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DC Restaurants That Allow BYOW


tjaehnigen
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Are there any decent DC restaurants that are strictly BYOB? I can't think of any. I love going to the BYOB's in Philly (like Audrey Claire)-- it makes for a much less expensive tab (the prevalence of Philly BYOBs is due to their liquor licensing laws).

Chris Sadler

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Is corkage about drinking better wine or saving money?    DISCUSS

Yes.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I think restaurants should extend the BYO policy to other parts of the meal. For example, I know a butcher who sells dry aged USDA Prime steaks that are better and less expensive than what most restaurants offer. I would like to bring some of these steaks to a restaurant and have them expertly prepared and served on fine china with a nice bernaise--or maybe a green peppercorn sauce if I'm in the mood. For that I am willing to give the chef a bite of the steak and pay a $15 grillage charge for the table.

Actually, the above is purely hypothetical; but is it really that different than BYOW?

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Is corkage about drinking better wine or saving money?    DISCUSS

Yes.

To expand a bit...

Unfortunately, this is a moot issue in Michigan since BYOW, with or without corkage fee, is illegal. :angry: (See the topic I started a few days ago.) But, if I could, it would depend on the restaurant. For example, my favorite local restaurant has excellent, reasonably priced food but a very limited wine list. I often know in advance what I'm going to order, so I'd like to be able to match it with a wine from my cellar. Or, if we're going out for a high-end meal (we don't have lots of extra $$, so that doesn't happen very often) and would like a commensurate bottle of wine (with the commensurate markup), it puts a major crimp in the budget.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I think restaurants should extend the BYO policy to other parts of the meal.  For example, I know a butcher who sells dry aged USDA Prime steaks that are better and less expensive than what most restaurants offer.  I would like to bring some of these steaks to a restaurant and have them expertly prepared and served on fine china with a nice bernaise--or maybe a green peppercorn sauce if I'm in the mood.  For that I am willing to give the chef a bite of the steak and pay a $15 grillage charge for the table.

Actually, the above is purely hypothetical; but is it really that different than BYOW?

Mark, I think it is about both. I want to drink better wine than is typically on the wine list at many establishments I like to dine at. And, yes, it is about saving some bucks, too. The mark-up that most restaurants add to their wine lists is somewhat ridiculous at times. A $30 bottle at retail going for $75-90? A $50 bottle going for $150? An $85 bottle going for $210? I have seen this type of markup all too often. BYOW allows me to dine out more often, and often with much better wine than is available on a given restaurant's list.

I wonder, would any given restaurant rather I dine out less frequently but at a more profitable pricepoint (buying wine off of their list)? Or would they rather I dine out more often, but allow me to BYOW (paying a reasonable corkage fee (say $20 or less))?

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I think restaurants should extend the BYO policy to other parts of the meal.  For example, I know a butcher who sells dry aged USDA Prime steaks that are better and less expensive than what most restaurants offer.  I would like to bring some of these steaks to a restaurant and have them expertly prepared and served on fine china with a nice bernaise--or maybe a green peppercorn sauce if I'm in the mood.  For that I am willing to give the chef a bite of the steak and pay a $15 grillage charge for the table.

Actually, the above is purely hypothetical; but is it really that different than BYOW?

Mark, I think it is about both. I want to drink better wine than is typically on the wine list at many establishments I like to dine at. And, yes, it is about saving some bucks, too. The mark-up that most restaurants add to their wine lists is somewhat ridiculous at times. A $30 bottle at retail going for $75-90? A $50 bottle going for $150? An $85 bottle going for $210? I have seen this type of markup all too often. BYOW allows me to dine out more often, and often with much better wine than is available on a given restaurant's list.

I wonder, would any given restaurant rather I dine out less frequently but at a more profitable pricepoint (buying wine off of their list)? Or would they rather I dine out more often, but allow me to BYOW (paying a reasonable corkage fee (say $20 or less))?

Tj,

As you undoubtedly know, my chef does not permit people to bring wine to the restaurant. The markups you cite are typical in many places, but not mine. My list is not peppered with the usual suspects. I am able to obtain hard to find, rare and unusual wines. I was challenged once on another board about restaurant markups versus liquor store prices. The points I made supporting restaurant markups (not obscene ones, rational ones) were:

A liquor store does not:

-pay multiple dishwashers $11 an hour

-buy 400 dozen stemware glasses a year

-buy 100 dozen Fretté tableclothes at $85 each a year

-buy several 100 dozen Christophle forks, knives, demi-tasse spoons that find their way into customers pockets and handbags

-pay a staff of 85, including their healthcare benefits.

