9 Restaurants Where it's Expensive to BYOB Slideshow
"Guests wishing to enjoy treasures from their own cellar are welcome to do so," says Mark Canlis, managing owner of Canlis, a fine-dining restaurant in Seattle with stellar wine service by Nelson Daquip, wine director. And while BYOB bottles should not be on Canlis’ expansive wine list, three bottles are allowed for a fee of $35 each (as long as they are 750-ml bottles). "As far as service for personal corkage goes, we actually require more time and care for these wines, mostly because we don’t know how they’ve been handled or stored, so we take every precaution to make sure we are able to open and serve the wine the way the guest envisioned."
"If we have a guest that brings in a magnum or jeroboam, we usually charge $45," says Anna Golden, manager/sommelier at BRAND Steakhouse, of the restaurant’s corkage policy toward large-format wines. "We allow people to bring any wine, including wines that we have on our wine list, when they dine with us in Las Vegas." Regular 750 milliliter-sized bottles run diners just $30. "I think our customers enjoy the flexibility of being able to bring any wine they want with dinner, but, at the same time, BRAND has a phenomenal wine list that has something for everyone, even the most discerning wine drinkers," says Golden.
At this Chicago temple to fine dining, corkage fees are $50, but it doesn’t matter if the bottle is currently on the restaurant’s wine list or not — a rarity in the world of BYOB-friendly restaurants. There’s a two-bottle maximum, though, and while the staff executes standard wine service, don’t expect your brought-in bottle to be tasted (unless you make a specific request). According to sommelier Chad Ellegood, "The price may be steeper than most, but that is to deter bringing in low-quality wine. If someone brings in a bottle, I prefer it to be something special that will enhance their experience — just like the wines on my list."
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Artfully presented dishes, like lacquered lobster with black truffle and grapefruit, established L20 in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood as a fine-dining destination. Sommelier and wine director Richard Hanauer charges a middle-of-the-road $50 corkage fee, has a two bottle-limit per table, and the wine cannot be on the restaurant’s wine list. Diners should note that calling the restaurant before-hand is a prerequisite, in order to ensure that guests score special services tableside: The sommelier and chef will create a special dish to match the wine that diners plan on bringing in. "The chef and I will work together on what foods work best for the wine that a guest will bring in and he will create a dish for that specific wine. For example, if someone brings in a rich, buttery Sonoma chardonnay, chef Kirkley will make a rich, buttery lobster bisque to match… or if someone brings in a gamey barolo, the chef may send out some lamb," says Hanauer.
This unique 18-seat eatery has had a big effect on the Brooklyn dining scene — it was the first restaurant in the borough to earn three Michelin stars. Customers, who are seated intimately at the kitchen counter, enjoy prix fixe dinners of more than 20 courses by chef Cesar Ramirez. Fittingly, corkage fees are steep: $70 per bottle, with a two-bottle limit. But consider the Old World-leaning wine list, with just a handful of selections for less than $200, and this corkage fee might actually be cost-effective.
At Thomas Keller’s famous French Laundry, located in Napa Valley, Calif., each meal is a culinary experience, sometimes taking three to four hours to complete a single service. Here, corkage fees will run you $75 for each bottle of wine — a fact that may be hard to swallow in the heart of California wine country, where lax BYOB opportunities abound. Still insistent on bringing in your own bottles? Call ahead and make sure your wine does not appear on the existing wine list. Duplicates are not allowed in, just like at sister restaurant Per Se in New York.
Sometimes, exorbitant corkage fees come with posh perks. With the rental of a private wine vault at Adour Alain Ducasse, you’ll pay $85 in corkage fees for each bottle opened. Yearlong memberships to the wine vault program run diners a whopping $2,000, but if you’re a regular at Adour, it may be well worth it: As a wine vault member, diners are afforded tailored tasting experiences crafted by chef Julien Jouhannaud himself. And the vaults are located in the Private Vault Room, an exclusive space that can seat 14. Anyone can purchase a vault membership to store their personal wine collection, and each vault can hold up to 12 bottles in a temperature-controlled environment — perhaps a plus for those in cramped Manhattan apartments. Of the vault users, approximately two customers per week access their own bottles. Interestingly, Adour at The St. Regis in Washington, D.C., does not allow customers to bring in their own bottles.
Perhaps Thomas Keller’s top-rated, ultra-luxe Per Se (well-known for its extravagant nine-course tastings) took notes from its neighbor, Masa, located on the same floor of the Time Warner Center in New York City. The restaurant charges $90 in corkage fees for each 750 milliliter bottle of wine brought in from the outside (the most you can bring in is three). This fee is, of course, in addition to the cost of your multi-course meal, which starts at around $295 per person. Since the award-winning restaurant is well-known for its strong wine cellar and wide range of half-bottle selections, calling ahead and checking to make sure the same bottle does not appear on their lengthy list is a must. At least gratuity is included.
Masa is known for its super pricey dinners (be prepared to shell out more than $400 at the sushi bar), a monthlong wait time for reservations, and microscopic (but undeniably delicious) portions of sushi made by sushi guru Masayoshi Takayama, and so shelling out nearly $100 in corkage fees seems to fit in with the larger-than-life experience at Masa. But don’t even think about bringing in a bottle without clearing it with the restaurant first — you’ll want to make sure the bottle isn’t currently on the evolving list.