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BYO what now?

I'm taking a trip to Philadelphia at the end of the month with a bunch of friends to catch the Red Sox vs. the Phillies. I am excited to try new restaurants in Philly, since I haven't been since I was a kid in South Jersey, and I've gotten some great ideas from this board, but have been a little surprised by all the BYOBs. Sooooo... I just bring my own wine in with me? I sound like a complete yokel, I'm sure, but how exactly does this work?

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  1. That's it, plain and simple. You bring your own wine -- as many bottles as you and your dining companions might need. The waitperson will open it for you, put it on ice, if that's needed, and provide stemware. Some places charge a modest corkage fee, but many don't. Nice, isn't it? More and more, I seek out BYOs when dining out. And there are some pretty fine restaurants that welcome BYO. In fact, the Philly Zagat guide has a section that lists BYOs. Here are a couple of other websites that list BYOs in Philly and the 'burbs. http://marksquires.com/byob.htm#SUBURBS

    1. One minor correction to the above. Some places restrict the number of bottles of wine to 1 per 2 guests.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chinon00

        Interesting, I haven't run across that one. Who imposes limits?

        1. re: joluvscards

          Small Italian byob near South between the high teens and low twenties. Went there about 1 and a half years ago and the sign on the door said "1 bottle per 2 guests". Some people can get out of hand. I've seen groups in this particular place (and others) bring 8 bottles for like 6 people. These kinda folks are interested in more of a party than in dining IMHO. Now personally I think a bottle per person is a more suitable limit (particularly if you have a red and a white) but some limitation is acceptable.

      2. chinon - i have never encountered that situation. and given that you encountered it once and it was a yr and a half ago , i suggest to the OP that you bring as many bottles as you want/need.

        1. I took my father to a suburban byob a few years ago. He couldn't get over the fact that you could actually bring wine to restaurant. He then had the following bright idea: "hey, I could bring a bottle of scotch here then right?" Like I said some people can get out of hand. There is I guess more of an unspoken etiquette rather than a strict policy however.

          1. i think that the only "rule'" is what should apply in "normal" societal decorum - you can get a little smashed if that's your bag, just don't embarass yourself or the restaurant. If a sip of scotch before or after a meal is pleasing to your Pa, I say bring along a nice little Fifth or a flask (clearly not a 1.5 litre). There are plenty of BYOTequilas around nowadays - and while I haven't brought a scotch or a vodka or a rum to a BYO, I won't say never.

            3 Replies
            1. re: rumdrinks

              I once witnessed a table of 6-8 people shaking martinis at Figs -- with all the fixins'. *rolls eyes* A little decorum/discretion goes a long way.

              1. re: croutonpiggy

                Yeah, I have always interpreted BYOB to mean Bring Your Own Booze, not Bring Your Own Bar.

              2. re: rumdrinks

                I've brought my own pre-mixed margaritas and beer to a local BYO Mexican restaurant. In fact, people regularly bring coolers of their favorite libations to this place in Kennett Square. I doubt that any restaurant would mind if you brought something other than wine.

              3. Actually, it's not required or expected that you bring wine to a BYO. You can bring whatever you think will go best with your meal, which could be beer, tequila, sake, etc.

                1. To be clear my father and I were at an Italian byob (Scotch therefore would have made no gastronomic sense with the meal). And as for tequila, I’ve only seen this encouraged for making margaritas at Mexican byobs (not to be consumed on its own). And in my experience very few meals pair well with hard liquor (although I will toss back a glass of scotch at the bar with some sushi). Frankly though it would be insulting to the chef I’d presume to show up with a 750ml of Jack Daniels for dinner at say Matyson.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Chinon00

                    I've brought liquor to a BYO on a number of occasions, and no one was insulted. People have different tastes, and like to make their own choices about what they drink with their food--I think most BYO chefs respect that, and are happy that patrons are enjoying their food.

