San francisco restaurants

San Francisco restaurants with free (or rather free) corkage

In notoriously expensive San Francisco, there’s not much left to count on as free, let alone anything alcohol-related.

Yet, there are still a few loyal restaurants in this city that offer a deal in the form of free corkage. That ever-important Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) is still alive and kicking in a few places.

After calling restaurants to verify corkage fees or free corkage nights, above is a list of 11 restaurants that allow guests to bring their own wine, free of charge.

And yes, there are more places offering BYOB and free plugging, but be aware that some of these programs run “under the table” so to speak. Restaurants technically can’t allow patrons to bring their own alcohol if they don’t have a liquor license – although most people can name a place where this still happens – so rather than having a struggling local favourite, they were forgotten from the list.

(Yelp has a constantly updated database that covers BYOB.)

However, if you’re looking to enhance your dining experience and want to bring a bottle of wine with you to some of the chic spots in town, there are a few rules to follow. Many restaurants have taken the time to put together their wine program, and there are several ways to bring a bottle to dinner without upsetting the sommelier.

Paul Einbund, beverage director at Frances and Octavia, and now head of upcoming restaurant The Morris, has worked with wine for 27 years. Einbund helped put together some tips on how to bring wine, politely, to restaurants with extensive wine lists.

First, bring a good bottle of wine. That doesn’t mean it has to come from your personal wine cellar and age for four decades or more. Bring a bottle of something interesting, something that would complement the food, or something that makes sense with the existing wine program. But if you bring liquor store wine—which, in reality, can cost as much as the corkage fee—most serious restaurants will hate it. Don’t be that person. Just purchase the listing instead.

Call ahead and ask questions. Does the restaurant allow you to bring wine? What is the corkage fee? Can you bring a special bottle of beer? Is there a corkage fee for this? The restaurant prefers to deal with your questions in advance, rather than being surprised when you show up.

This is also the time to make sure the bottle you’re bringing isn’t already on the wine list, Einbund said.

Share the wine with the staff. Giving the sommelier a taste of your wine is not only polite, but educational.

“If you share a taste with the sommelier or the waiter, I think that’s pretty cool,” Einbund said. “I think my whole modus oprandi is to share – that’s what food and wine is all about. I want to educate everyone about it, if I bring a bottle of wine. I want to ensuring that not only does my server taste it, but that I educate them.”

Not only that, Einbund added, you could start the conversation by listing the wines you like on this restaurant’s wine list.

Tip not included. Even if you personally took that bottle with you to the restaurant, the server still provides the stemware, the job of opening that bottle, and the pouring service. Be courteous. The rule of thumb is to tip as if you bought the bottle at the restaurant.