I carry an inventory in excess of $300,000. This is an investment. The object of an investment is the return, n'est ce-pas?

In addition, let me say, you rarely see people outraged about the markups the importer, supplier and distributor take before I even get my hands on the wine. If the 3 tier system were not the legislated form of piracy that it is, you would see lower prices across the board.

Mark

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Mark,

I do know about your restaurant's policy on no BYOW. However, I don't mind so much, since the restaurant you work for is very much a destination restaurant. So much so that the one time that I have dined there so far, it is one of the 2 top two meals of my life (the other being at Babbo, with the Laboratorio del Galileo and The Inn At Little Washington rounding out the top 4). When one dines at such a destination restaurant, one generally doe not tend to argue the points about BYOW. If everyone offered the quality and depth of your wine list, and marked up to a reasonable degree (by the way, what, in general, is your definition of a 'reasonable mark up' for a restaurant? -- I think 2x retail reasonable (with allowances for the cheaper wines to be a higher multiple and the very expensive wines to be of a lower multiple)?), I would not generally argue for the BYOW concept.

I do enjoy having the opportunity to BYOW at many dining establishments here in our Nation's Capital. As I explained before, I am able to dine out more frequently as a result with generally better quality wines (or wines that aren't just the currently released vintage)

BTW, do you know the sommelier at Daniel in NYC?

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Mark,

I do know about your restaurant's policy on no BYOW. However, I don't mind so much, since the restaurant you work for is very much a destination restaurant. So much so that the one time that I have dined there so far, it is one of the 2 top two meals of my life (the other being at Babbo, with the Laboratorio del Galileo and The Inn At Little Washington rounding out the top 4). When one dines at such a destination restaurant, one generally doe not tend to argue the points about BYOW. If everyone offered the quality and depth of your wine list, and marked up to a reasonable degree (by the way, what, in general, is your definition of a 'reasonable mark up' for a restaurant? -- I think 2x retail reasonable (with allowances for the cheaper wines to be a higher multiple and the very expensive wines to be of a lower multiple)?), I would not generally argue for the BYOW concept.

I do enjoy having the opportunity to BYOW at many dining establishments here in our Nation's Capital. As I explained before, I am able to dine out more frequently as a result with generally better quality wines (or wines that aren't just the currently released vintage)

BTW, do you know the sommelier at Daniel in NYC?

Tj,

You are pretty much correct as to how "reasonable" markups are figured. In many cases, though, the price retail stores pay for wine is lower than what restaurants pay, so saying 2X retail is misleading to a degree. I am lucky that my boss and the accountants agree with me that cash flow is more important than arbitrary percentages.

No, I don't know the sommelier at Daniel. I do know Daniel, though.

Mark

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Is corkage about drinking better wine or saving money?    DISCUSS

Corkage is about drinking better wine. And only secondarily about saving money.

I travel with a wine-heavy group. When we go out to eat, we bring one or two bottles a person. We bring our own glasses. We bring more wine knowledge than all but a few sommeliers in Minneapolis (where I live).

What we want is a reasonable per-person corkage fee. When we find a restaurant with one, we go back again and again. We order some wine off the list. We open a lot that we've brought. We're happy to give anyone who works there a taste--most of the bottles aren't even half empty when they're done. What we don't want is an expensive per-bottle corkage fee. We don't even make reservations at those places.

When I'm not dining with a wine group, sometimes I bring my own bottle. It's always because it is a bottle that I want to open and try. It's never about the money.

I think most people rebel against corkage fees is because they don't understand the economics of wine at restaurants. They think that because they brought it, it should not be charged for. I think they're wrong, but it is an understandable position.

Bruce

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Mark,

I do know about your restaurant's policy on no BYOW. However, I don't mind so much, since the restaurant you work for is very much a destination restaurant. So much so that the one time that I have dined there so far, it is one of the 2 top two meals of my life (the other being at Babbo, with the Laboratorio del Galileo and The Inn At Little Washington rounding out the top 4). When one dines at such a destination restaurant, one generally doe not tend to argue the points about BYOW. If everyone offered the quality and depth of your wine list, and marked up to a reasonable degree (by the way, what, in general, is your definition of a 'reasonable mark up' for a restaurant? -- I think 2x retail reasonable (with allowances for the cheaper wines to be a higher multiple and the very expensive wines to be of a lower multiple)?), I would not generally argue for the BYOW concept.