                    1. re: gina

                      It never even occurred to me to bring anything BUT wine. The idea of walking in with a handle of cheap vodka makes me laugh, though.

                      It's definitely got me thinking differently about how I go out to eat, though. With a pre-dinner cocktail and bottle of wine to split with a friend, I'm definitely spending more on booze than food, but then part of the joy of dining out is having someone else do all the work, including shaking my manhattan. I also really like trying new wines suggested as a pairing with whatever food I choose. But not paying $32 for a $9 bottle of wine is so appealing... I'm excited to give it a whirl in a few weeks.

                  2. Here's another piece of BYO advice, then -- if at all possible, buy your wine in either NJ or DE. Better prices, better selection, more knowledgeable sales people and, most of all, you'll be out from under the much-despised PA Liquor Control Board. Then again, that's a whole other topic!

                    1. To me it matters mostly what your group’s intentions are. A party of 6 bringing 4 bottles of wine to a byob versus a group of 6 bringing say 8-10 bottles (which I've seen) suggests to me two wholly separate agendas. So speaking for me, if I want to “tie one on” after dinner I will go to a bar where the atmosphere may be more conducive to elevated speaking and the rest.

                      1. Another reason people bring multiple bottles is to do wine pairings with different dishes, not necessarily just to get wasted. Don't be so judgmental if you don't know what's up. I've been with small groups who brought multiple bottles, but we didn't finish them all. I have a friend who brings cognac for after the meal. Again, this doesn't mean that as a group we are getting roaring drunk, just because we have multiple bottles/types of liquor.

                        Beer is frequently brought by those who prefer it, or when it goes better with the food. Lolita, a Mexican place has several different margarita blends for those who bring their own tequila. You just hand over the bottle and the servers take it from there.

                        One of the great things about BYOs is that you can make it the meal you want it to be in ways you might never afford if you were paying the markup on wine.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                          Yep, and not only that, but I've seen plenty of people get smashed off their butts in restaurants where you buy your liquor by the glass/bottle. I don't believe that BYOB condones overindulging at all. If people's intention is to get drunk, they're going to do it whether they bring their own, or buy it there.

                          BYOBs are great. We've brought beer and wine. It's a way to make sure you get the wine you want to drink with your meal. And at a cheaper price.

                          1. re: QueenB

                            I enjoy byobs as well but mostly because of the food and the "homey" atmosphere. They really can't afford to serve sub-par food because, without a liquor license, that's where they will make all of their money. And there is no heavy sound system nor distracting light shows (i.e. Morimoto). So the food is the star being enjoyed in a quaint setting.
                            As for the beverage most people simply bring what they like to drink. This makes sense when you consider that pairing at a byob involves:

                            1) getting a copy of the menu before you go.
                            2) deciding what you want to eat before you go.
                            3) deciding on the appropriate wine pairing for chosen entree.
                            4) getting the rest of your party to do the same.
                            5) purchasing wine.

                            People rarely do that tending again to bring what they like or to bring a "versatile" wine.

                            1. re: Chinon00

                              or instead of going through your five point checklist they bring multiple bottles that will be the perfect accompaniment to whatever they and their dining companions choose to eat. The group may or may not drink all that they have brought, despite your perception of their agenda.

                              Homey does not describe many of the newer BYOBs.

                              1. re: Chinon00

                                I often look at a menu online so I can bring the appropriate wine(s). In fact, there was one time when I was in a wine store in Delaware and the woman who was helping me choose my wine for a BYO dinner that night asked me what I'd be likely to order. We were going to a restaurant that changes their menu often (Birchrunville Cafe, for anyone who's curious) , and I had no idea what would be on the menu that night, so she actually called the restaurant, asked what would be on the menu that evening, and told me the menu choices. She helped me select the PERFECT wines for the evening.

