If there's a restaurant in town that you like, but doesn't serve wine (or serves wine that you don't like), do you BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle)? There are a few reasons why you'd bring your own bottle, but you should know what to expect before bringing your own.
Why Would You BYOB?
There are a few reasons why you should consider bringing your own bottle of wine to dinner, and a few reasons why you should leave the bottle at home.
Restaurant Doesn't Serve Wine
A liquor license can be expensive and complicated, so some smaller restaurants don't have them, and therefore cannot serve wine. Instead, they'll encourage patrons to bring their own bottle. In New York, restaurants with over 20 seats require a liquor license to even allow diners to bring their own bottle of wine.
Restaurant Doesn't Serve Good Wine
Maybe you have a favorite wine, or are celebrating a special occasion. Or you're celebrating your 1-year anniversary, and opening that bottle that you picked up while on your honeymoon. In this case, you want to bring your own wine, not one from their wine list. But beware: if you're going into a restaurant who is proud of the wines they offer, and you stroll in with a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck, expect to get a cold shoulder.
But before you grab a bottle of wine from your collection (or the nearby liquor store), call ahead to make sure this is OK. Remember that it's not just what's said, but how it's said which tells you their real answer to this question.
Corking Fee: Pay To BYOB
If you are allowed (and encouraged) to bring your own bottle, expect a corking fee. The corking fee also tells you how welcome your own bottle is in their establishment. This can be as little as $5, or over $20. If you're paying $20 to open an $11 bottle of blended white wine, you're better off sticking to the restaurant's wine list.
What To Bring
When I'm dining out and plan on having wine, I get flustered when the waiter takes our drink order right away (and thus typically start with water). That's because I choose my wine based on my meal, and I don't know what I'll be having for dinner yet! Well, you'll have a similar problem if you BYOB.
Exceptions may be if you're going to a steakhouse (and know you're getting steak) or going to a seafood restaurant, and know you'll be getting fish or other seafood.
Don't: use a brown paper bag.
Do: get a nice wine bottle tote
If you expect the wine to be chilled, do that before leaving for the restaurant.
What To Expect
Your glasses probably won't be kept evenly topped-off if you BYOB, so it's OK to grab the bottle and pour yourself. It's common courtesy to offer the manager or your server a taste of your special bottle of wine (which also sometimes gets the corking fee to disappear!).
When you're paying the bill, you'll be expected to tip as if you bought the bottle from the restaurant, so add that to your total before calculating the tip percentage.
When researching this post, some people I spoke with had never heard of bringing your own bottle of wine into a restaurant. What about you? Have you brought your own bottle with you to dinner? How was the experience?