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America's Best BYO Restaurants
How can you cut your
restaurant bill and enjoy great wine? Bring your own booze to one of
these great BYO restaurants.
Browse the website of Chicago’s Michelin
star–winning Bonsoirée and you’ll find not only the multicourse menu, but also recommended wines to
pair with your meal. Why the digital wine list? Because there’s none at the
restaurant—if you want to imbibe, you have to bring your own bottles.
Bonsoirée is just one of the rising number of restaurants
that have skipped the sommelier in favor
of a policy that’s strictly self-serve. And many of these hot spots have great
food, atmosphere, and service—all qualifiers for our list of America’s best BYO
Aside from the inherent
money-saving advantage of BYO (these restaurants don’t even charge a corkage
fee), it’s also a boon for connoisseurs, who often find wine lists limited.
“It’s a great way for collectors to enjoy bottles they may have had in the
cellar for 10 or 15 years,” says Ray Isle, wine editor at Food & Wine magazine. “I love
If it sounds like a sweet
deal, you’re in luck: BYO restaurants are on the rise. According to Devon Perry
of GoBYO.com, the number of “wine-friendly”
restaurants in U.S. metropolitan centers has exploded since the company began
counting two years ago. In the first two quarters of 2009 alone, New York City’s
BYO spots increased by 19 percent (from 2,916 to 3,479) and Greater Boston’s by 22
percent (from 268 to 327).
Perry attributes the trend to
the recession. “Typically we say that the wine market consists of those who
‘like to save’ and those who ‘like to savor.’ But in this economy, those groups
are starting to overlap. Paying the 200 or 300 percent markup of a wine list
just doesn’t appeal.”
The arrangement also benefits
restaurateurs by eliminating the hassle and (often significant) cost of a
liquor license. Plus, with the lower dinner-ticket totals that BYO entails, it
generally becomes a strong selling point for the restaurant.
“We’ll never purchase a
liquor license,” says Lisa Heckman of Iggies Pizza, a gourmet pizzeria in Baltimore’s
Mount Vernon neighborhood. “BYO only adds to the dining experience—we even
provide ice buckets, wine keys, and glassware.”
And BYO isn’t just for
oenophiles anymore. At Brooklyn’s Kaz An Nou, for example, diners who come with
Caribbean white rum can get it mixed into a traditional Ti Punch.
So whether you’re a
frugalista who loves dining or a connoisseur with an impressive private
collection, you’ll enjoy our picks for America’s best BYO restaurants. Bottoms