I do enjoy having the opportunity to BYOW at many dining establishments here in our Nation's Capital. As I explained before, I am able to dine out more frequently as a result with generally better quality wines (or wines that aren't just the currently released vintage)

BTW, do you know the sommelier at Daniel in NYC?

Tj,

You are pretty much correct as to how "reasonable" markups are figured. In many cases, though, the price retail stores pay for wine is lower than what restaurants pay, so saying 2X retail is misleading to a degree. I am lucky that my boss and the accountants agree with me that cash flow is more important than arbitrary percentages.

No, I don't know the sommelier at Daniel. I do know Daniel, though.

Mark--

Curious, why do restaurants pay more than retail shops for wine (ignoring the stuff you get at auction and the mailing list only stuff, of course)?

And if you know Daniel, that is quite kewl! Been to two of his three NYC restaurants (Daniel still beckons as Cafe Boulud and db Bistro Moderne are already under my belt). Urp!

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I wonder, would any given restaurant rather I dine out less frequently but at a more profitable pricepoint (buying wine off of their list)? Or would they rather I dine out more often, but allow me to BYOW (paying a reasonable corkage fee (say $20 or less))?

I think one has to consider just how much business a restaurant is doing before asking that question. If it's impossible to get a last minute table at the restaurant, we could assume they don't have reason to care if you dine out, or dine there, more often. If the restaurant has empty tables on a regular basis, it needs more business.

The argument about a restaurant's overhead being so high, and including tablecloths and lost silverware as reason for high wine markups is not one I completely understand. Perhaps the food prices should rise to cover those costs. Why are the wine drinkers being asked to subsidize the teatotalers? If I may answer my own question, I think it's because people check menu prices more than wine prices when they are planning to eat out. Frequently they'll pick the restaurant with the less expensive menu items, and ignore the fact that they're going to get soaked on the alcohol. In a way the consumer is to blame, although it's probably not the same segment of the consumer market that's complaining.

One more point I'd make is that the charges for bottled water are even higher on a percentage basis although that often brings complaints. Fewer complaints are heard about the more excessive charges for hard liquor, which have relatively few costs invovled in storage and handling. I don't understand why wine at 3X retail value is a crime while whiskey at a considerably higher multiple brings few comments. Finally, what do they charge for a Coke at a fine restaurant although I have no idea why anyone would order one in a fine restaurant.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I wonder, would any given restaurant rather I dine out less frequently but at a more profitable pricepoint (buying wine off of their list)? Or would they rather I dine out more often, but allow me to BYOW (paying a reasonable corkage fee (say $20 or less))?

I think one has to consider just how much business a restaurant is doing before asking that question. If it's impossible to get a last minute table at the restaurant, we could assume they don't have reason to care if you dine out, or dine there, more often. If the restaurant has empty tables on a regular basis, it needs more business.

The argument about a restaurant's overhead being so high, and including tablecloths and lost silverware as reason for high wine markups is not one I completely understand. Perhaps the food prices should rise to cover those costs. Why are the wine drinkers being asked to subsidize the teatotalers? If I may answer my own question, I think it's because people check menu prices more than wine prices when they are planning to eat out. Frequently they'll pick the restaurant with the less expensive menu items, and ignore the fact that they're going to get soaked on the alcohol. In a way the consumer is to blame, although it's probably not the same segment of the consumer market that's complaining.

One more point I'd make is that the charges for bottled water are even higher on a percentage basis although that often brings complaints. Fewer complaints are heard about the more excessive charges for hard liquor, which have relatively few costs invovled in storage and handling. I don't understand why wine at 3X retail value is a crime while whiskey at a considerably higher multiple brings few comments. Finally, what do they charge for a Coke at a fine restaurant although I have no idea why anyone would order one in a fine restaurant.

Bux,

I am not advocating high wine markups. We were talking about reasonable markups and the reasons they exist. You need to read "Fast Food Nation". I work in a fine restau. Coke costs $2.50. Yes, if you had read that book, it costs us $.01 a glass. Horror!!! Where are the people yelling about that? What's next, the bread? Is it really "free"? A restaurant is a business. Businesses exist to make money. Gouging is a separate issue.

Edited by Mark Sommelier (log)

Mark

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The hospitality business is filled with examples of final costs not reflecting actual costs, in order for things to subsidize each other. When you book a function room at a hotel, the room is generally free if you buy a certain amount of food. In Europe it's different: the room has a cost, and the food has a separate cost. But in the U.S., the cost of the food subsidizes the cost of the room.

The cost of almost everything in Las Vegas is subsidized by gambling revenues.

