Even in this down economy, I can still afford to go out to eat great food and to drink delicious wines.
My secret weapon is GoByo.com.
I love this site. They cover many major cities in the U.S. and hundreds or even thousands of restaurants within each city.
GoByo.com tells you which restaurants in your area allow you to bring your own bottle of wine (and sometimes beer as well). They also tell you how much 'corkage' fee that restaurant charges for service and glassware.
No more guessing, disappointments or grovelling phonecalls to afternoon waitstaff who have no idea about their restaurant's BYO policy.
Most casual places have very reasonable charges ($5-10 per bottle).
Fine Dining venues tend to have higher fees and also ask that if you bring a bottle, that you also buy a bottle off their list.
I look forward to the day when the restaurant industry has a business model that does not rely on exorbitant wine prices. As Americans become increasingly wine savvy, the market will be forced to adjust accordingly.
If GoByo does not cover your area, these are my suggestions:
Always call the restaurant ahead of time ask about their BYO policy. Do they allow BYO and is there a corkage fee? Encourage your favorite local restaurant to at least promote a BYO night during the week.
I used GoByo last week to confirm the BYO policy of a Chinese restaurant I like, Mei Long Village. They had no corkage charge and were all smiles about pouring our wine.
We enjoyed fish sauteed with ginger and scallions, jade shrimp (shrimp sauteed with spinach and garlic puree) and stirfried greens with garlic. Amazing!
And I enjoyed this food with the perfect wine that costs only $18.
I brought a bottle of Ca Del Solo Muscat 2008 $18 from Bonny Doon Vineyards. Made from certified Biodynamic grapes.
This wine had wonderfully floral aromas of orange blossom and honeysuckle. Pretty flavors of melon, ginger and kumquat make it a delicious match for all Asian cuisine.