Needed: Restaurant with a Low Corkage Fee
$25 fee is not hard to find. Check on gobyo.com to see. There is always La Sirene where the food is quite good and the fee is $0 and you should bring your own glasses if drinking something good.
Dell'anima - $25
Novita - $28
Le Philosophe - $20
or check here
In general, the problem with byob'ing at a sub-$20 corkage is that either the stemware are inadequate and are just plain bad, or one should not expect added wine service (i.e. decanting or pouring by staff), or the food are simply not worthy of the fine wine one brings. I really don't care about the staff pouring, and will do so myself, but others do.
Finally, be generous with the tip. Even with corkage. The servers don't get the corkage fees, it goes to the restaurant.
I presume that your friend will plan to pull some really good bottles for this occasion, and so I am in the camp of going during off days to fine restaurants where corkage fee are either free or are reduced.
Here are some that I go to with my own bottles on more than a single occasion. I'm sure I'm missing out on many others that I'm not listing here, as I generally like to drink mature and aged bottles that I've collected and restaurants simply don't have these in their lists.
Bar Room at the Modern on Sundays with free corkage on 2 bottles per table is always a good option. They're always happy that you dined there and will gladly provide good wine service with your byo.
I've had Monday offlines at Apriary, as suggested below, and have not complained about the food nor the wine service.
Tribeca Grill have corkage-free days on Sundays and MOndays. There's enough above decent dishes there to go with fine wines.
I believe Riverpark will work with you on reasonable corkage fees if you call in advance. i like the dishes there and the stemware/decanters are always appropriate.
There are qquite a few italian restaurants scattered in the city that will negotiate low or no corkage with clients. You'll just have to call them and inquire.
I've paid, i think either $15 or $20 per bottle at Txikito in Chelsea, and we all enjoyed every tapas dishes that were served. i'm looking forward to returning with byo. I'd suggest bringing your own stemware if you decide to go.
I've paid $15 or $20 per bottle at Supper in East Village and was happy with food and decent stemware.
Keen's is an excellen choice for red wine, just as already suggested below. They have good Bordeaux stems. I believe corkage is also still $20 per botte.
I did not mind paying $25 per bottle at Maialino during the few occasions that we've brought our own. The food's always great, staff and sommelier are helpful with byo'd wines and wine serevice, and good stemwares are avaialble.
Just be generous with the tip, even if paying corkage. The servers don't get the corkage fee, it goes to the restaurants.