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Toronto Restaurants - Has BYOW influenced your choice? [moved from Toronto]

As my login name proclaims, I like wine and have a fair number of bottles at home. For my wife and me, BYOW has definitely influenced our selection of restaurants. At the very high end, most restaurants now allow BYOW, although the silly corkage fees at some (Perigee = $70 and Susur = $60) makes me wonder why they bother. For more moderately priced restaurants, the practice is much more variable. Some of our favourites don’t allow BYOW. We still go to these places, especially if they have good wine lists (interesting bottles reasonably priced), but probably less than we would if we could bring our own wine. On the other hand, we have definitely tried new places primarily because they allow BYOW. Has BYOW influenced your restaurant selection or the frequency of your visits to certain places?

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  1. For me it has not made any difference but unlike you I do not have a large selection of "good wines" at home - if I did it could well make a difference. I would be far more influenced to know that a restaurant was prepared to participate in tne THTR (Take Home The Rest) program. They need not need a special licence to do this (as they do for BYOW) but must ensure the cork is driven flush when it leaves the restaurant. I would probably buy more wine - either a second bottle or a red and a white if I knew I could walk out with what is left over. I remain totally perplexed why restaurants are not doing this.

    1. I don't have an extensive cellar, but I have friends that do. They are making a birthday party this month and chose the restaurant (an old favourite) partly because they could bring the wine. I know it will be great, as we were discussing it last night. My mouth is already watering for the Cote de Rotie or Margeaux and the celebratory Chateau d' Y with the cheese. Be still my heart.

      1. It doesn't now, but it could. Specifically, places where I would like to dine that have a beer & wine license. There are plenty that offer 1 or 2 red's & 1 or 2 white's. I would eat at these places if I could bring my own. Good food without good wine isn't worth having.

        1. Most Toronto restaurants seem to participate in BYOW only grudgingly, and then with a BYOW fee that makes it pointless to actually bring your own. When the fee is $15-$20, why bother bringing your own wine? There's no saving of consequence. Though there are exceptions. Paese, a pleasant Italian joint on north Bathurst St., charges no fee whatever to bring your own (despite its own extensive wine list), and Fat Cat (at Eglinton and Avenue Rd.) on Tuesdays charges just $5 (its slowest day, obviously). The Granite Brewery charges nothing on Sundays and Mondays and the Senator Diner, last time I was there, was asking just $5. I try to get to such places more often than if they didn't have such a liberal policy.
          How much better it would be if Ontario emulated Quebec's BYOW policy. In Quebec, restaurants can opt for either a regular liquor licence or a BYOW licence. Most of those with a BYOW licence are friendly neighborhood boites - some remarkably good - whose owners can't afford to stock a wine cellar and are therefore content to make their profit from their food alone. Most important, they rarely charge a BYOW fee, making it possible for young couples to enjoy a good dinner out without dropping $100-$200.

          1 Reply
          1. re: juno

            While it is always great to find a place with a low corkage fee, I want to offer an alternative to your view of the economics of BYOW and disagree with the generalization that most places allow BYOW reluctantly. On the economics, lets say I have a bottle that I bought for $30. If that bottle were to appear on a restaurant's wine list, it would sell for a minimum of $60 (more likely $70-80). If I pay a $20 corkage fee, my total cost is $50 so I am ahead by at least $10 and maybe by $30. I use some of this savings to increase the tip I leave to recognize the fact that I would have spent more than the $20 corkage on wine for my wife and me. More important than the savings, however, is the fact that I get to drink the wine from my cellar that I picked for dinner that night.

            I also think that the comfort with BYOW is growing. Many restaurants provide very good wine service when I bring my own bottle. They offer appropriate glasses and decanting when necessary or desired. If I sense that the server is interested in the wine, I will often offer a taste. Most servers appreciate the offer and usually are happy to taste a different kind of wine or an older vintage. If you combine this with an increase in your normal percentage tip to recognize that BYOW has reduced the total of the bill, places will be even more gracious about BYOW when you return.

          2. Mammina's on 6 Wellesley St W has an interesting policy - $5 corkage or FREE for VQA wines.....haven't ever been to the restaurant - is it good? I think there are a few other restaurants in TO with the free VQA policy (maybe on certain nights).