Wine holds a similar function in restaurants: the cost of wine subsidizes--in part--the meal. Sure, you can make out ahead if you don't order wine, just as you can make out ahead on a Vegas vacation if you don't gamble, but by and large the system works.

I agree. I prefer the real costs to be reflected in the final costs. I believe it is fairer and more honest. But it's not the way the world works.

Bruce

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I will generally put my money where my mouth is. If I find a given restaurants prices, of anything (wine included), I will look for either something else or see if I can find any well-priced hidden gems (especially on wine lists). If I don't want to pay 8 bucks for some bottled water, I won't order it. If I don't want to pay north of $50 or $100 for a bottle of wine, I won't.

With destination restaurants being the exception, I will generally lean towards establishments that I can BYOW -- simply because I can drink wine with some age on it (or is special to me in some other way), it'll be cheaper for me (and it'll allow me to dine out more often (which I like!) and so on. But, I will always make exceptions to the BYOW thing, simply because there are restaurants where I can't do it either through policy or by law. Maestro is a perfect example. It is high up on my list of places to go and I know I will not be able to BYOW there. But I still want to go there!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I can think of no better person to ask this question to. Although I have over 500 bottles of wine I rarely, if ever, bring a bottle of wine to a restaurant. I realize that the restaurant is dependent on a percentage of the price of a bottle of wine for their profit and hesitate to bring my own even with a corkage fee. Some restaurants such as Laboratorio have a very modest fee of $15 which is much less than what they would have for a margin on an average bottle. Similar to your's the wine list is complete and exemplery.

Yet on this board, Chowhound and others I frequently read about people bringing their own bottles of wine. What are your thoughts on this? I feel that when I bring my own I am taking advantage of the restaurant unless the corkage fee is substantial. As a result I hesitate to do this. In fact the only time I have was when there were several bottles of Leonetti and I shared them.

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Not sure if you were asking me or Mark, Joe... But, I'll add my 2 cents anyway. :smile:

BYOW is a personal decision. For me, I take advantage of it almost whenever possible as it allows me to dine out more frequently and it also allows me to drink wine that I think is ready. Many times when looking at a wine list, it seems not much thought was put into developing a list that is anything but only the latest vintages. I can understand this since it would be a somewhat expensive proposition. For places with excellent wine lists, this is generally not a problem and I have no problem ordering off of their list. BUT, as such, these restaurants tend to be pretty expensive, and I don't dine at them frequently or even regularly. They are essentially destination restaurants to me.

If you feel more comfortable ordering off the restaurant's wine list in order to support them, well, that's certainly within your rights. For me though, I am much more into being able to dine out more frequently. And if BYOWing helps me do that, those estanblishments will get more of my dining out dollars. :cool:

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I had incorrectly addressed this as a new topic to Mark. Steve thought it better to put it on this thread which gives my question a whole different perspective. I am only interested in Mark's or perhaps John's thoughts on this. In the future I will contact him directly. Thanks anyway. Sorry for the confusion that moving it to this thread has caused.

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I wouldn't worry to much about exactly where the question was originally posted or moved. Corkage is a subject on which Mark has been quite candid about his views and the reasons behind them. I'm sure he will continue to be nothing less.

For another example, see this thread in the wine forum.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Yeah, the eG DC community always functions best when it's inclusive--though we also provide a means to communicate privately. I originally thought Joe's question might have been better in Wine, but then I found a recent thread where Mark had already shared some of his perspective on corkage. Mark, Darren and John participated on that "corkage fee" thread in Wine which Darren linked to as well. If I had seen that thread back in June I would have added that I, too, see a restaurant's food and wine pricing and policies as a package offer--a unique package I can choose to accept, decline or ask for an exception to. To me, the menu and the list are one and reflect an offer of service. I'd no sooner expect to be able to bring in my own chocolate or coffee because I thought the chocolate or coffee used in the restaurant was not up to my standards or taste than I would wine.

That said, it's a hospitality business. And you lose nothing by asking for an exception or availing yourself of some aspect of an offer--in this case, a "low" corkage fee.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I do not exclusively go to restaurants that allow BYOW with a corkage fee. I do tend to spend my money at those establishments more frequently however. I am actually presently planning a small dinner of local wine-os to share some bottles next week. We don't bring our own stems, we don't bring our own decanters, we do buy a good bit of food and we always offer a taste of everything (though, interestingly, few people/places actually take us up on this) and we tip well. We also try to arange things to NOT be on a Friday or Saturday.

When I go to Citronelle again, I am sure Mark will steer me right to a great wine at a good value pricepoint.

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