BYOB stands for “bring your own: beer, bottle, beverage, booze … you get the idea. For this post, we’ll keep it to “bottle” for wine.
With the prices of a glass or bottle of wine at a restaurant, BYOB may be just the option you’ve been looking for, and numerous restaurants allow it, from the very swanky to moderately priced to your local mom and pop pizza joint.
But before you grab that bottle of vino and head out for dinner, there are a few rules and regs you need to know.
1) Check with the restaurant where you will be dining to see if management permits you to bring your own wine. Check the website, or call and ask for the manager or head bartender so that you get the latest restaurant policy information on BYOB.
2) Find out how many bottles you can bring. Some restaurants will have a limit but usually two will be allowed; that gives you the option of pairing a wine with the entrée and another with dessert.
3) Ask what the corkage fee is. This is a fee the restaurant charges to uncork and serve your wines. (And, yes, this is legal.) The fee is usually around the cost of a glass or two of wine: $5 to $20, although some restaurants will waive the fee if you purchase a certain amount of food, or on designated days as a “special incentive” to visit. Be sure and ask the manager about this. (More expensive restaurants may charge a corkage fee of $50 -$85.) If you find that the corkage fee is too high, it may be because the restaurant is trying to discourage BYOB.
4) Check the restaurant’s website and peruse the menu so that you can pair the wine you will be bringing with the food available on the menu. And don’t be afraid to ask the wait staff /wine steward/sommelier for suggestions that might go with your bottle of wine. If they are unfamiliar with the wine allow them to taste in order to make a better recommendation. (Good manners: Invite them to taste, regardless.)
5) And while you’re checking the website for menu selections, make sure you’re not taking a wine the restaurant already offers. (Yes, I know it’s cheaper, but it’s just bad form.)
6) It’s up to you to have your wine ready to serve when you arrive at the restaurant. If it’s a white wine that needs chilled, keep it cool in an insulated wine bag.
7) When you’ve finished, leave the bottle on the table to be cleared with the rest of the meal’s remains. (And please, tip well!)
Some of the most BYOB-friendly cities in the U.S. include Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and the state of New Jersey.
Remember, the restaurant is allowing you to bring your own bottle: It is not a right; it’s a privilege. Treat it as such, tip well, and hopefully, BYOB will become more available, not just in the larger cities, but throughout the country.