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Nov 30, 2012 05:21 PM

Restaurants with reasonable wine mark-ups?

Wine mark-ups in Toronto seem to be climbing and very hard to tell with wines not available at LCBO. Getting tired of 200% and even 300% mark-ups. Any suggestions on restaurants in downtown Toronto with reasonable wine mark-ups (and good food). Two restaurants with decent mark-ups are Paese (cost + $25 - so yes, inexpensive wines will have mark-up >100% but the policy encourages trying/imbibing more expensive wines) and Le Paradis.

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  1. +1 for Le Paradis. Also a fan of the list at Gio's.

    1. Piola's on Queen has half off all wine bottles on Wednesday nights...

      1 Reply
      1. re: burlgurl

        Got a lovely bottle of half price primitivo at Piola for only $18.

      2. Not exactly the answer to your question but bringing your own bottle can be an economical alternative to some of the high markups. is a great website to find BYOW/BYOB Toronto restaurants and find out what the corkage fee is. Some even have free corkage nights and others half-priced wine nights. You can also sort the columns by clicking at the top. A great resource.

        Best to call before you go though as I don't think the website is always totally up to date.

        24 Replies
        1. re: Flexitarian

          As Flexitarian has suggested above, the website is woefully out of date (a number of the listed restos are long out of business), but at least it's a start. If you're irked by wine markups downtown, there's not much else to defend yourself with. Aside from the already mentioned Le Paradis, you'll have to go further uptown for some relief. Cafe Pleiade, on Mount Pleasant Rd. near Davisville, has an easy-to-take list, with many choices under $30 and many more under $40 - the markup is often less than double the LCBO price. The bistro-style food's pretty good there, too. Further uptown, you'll find a lot of joints with solid BYOW policies. The original Paese, on Bathurst St. north of Wilson Ave., offers free corkage any night but Saturday. On Yonge St. south of Eglinton, both Tabule (a good Middle Eastern spot) and Quince, have free corkage Mon. and Tues. It's $1 corkage at Miller Tavern (Yonge and York Mills) on Mon., and $5 at Left Bank Cafe (Avenue Rd. south of Wilson) on Sun. through Tues. Many more, especially early in the week, but those are the ones I'm familiar with. Just about the only way to beat those murderous markups downtown is to try bringing your own. Just phone first, as Flexitarian advises - some spots don't advertise a BYOW policy but, just to fill seats early in the week, will quietly allow it. But late in the week, you're probably out of luck. It's getting harder to find a drinkable bottle under $40 on a downtown list nowadays.

          1. re: juno

            Great advice! I am curious, though, since you mentioned that some restaurants quietly offer BYOW on slow nights without advertising it, does a restaurant need a special license in Toronto to offer BYOW or can any restaurant offer it? I have a 1988 Grange Hermitage worth $800 I bought at the LCBO 20 years ago for $80 that I want to open at a special birthday in a couple of years (yes it's still good - until 2025 the winery tells me!). I may not want to do that at one of the restaurants on the list so may make a special request at one that normally doesn't offer it.

            1. re: Flexitarian

              The restaurant MUST have a BYOW license.
              However, these are easy to get (if the resto already has a liquor/wine license). It's just a matter of filling out the forms and waiting a couple of weeks. There's NO CHARGE!
              Several times, I've handed the forms to a restaurant and encouraged them to apply (successful about 70% of the time).
              I take my own wine about half the time I eat out in Toronto.

              1. re: estufarian

                i do remember hearing that older restaurants that don't have the corkage license open themselves up to re-inspections to ensure that they meet all of the current codes if they apply for the corkage addition...even if they met the codes when they received their original license but the codes changed since. if this is true (can't say the source was 100% credible) then it would explain the reticence on the part of some restos to add the byob license

                1. re: downtownfoodie

                  I don't understand your post. You are saying that if you don't have a corkage licence then re-inspections happen. But then in the next sentence you say that that's the reason restaurants don't want corkage licences. So, restaurants don't want corkage licences to ensure they get inspected more?

                  Maybe you mis-said what you wanted to say because what you wrote just doesn't follow.

                    1. re: downtownfoodie

                      Thanks for editing your post. Now I get it. Applying for a revision to the licence, ie a BYOB rider, invites another inspection.

                    2. re: Flexitarian

                      sounds completely plausible. IIRC, it was a restaurant owner who told me about it, so it might just be something he heard, or it might be that he wanted to keep his wine margins so that was his excuse??

                    3. re: downtownfoodie

                      I understand exactly what you have said/heard.
                      However, my understanding is that the BYOW license is 'essentially automatic' as long as the premises doesn't have a history of violations. Only if there have been past problems is an inspection possible (or maybe probable) - but I speculate that anyplace with a history of violations will be watched closely, regardless of a BYOW application.

                  1. re: Flexitarian

                    I just recently opened a 1998 Grange and it was fantastic, powerful, one of the best Syrahs I've ever had! Unfortunately, it was my only bottle. The 1988 should be at its peak drinking window now and probably over the next 5-10 years depending on how it's been stored. You won't be disappointed if you like powerful wines.

