You can say what you want about New Jersey, but there is no better place to go out for a meal. No, it’s not because you may run into Pauly D or JWOWW at your favorite restaurant (although that’s a pretty solid reason). New Jersey laws have made it very difficult and expensive for restaurants to obtain a liquor license, so most of them will allow you to bring your own wine, beer or booze without any corkage fees!
Unfortunately that is not the case for most restaurants in NY, although there are a handful of BYO spots out there (ex. Buon Gusto in Irvington and Juniper in Hastings). However, almost all restaurants will allow you to bring your own bottle as long as you pay a corkage fee. Most of the higher end steakhouses and fine dining establishments will charge so much that it ends up not being worth it ($30-40 a bottle), unless you are bring a particularly expensive wine. For example, if you want to bring a bottle of Far Niente Napa Cab that cost you $100, it is certainly more cost effective to pay the $35 corkage fee than to purchase it off the wine list for $200-300.
But there are a number of places that will charge a much more palatable fee ($10-20) making it very cost effective to grab a bottle from your cellar or even your local wine shop to take with you. For example, Acquario in Silver Lake only charges $8 per bottle! So when you consider a typical mark up on any given wine in a restaurant can be 2-3 times what you would pay for it in a store, bringing your own is an absolute no brainer. This is especially genius if you have a magnum you wanted to open. This way you are basically paying one corkage fee for two bottles. Is that being a little bit too frugal? Probably, but whatever man…aren’t we still in a recession?!
So my recommendation is this… the next time you are going out for a meal around town, give a call first and ask the restaurant if you can bring in your own wine and what corkage fees are associated in doing so. Be aware, there is some etiquette involved. The most important is not to skimp out on the tip. The server will have to serve the wine just the same as if you purchased it at the restaurant, so remember to factor that into the final tally. Lastly if you are out with a big group and know you will be doing some drinking, you may want to bring a couple of bottles with you but still purchase one or two from the restaurant’s wine list. It is a sign of good patronage and who knows, in doing so you may even get that corkage fee waived.