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Would this be tacky....?

I'm going to Spago tomorrow night for my best friend's birthday. I'm not really a cheap person, but it annoys me to pay $100 for a bottle of champagne that I know costs $40. It just does. So I'd like to buy a bottle and bring it with me. I've confirmed with Spago their corkage fee ($25 per 750ml), but still, it feels odd to me, like they'll look at me knowing I'm just trying to stay away from their hefty champagne markup. Is this really tacky of me or should I not worry about it?

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  1. It is tacky if the restaurant has the same bottle on thier wine list. General rule of thumb is not to bring a wine on their list. Call ahead to confirm. Also is great manners to offer a glass to the somalier or waiter.

    1. I hosted a party at Spago in February for a large party and we had champagne. I recall some very reasonably priced bottles on their list. Why not have them fax you their list so you can see what your choices are. I don't have my party notes here at home and I don't recall exactly, but I think I paid around $40 per bottle and it was perfect. They had more expensive, of course, but this was fine. They recommended it to me, which I appreciated because I was inclined to pick the more expensive thinking it would be better.

      Otherwise, I'm not one who knows the "rules" on what you can bring. I must say, though, if I were to bring a bottle, I can't fathom why the somalier or waiter would be offered a glass. I don't know if I am correct, but I personally would not bring a bottle and offer a glass. I thought we had this discussion here on another thread and it was not done.

      I think it's tacky if you tell everyone why you're bringing your own.... and you will sound "cheap" and you will hurt your friend's feelings or make him/her uncomfortable -- I am assuming that your friend picked the restaurant for his/her birthday and by saying you don't like the prices, you are not on board with the party, and that could be a HUGE downer. Just my opinion....

      3 Replies
      1. re: Bite Me

        Oh no, like I said I'm not *that* cheap, and realistically, if I buy a bottle of Veuve for $50 and pay $25 for corkage, and I could just get a solid Californian methode champinoise for the same price or less, then I'd probably just do that. I just thought it would be nice to have a really nice champagne and pay a little less money for it than if we actually bought it at the restaurant -- and also have it be my part of my birthday gift, and not force everyone at dinner to chip in on the bill. It's a small dinner b-day party, 4 people, and I had a similar sized dinner party at Asia de Cuba for my birthday earlier this year so I don't feel uncomfortable with the price at all. Just thought I might save some money. Good idea about asking them to fax the wine list though, because maybe there's something good for the same price as bringing a bottle and paying corkage.....

        1. re: tijn2001

          If you are having trouble swallowing the price of champagne at a restaurant, perhaps it's best if you drink still wine (which is usually cheaper) instead. I'd bristle more at the $25 per bottle corkage fee than at the price of the wine.

          If you tell everyone why you brought your own wine, yes, it's tacky. I don't THINK Spago would refuse to pour based on that, but I can think of other restaurants where they'd just decline to offer the corkage. And you bring wine to a restaurant that they have in their cellar, oftentimes you will end up being charged the same price as if you'd just let them supply it.

          1. re: tijn2001

            ...when I do the math, is the 25 dollars you'll save to bring your own really much more than one trip to the ATM? dinner at Spago shouldn't be about saving money! spend and ENJOY! save money elsewhere. The above explanation appears to be a little bit of "doth protest too much" - and i truly do get the sense you know the answer to your own question. ;-) be the good guy you seem to be and forego BYO.

        2. Opinions are split on this. If they have a corkage fee, then the people who work at spago, including the sommalier, really won't care. In fact, if you bring something off the list (and really, you should if you can) that is unique, he may want a little taste. Offering him one is something you, of course, should do.

          Some Chowhounds are rabiidly against bringing in wine.

          My policy: if they have corkage, and the wine is not something they have, or is a significant savings for you, go for it. Spago wouldn't have set a corkage policy without assumuing people would use it.