                    Your best bet is to call the restaurant you're interested in doing the BYO and it's a special occasion. I did it once and they made an exception.

                    1. re: Flexitarian

                      One of the better Chinese restaurant in town - 'The Emperor' in Richmond Hill does not charge any corkage for BYOB. They provide only Riedel Stemware for the wine. And in your special ' Grange case' they might even provide you with the 'Sommelier' series if you ask for them!!

                  2. re: Flexitarian

                    You know in Alberta, where they know a little something about running successful businesses and supporting their own, they have a searchable database of BYOW places. Observe:


                    1. re: Googs

                      The Ontario gov't could easily do it since they have the database of which restaurants have such licenses. It would be very little additional work to require establishments to keep the gov't aware of what the current corkage fee and for the gov't to simply add the corkage fee and some other information to the database and post it. But our liquor licensing and control system is so badly run we'll never see anything like this happening.

                      The problem with that corkage toronto website is that the woman who runs it has to rely on use input in order to keep updating it and I don't think she is getting that. She can't just be phoning all the establishments on the list every month in order to keep the database up to date.

                      1. re: Flexitarian

                        just make a FOI request to the appropriate department to be provided with a copy of all restaurants in Toronto that have been issued a permit for BYOW...

                        1. re: limitedtimeoffer

                          Too bad every person that wants to know that has to go through that procedure rather than the LLBO just doing it once and posting it on the web for everyone to see.

                          1. re: Flexitarian

                            life is never easy....and i guess one could take one for the team and make a monthy request for $5 bucks and then perhaps the AGCO would get sick of the same and publish it....and pdf the results and link them publically....i will make an FOI request and see what happens...get my buddy to vet it so they do not come back and say it is going to cost me x$$$ to excise the relevent records yada yada yada....

                              1. re: Googs

                                there list isn't complete or accurate

                                1. re: ingloriouseater

                                  Could you be more specific? There are a few closed restaurants on the list. What other errors do you see? Short of the Freedom of Information request producing a list, this may be the only worthwhile starting point. You know... unless the Ontario gov't decided to do us all the favour of making the information available online.

                            1. re: limitedtimeoffer

                              Do you know if issuing a permit means the restaurant must use it? Hmn. Need to get my hands on this list. At least I can put them on the map and have people call if they want.

                              1. re: jlunar

                                I just downloaded my foi form, have to get a fin to staple the same but want to make sure my buddy who is a privacy lawyer vets it to make sure it is not too narrow but not too broad. This is pure speculation but I think some restaurants have it, it is dead simple to apply for, and do not advertise but have it available for "certain" people. I wonder if some have it, must it be offered to anyone? I suspect that they can have it and not offer it.

                                1. re: limitedtimeoffer

                                  "Just make a FOI request to the appropriate department." You, sir/ma'am, have lived in Toronto far too long.

                          2. Well, all the responses on corkage are fine and dandy, but do not answer the question: reasonable wine markups.

                            I have an answer: there are no reasonable markups until you get to the expensive wines, where the markups are less inflationary. The normal rule is -- the cheaper the retail price of the wine, the higher the markup. So a $10 consignment wine can be $40 or more, while a $75 wine can be $100 or more. It will always depend on the owner. The flat rate method gives the best value.

                            Some exceptional places: you can find wines at Scaramouche for $40 or less, retail prices at $17 or so.

                            In the past, there was an Italian resto at Yonge and Wellesley with wines marked up at $5 a bottle. There was Les Parigo at High Park which marked up champagnes $15 a bottle. Both restaurants are long gone.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Dean Tudor

                              Yes I remember that restaurant at Yonge and Wellesley. It was an italian resto. The owners constantly got flak from other restaurants that his $5 markup was hurting their business and putting downward pressure on their wine markups.

                              1. re: Flexitarian

                                And they got flak from me for serving almost inedible food. Even a $5 mark-up on wine doesn't help if the food is bad.

                                1. re: estufarian

                                  I guess they were trying to encourage drinking more wine with the $5 markup in order to mask the food.

                                  1. re: Flexitarian

                                    The place was called Mammina's I think. Ate there a few times because of the wine mark-up but can't remember the food!

                            2. Thanks for all the discussion. Went to Le Paradis this week - good to great food at reasonable prices, good service, laid back atmosphere. We paid $40 for bottle of wine which retails at LCBO for $18.95, very reasonable markup of 111%. 5oz glass of same wine at $8.95 works out to mark-up of 139% which is fair/good for a glass. Being the holiday season, we enjoyed a fair bit of wine which we are happy to do when markups are fair. We rarely do so at restaurants that have high markups or even avoid them altogether as we did in selecting where to go this week. Btw, Chris Nuttall-Smith, Globe and Mail, commented on wine mark-ups in his Dec 22, 2012 restaurant review (of another restaurant).