapped chicken, Butt, breaded pork. Plus the salad / side items were fresh. Amazing casual place for $20. Usually a line. No corkage fee.

    Aug 24, 2011 at 11:53 AM

  • Snooth User: vabowhnr
    874112 3

    Any info on places like this in Virginia?

    Aug 25, 2011 at 6:45 AM

  • You missed a really great one....Lucali's in Carroll Gardens. The BEST pizza in Brooklyn and I think their corkage fee is $5. You can call ahead and usually get a table in 1-2 hours. Definitely calls for a little planning and you may still end up waiting, but it is seriously GOOD! Gourmet thin crust pizza and the perfect bottle of wine to suit your unique palette.

    Aug 30, 2011 at 12:04 PM

  • Snooth User: Larry W
    732732 7

    I live here in Palm Beach County Florida and have only found 1 restaurant Tramonti in Del Ray Beach which doesn't allow you to bring your own bottle!!!
    All other restaurants that I have frequented in Broward County and Palm Beach have allowed it with the typical corkage fee between $15.00-$35.00.
    If a restaurant won't allow it PLEASE find another!!!
    I'm talking about restaurants which are considered moderate to high-end. Wolfman

    Aug 30, 2011 at 5:31 PM

  • Snooth User: Wendy Crispell
    Hand of Snooth
    72835 4,715

    La Sirene is great in West Village, no fee. Tareau in East Village not bad but stick to traditional vs modern versions of fondue on the menu. Met a few fellow bloggers there last month and had a great time. Very helpful chilling bottles, providing glasses, etc. Neither are fancy fare but a great place to relax and enjoy a bottle with friends.

    Jan 05, 2012 at 3:17 PM

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