          Still, for what you may pay for good champers and corkage, they may have a ferw bottles on the list you can afford. Also, consider other sparkling wines, such as Domestic Sparkling wines, or perhaps a good Prosecco!

          1. I've worked in restaurants and it is not uncommon or rude to bring in your own bottle of wine. I would suggest offering your server a taste, and tipping a little extra as if you had ordered off the list. I think this is a courtesy of the restaurant to allow outside wine to be brought in.

            On a side note, traveling with Champagne is not the best practice. Mainly, because the moving and bouncing in the car will result in a lot of bubbly loss and coldness factor. I've not visited Spago, but I'm assuming their staff is trained to open a bottle of Champagne with little to no sound to preserve the bubbly goodness. It is a bit difficult to do if the Champagne has been traveling.
            I'm sure you know this but make sure the wine you bring is not on the wine list, that would be very tacky!

            1. Yes, the staff will probably look at you knowing that you're just trying to stay away from their hefty champagne markup because you ARE just trying to stay away from their hefty champagne markup. If you're going to worry about it, then don't do it. It'd probably be better to just not worry about it.

              1. Jfood thinks if you bring a bottle of wine/champagne that is offered by the resto to save money, news flash, that's both cheap AND tacky. If it bothers you don;t do it, don't you think you answered your own question by struggling so much with the issue. And 2.5 times is not that high a mark up for wine, people are posting here all the time at 4x the mark-up. They also charge $5 for a diet coke, why not bring a can and ask for a glass of ice?

                If they allow you to bring a bottle that is also on their list, and then pay the corkage that's your call, but in jfood's opinion, bad show.

                1. Not to pile on, but I agree with the general consensus on this ... bringing your own bottle of something that's already on the wine list is bad form.

                  Think about it this way, what if you threw a dinner party and told all the guests that you were serving, for example, fried chicken. And, then, one of your guests shows up with a bucket of KFC?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Just bring something similiar to the wine you'd like to buy off of their list. That way you don't look cheap when you really are being cheap. I know that sentence sounds sarcastic, but it's not meant to.

                  2. If you're asking the question... you already know the answer. You think it's tacky, but you want the chowhounds to convince you otherwise. ;)

                    Asking for a copy of the wine list is a good idea; then you can pick out something at a comfortable (for you) price point.

                      1. I think this is more common in CA, so it's not as inherently tacky as people might think who live in other areas, but I would only do it if the bottle is something really truly special. We've only done this once, at Gary Danko, with a bottle we had purchased from a winemaker's library while wine tasting on the trip, and the sommelier was so snooty about it even though we did everything right and ordered other bottles, I would never do it again unless I had some crazy aged and super fantastic bottle. I don't think avoiding the markup is worth the discomfort-- it really cast a pall on my experience.

                        1. tijn2001:

                          Just a general remark.

                          As you probably know, the brain has two ( and only two ) halves, the one that deals with money and the one that deals with pleasure.

                          My suggestion: in order to fully engage one half, switch entirely off the other.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: RicRios

                            I like your way of thinking...very nicely stated.

                          2. In a real sense (if not a 100% practical sense) if you can't afford the wine, you can't afford the restaurant. Go with a whole heart or go elsewhere.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: wayne keyser

                              Sometimes, you can afford the food or the wine, not both.

                              I dunno, If I didn't go to places where I couldn't afford the wine list in LA, I would miss a lot of really nice meals.

                              1. re: wayne keyser

                                That's the silliest thing I've heard today (although it's still mid-morning). There's nothing wrong with being tacky from time to time as long as you own it. Don't let the arbitrary standards of others interfere with your own happiness. Bring whatever wine you want, even if it's on the list, and have a wonderful and tacky evening.

                                1. re: PlatypusJ

                                  Too True. And frankly, it's not as if no one's ever tacky in Los Angeles!

                                  1. re: Diana

                                    Gotta concede your point. Touche.

