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Dec 14, 2012 10:45 AM


So, as an admitted cork dork and modest wine collector for over 20 years, I've managed to accumulate some special bottles of wine, many with vintages from years that hold special meaning to me (i.e. my anniversary, my children's birth years, etc.). I also have a substantial amount of very small production wines (<100 cases produced). This is what I primarily, buy, drink, and enjoy.

For occasion meals out, I often want to enjoy one of my "special" and/or older vintage wines and like to bring a bottle or two. Most restaurants accommodate this, especially since I almost always give advance notice that I'm bringing special wine. Now, I would never, ever bring anything that the restaurant carries on their wine list (or even a different vintage), I always try to order some wine from the restaurant, even if it's a couple glasses of champagne, and I always offer a glass to the kitchen/server.

Some restaurants are definitely more amenable to this than others. I have found corkage fees ranging from $0 to $30. Recently I ate at a great restaurant in Hawaii (Cuatro) that had no wine list, but encouraged BYOB. It was overall a great experience. Phil's fish market in Moss Landing is also great about this. Well, this really got me to thinking about my wine/dine options in San Diego.

I know the Wine Cellar Brasserie encourages you to buy from their store and open in their restaurant, but this isn't exactly what I was looking for. Pacifica Del Mar has always accommodated me with special bottles and since I usually purchase a bottle, they have always waved the corkage.

What restaurants in San Diego have been found and sniffed out by the hounds that encourage BYOB or are especially friendly with regards to bringing in your own wines? Which ones aren't receptive to bringing wine at all?

I really appreciate hearing from all the knowledgeable people on this board. Thanks in advance for your replies,


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  1. Lots of restaurants in SD offer a corkage fee for BYOB, they range from modest to outrageous in cost. I recommend that you focus on the restaurant you wish to dine at then give a call and see if they'll accommodate you.

    10 Replies
    1. re: cstr

      Thanks, I think most places will allow. But are there any that don't just tolerate it, but actively encourage it? Are there any places that you know of that offer deals for BYOB . . . for instance, Pacifica Del Mar at certain times will advertise, buy a bottle from our list and bring one of your own for free. That's more what I'm seeking on this thread. Or even better yet, great restaurants that don't offer alcohol, but encourage you to BYOB. That's exactly what I got at Cuatro for a modest $10 corkage fee for the two bottles I brought with me. I looked at the menu on-line, decided on the wines to bring, and had a superb meal with wine for a fraction of the cost I would expect.

      1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

        I guess I should have Googled this topic first. Open table has a list of restos with no corkage fees . . .

        as does Urban Spoon . . .

        Evidently Dumpling Inn is one of those places that encourages BYOB to the point they will even heat or chill your Sake for you.

        And I found out from a colleague that Bistro West waves corkage with a bottle ordered.

        1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

          Many information on Opentable (not only BYOB) are often not accurate. I just looked on the webpage from Terra for example (and Opentable says no restrictions on wine) whereas the restaurant page mentions $15 corkage and maximum of two bottles. It's often better you decide on the restaurant first and then contacting them to discuss your BYOB options. Often you might have more options than written on their webpage if you explain your situation.

          1. re: honkman


            Thanks for that info on Opentable. I understand what you're saying, but I am actually looking for places that actively encourage BYOB or great restaurants that don't have a beer/wine license and want you to bring in your own wines. As I said, Cuatro was a revelation because the food was so damn good even though they didn't serve alcohol.

            Often times even when a resto has corkage fee and allows you to bring a special bottle, it's not something that they seem to encourage or even like. More like something they begrudgingly tolerate.

          2. re: RhonelyInsanediego

            When dining at Dumpling Inn, I buy beer next door at the market.

              1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                I dare to mix my metaphors and buy a big Sapporo.

                I'm not fussy. Ask anyone around here.

                1. re: Fake Name

                  Too bad it's so damn hard to get real Japanese beer any more. Who called you fussy?

                  1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                    Nobody- that's my point. I'm the guy with the low standard that will drink Japanese beer with Chinese food.

                    Now enter those who'll remind us that DI is not "real" chinese food.

                    My point is they'll happily allow you to bring your own bottle there. Might need to bring your own corkscrew.

                    1. re: Fake Name

                      Nah . . . my choice of adult libation for DI would probably be an ice cold sparkler of some kind. Now getting some proper glasses I'm betting is a different story.

      2. On a related topic; I'm not thrilled to tip 20% on wine that has already been marked up 100% to 300% and then taxed on top of that. I do tip extra generously (well above the 20% of the corkage fee) if I bring my own bottle and receive good wine service.

        2 Replies
        1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

          I don't know about the tip, but I do know that giving the waiter or sommelier a pour (or taste depending on the value of the bottle) is an old-school custom. For many sommeliers that is as important as a tip, because they get to taste something they might not otherwise be able to do. All the times I've practiced this custom in SD the service at our table improved considerably.

          1. re: pickypicky

            I always do this, as well as offer a taste to the kitchen. Used to be this was always accepted, but I'm finding more and more that the offer is declined.

        2. Table 4140 (bistro on Morena Blvd) cheerily sent me down the street to a liquor store. They did not charge corkage. I was bummed I hadn't known they didn't have a liquor license because I def. would have BYOB. (Do not take this as a recommendation to dine there.)

          3 Replies
          1. re: pickypicky

            Thanks Picky!!! That's exactly the kind of information I was looking for. Menu looks interesting and very reasonable. So what were the good and bad of Kitchen 4140? How much was the corkage?

            ETA: Not that this means much of anything, but I see it gets lot's of yelp love.

            1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

              It's an odd place. It felt very amateurish. Our food was ok. The prices were reasonable. We sat outside so it was quiet but the setup seemed makeshift. The food (as I remember it) lacked finesse but then I was in Clairemont and saw a few Clairemont friends. But for my friend and I it was the perfect place that evening. I only wish I'd known to bring a good bottle rather than choose from the liquor store. (I hear they do bang up at lunch serving the commercial places in the area. Parking is easy.) I don't remember a corkage fee BUT the glasses were pretty nice.

              1. re: pickypicky

                I'm definitely going to try it. Maybe early next year if the world doesn't end.