                            2. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                              You're absolutely right. Even if it's just my husband and I out for dinner, we often bring two bottles -- one red, one white -- not knowing what our dinner selections will be, and, there have been many times when we've opened BOTH. Or, sometimes we'll start with a white with appetizers and switch to red for entrees. A couple of years ago, when a small group of us were celebrating several separate occasions over dinner, we brought Champagne, several different wines, and after-dinner cordials. The restaurant (Gilmore's in West Chester) was happy to provide us with EXACTLY the right stemware for every bottle we opened.

                              I must say, that although there are many times when large groups have been somewhat rowdy in restaurants, I've NEVER had the impression that it's a drunken free-for-all. It's not like sitting at a bar and drinking all night. In fact, with regards to sobriety, there's very little difference in the appearance of groups at BYO restaurants and restaurants that have liquor licenses. There's not an "I can drink myself silly because I've brought my own booze" mentality. It's always been very civilized, in my experience.

                            3. I guess that anything is possible but I just find the idea that typically the crowd with several more bottles than guests are doing so in an attempt to cover all of their gastronomic options for the evening hard to believe. Note: I rarely dine outside of Philadelphia and additionally have only seen this behavior (deliberate boozing) with younger people at byobs in and around center city.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Chinon00

                                Maybe your disbelief stems from your limited BYO dining experiences. Having dined countless times at BYOs in Philly and the 'burbs, my observation has been that people enjoy their food, enjoy their wine(s), and enjoy the entire BYO dining experience without going overboard, regardless of their age. Many BYOs are very fine, upscale restaurants, not necessarily "homey" or "quaint," and customers behave quite appropriately.

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  First, I don’t necessarily consider the terms “upscale” and “quaint” to have different meanings. I do not like eating in places that have the atmosphere of a dance club (i.e. very loud music, garish décor, etc). I refer to places devoid of this character as “quaint” and for me most byobs fit the bill. As for the term “homey” it can often refer to the décor but also for me it is an extra familiarity that the staff appears to have with guests at byobs. For instance I’ve witnessed the chef come out to speak to guests at byobs far more often than they do at non-byob restaurants.

                                  As for my limited experiences at byobs here’s full disclosure as to where I’ve been for dinner at least once:

                                  Audrey Claire
                                  Carmine's Creole Cafe
                                  La Boheme
                                  Il Cantuccio
                                  Kim’s Korean bbq
                                  La Locanda del Ghiottone
                                  Little Fish
                                  Mamma Palma’s
                                  Marigold Kitchen
                                  Mr. Martino’s
                                  Picanha Brazilian Grill
                                  Spring Mill Café
                                  Star of India
                                  Tartine (closed - now Southwark)

                                  So I think that I have a pretty good feel for what I’m talking about. But, as I stated previously the vast majority of diners at byob are well behaved. I’m speaking specifically of the larger groups bringing large quantities of alcohol that can become a little too “enthusiastic” at times. But to be fair I’ve seen this behavior only on a handful of occasions and at certain places.

                              2. Wow. I had no idea this was such a hot topic. Since there will be quite a few of us on this trip, I like the idea of bringing a couple of different wines and mixing and matching. I'm leaning toward Matyson's; I prefer the Marigold menu (and that Ana Sortun of Oleana - the best meal I've ever eaten in Boston - will be there in April is a ringing endorsement) but the rest of my crew isn't as culinarily adventurous as I am. They all also think I'm nuts for researching restaurants three weeks before we leave. Don't they get it? - the food is the best part!

                                Thanks to all of you for the good information.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jsjs09812

                                  There's another good reason to research your restaurants now -- many of the good ones fill up quickly, especially on weekends, and reservations are highly recommended if you don't want to be disappointed.

                                2. Philly also has a BYOT (Bring Your Own Tequila) at Lolita's. You bring the tequila, they provide the mix. We had a couple of different mixes that were quite good when we went a couple of years ago.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: zelbee

                                    Up in Northeast Philly there's a BYO Brazilian restaurant called Picanha Brazilian Grill where, if you bring your own bottle of cachaca rum and a bag of limes, they'll mix up a batch of GREAT caipirinhas.