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Do You BYOB?

Nancy Trejos

I went to dinner with one of my girlfriends on Friday night. Because both of us are trying to save money, I chose a reasonably priced place: Posto in Logan Circle, where you can get a tasty, filling margherita pizza for $11.

I had not seen my friend in months because she has been living overseas. We had a lot of catching up to do, and we wanted to do it over pinot noir. She picked the most inexpensive bottle on the menu. Three hours later, with still more to talk about, we decided to order another glass of wine each.

When the bill arrived, I was shocked. My food totaled $23. With the wine, however, I owed more than double that. I love drinking wine with dinner, but how can I afford it anymore?

I then recalled a tip that a reader e-mailed me a few weeks ago. Why not take your own wine to restaurants? she wrote.

Apparently, she’s not the only person thinking this way. DiningInfo, the restaurant survey company, recently found that 479 restaurants in the Washington/Baltimore area permit customers to bring their own wine. Most of them charge corkage fees ranging from $5 to $20. But 33 restaurants charge no fee at all, which makes this a pretty attractive option. The economic downturn is forcing many more restaurant owners around the country to waive their corkage fees.

"A growing number of consumers base their discretionary spending upon affordability. The tipping point between deciding whether to eat out, or stay at home, is often based upon whether or not a restaurant will allow them to bring wine, and the corkage fee, if any," DiningInfo Chief Executive Devon Segel said, according to Reuters.

DiningInfo has a Web site,, which lists restaurants around the country that allow you to bring your own wine. Among them is Clyde’s of Georgetown, which does not charge a corkage fee.

Claude Andersen, corporate operations manager for Clyde’s, said customers typically bring their own bottle if they have a really nice one they want to drink on a special occasion. “If it’s something very special we don’t need to nickel and dime them,” he said, explaining the lack of a corking fee.

Restaurants often charge customers triple what they paid for the wine, so even if it’s not a special occasion, perhaps this is a good way to save some money when you’re dining out.

Do you have any other tips for all the wine lovers out there?

By Nancy Trejos  |  May 19, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Bargains , Nancy Trejos  
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Why not get together at home with a friend, cook together, clean up together, drink together -- you can splurge on wine or go decent & cheap, either saving money over your night out, or spending the same (for probably a better wine).

I've bought the wonderful house wine at my favorite restaurant in Newport, RI, for $10...

Posted by: capecodner424 | May 19, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

I second capecodner's idea. Some of the best times I have had with friends have been when we cooked together. Whether trying a new recipe or just slapping something familiar together, I find cooking with friends to be more relaxing than going out. And it is way cheaper, always a plus on my tight budget. Even better, you know BEFORE you consume the food/drinks how much it is going to cost you, so you can change your plans if it looks like it is going to cost too much.

Posted by: janedoe5 | May 19, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Here is my advice. Just do NOT bring your own $10-$20 bottle of wine to a restaurant. It is extremely tacky. Corkage (free or not) is for a special bottle of wine not on the wine list. A $10 Pinot Noir is decidedly not special.

Posted by: DC2Amsterdam | May 20, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Dining at home with your friends is a great option. I've been doing more of that lately. In fact, that's my plan tonight! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Posted by: trejosn | May 20, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

The only time it is not completely tacky to bring inexpensive wine is when you are bringing a lot of them for a large group. Trying to save money should not mean sacrificng all your dignity, and if it does, perhaps choose a less expensive activity from the outset.

If you don't feel like cooking, you can also call ahead simply ask the restaurant to make your order "to-go". I do this all the time, and if they are sensible, nobody even bats an eye (having worked as a manager in a restaurant, I know this is "easy" money--full price for the food but no cost for wait or bus staff). If you feel compelled to explain, simply state that you'd like to use their food to cater a small party. They might be flattered.

There is usually nothing particularly magical about sitting in the restaurant itself.

Posted by: Wallenstein | May 20, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Interesting tidbit from Michelle Singletary's online chat (

Washington, D.C.: A gentle bit of suppressed laughter here at some of the Post reporters advice or examples of "frugality" especially, "Small Change." The latter saves money by spending $150.00 at J.Crew to avoid shipping costs, planning on returning some of the items. The column also had other wonderful money-saving tips, such as: bringing one's own wine to restaurants, restaurant specials and coupons, and how to economize when taking taxis. I have always been skeptical of claims that "The Media" are mostly upper-middle class, but now I believe it.

Many Americans are worried about putting food on their tables and making the next mortgage payments. And, these people are worrying about maintaing their weekly or biweekly restaurant visits???

Michelle Singletary: here....but hear you....feel you

Posted by: subwayguy | May 21, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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