                              2. I'm going to disagree with most of the above posters. Bring the champagne you want to share with your friends, as long as it's not on the menu, and it's good rather than just cheap. You don't have to apologize or offer to the waiter (it's your meal, isn't it? He's working), although the latter is a nice gesture.
                                But don't make the champagne part of your gift, having brought it with the deliberate intention of drinking some yourself.
                                That IS cheap, and insulting to your friend. I'd worry more about what your friends think of you than what the waiter does,


                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Whippet

                                  It is always considered the best of form to offer the sommalier or the person who opens and pours your from-home wine a taste.

                                  I agree with bringing in the wine, but to not offer a taste WOULD be tacky!

                                  1. re: Diana

                                    Another reason to offer a taste: your sommelier may not admit to it, but he hasn't tried *everything* out there. A few years ago, we offered the sommelier a taste of a bottle he had never heard of.

                                    On our next visit--six months later--we brought the same wine. The sommelier recognized us, told us to put our wine away and brought us a complimentary bottle (of the same) to thank us for bringing it to his attention. It had made it to their list.

                                    1. re: Diana

                                      In some states (not CA, but VA and NC come to mind), it is illegal for employees in a restaurant to consume alcohol while working.

                                      1. re: mojoeater

                                        Even the sommlier? How can he sample a bottle to make sure it isn't corked?

                                    2. re: Whippet

                                      Whippet is right on point. There is nothing wrong with bringing your own wine or champagne, if it is a special bottle that is not on the restaurant's list, and you are prepared to pay the corkage fee.

                                      It is definitely in bad form to bring a bottle that is also on the restaurant's list to save money, and even tackier to bring a cheap/average bottle of champagne even if it's not on the list, especially at a place like Spago.

                                      I'd check out their winelist before you go -- I'm sure you could find a bottle of champagne in the $40-60 range that will be on par or exceed what you could buy elsewhere + the $25 corkage fee.

                                    3. I don't get it. I thought restaurants had corkage policies for a reason. When I see someone bringing their own bottle(s) to a restaurant, I always assume that person is a serious collector who has a lot better/more interesting stuff in the cellar than what is on the restaurant list. Of course, at Spago, that might be a tall order, I dunno.

                                      So I say do a little research, find some gorgeous RM champagne nobody's ever heard of, and bring it along. Offer a taste, buy at least a glass of something else from the restaurant, and look perfectly legit. Only you need know you were just being cheap ;-)

                                      1. Just out of curiosity, do you have this problem at other restaurants? I imagine Spago's mark-up isn't much better/worse than others, particularly in LA.

                                        And for the record, yes, I think it's tacky -- especially since you're not bringing something special, just cheaper.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Kbee

                                          Believe it or not, I've found Spago's markups in many cases significantly lower than other places with either similar or lower fame.

                                        2. Have iced tea for dinner and celebrate at home with a champagne toast after dinner.

                                          1. I'm probably not the expert on what's tacky and what's not, but, if the restaurant offers the corkage option (they're still making money at $25 . . .), it's up to you. Talking about how much you're saving at a nice dinner is tacky. Maybe you should get a $75 bottle, pay the corkage, and you'll be drinking a superior champagne for what it would have cost.

                                            1. I'm a server at a restaurant that doesn't have a corkage fee at all, but people are still welcome to bring in their own bottles. The only times I think it is tacky is when they bring in Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joes (I've only seen that once, thankfully) and when they don't tip us at all for the wine service we provided... meaning they tip exactly 15% on the food bill. So, if you're going to a restaurant that has an added corkage fee on the bill, you'll still be tipping on the whole bill, including that $25, right? $25 plus tip is more than enough to cover the waiter opening the bottle and pouring it, plus the use of their glasses. So, I wouldn't feel bad. If it bothers you enough, just order off the menu. It's a special occasion, you're drinking champage, after all.

                                              1. Not only is it tacky, but most restaurants with extensive wine lists will not even allow you to open a bottle if it's on their list.