BYOB In SF? We're No Philadelphia.


A recent article in the Atlantic trumpets "The rise of BYOB." Lately in SF that phrase has taken on the meaning of Bring Your Own Bag, since farmers' markets have stopped offering plastic bags for shoppers. But more significantly the phrase means "Bring Your Own Bottle" and applies to restaurants that allow you to bring in the wine you want to drink. Often it's restaurants that don't have wine lists or liquor licenses of their own. As a practice, BYOB usually saves the diner money and allows him/her to drink bottles from their own collection.

I found the article interesting, as, because of Pennsylvania's liquor laws, it posits Philadelphia as "BYOB Mecca." But I don't see it on the rise here. Actually, the opposite. Why? Well, for one thing, according to this post by Michael Bauer, in SF unlicensed restaurants are not allowed to serve alcohol, even if customers bring their own. I have heard similar stories to Bauer's of this rule actually being enforced. If the joint does have a license, they can choose to allow you to bring your own wine. And they might do that, even if they have their own list, just to make customers happy.

Of course, many of these restaurants are inexpensive ethnic-fool places, the types that don't have much of an alcoholic beverage selection to begin with. BYOB is a natural for them. (I'm keeping this whole topic separate, however, from the big corkage debate about finer restaurants--it's largely not good practice to bring your own to a restaurant that spends a lot of time and money putting together a good beverage program.After a quick search, I found several lists of BYOB places in SF here, here and here. I personally don't care if it's free or not, as long as its cheap. Many places might charge a small corkage fee, but it's usually not more than a few dollars, which I'm happy to pay to eat great food and drink my wine at places like Bodega Bistro, which even has nice stemware (and a pretty good little wine program of their own).

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