Remember when you used to go out to eat? We are now 7 months into this global pandemic, and the weather in Atlanta has turned from brutally hot and humid, to absolute fall perfection. We know some of you are itching to venture back out to your favorite restaurant and when you do, we would like to help you save some money! (Disclaimer, we have not dined out in Atlanta yet, but when we do, we will be looking for restaurants that offer outdoor dining to make it a lot safer and we encourage you to do the same!)
Have you ever opened the wine list at your favorite restaurant and said to yourself, "wait, they want $40 for that Pinot Noir? But I just saw that same bottle at the store for $20!" This has happened to us more times than we care to remember and it's just part of the cost of dining out. But does it have to be?
If you are anything like us, you hate paying more for something than you have to, especially the steep markups on wine. Usually, those wine lists have a minimum of a 100% markup on each bottle, sometimes even more. The tab tends to balloon fairly quickly as soon as that bottle of wine hits the server's computer system.
One of the benefits of buying wine online and from warehouse stores like Costco or Total Wine, is that you understand what wines truly cost out on the retail market. One of the down sides is, well, you also know what wine costs out on the retail market. This can become somewhat of an annoyance when you sit down to dinner to pick a wine to go with your meal and sticker shock begins to set in.
There is a way to mitigate this seemingly unnecessary expense built into your bill, but it requires some advanced planning. Call ahead to your restaurant of choice, and ask what their corkage fee is for bringing your own wine to dinner. The best answer you can get is that it is free! However, more often than not, it will be anywhere from $15-25. Now start doing some math to see if the cost worth it. The sweet spot is to try to bring a wine that you paid at least what the corkage fee is. It wouldn't make much sense to bring a bottle of wine that you paid $10 for and then pay someone another $15 to open it for you. That's a total cost of $25 and it's possible that the wine list already has that same or similar wine for $25 or less. If you have a really nice bottle that you paid, say, $65 for and the corkage fee is $20, that's a win. You'll pay $85 total to enjoy that wine at dinner, while "saving" $45 (since a bottle @$65 in the store would likely cost you at least $130 in the restaurant). You get the idea? Usually, the more valuable a bottle is and the lower the corkage fee is, the better the savings is.
Call ahead and double check the corkage fee and confirm they allow outside alcohol.
Look at the menu online to get a good idea of what you might order.
Pick a wine from your home (or pick one up on the way) that would go well with the type of food you will order. Try not to bring a wine that the restaurant also has on their wine list - this is generally frowned upon.
Do the math
Keep the wine temperature stable as you bring it to dinner. No use bringing a warm white wine to the dinner table if you have to wait for it cool down. Keep those reds cool too! Something like this wine sleeve works great.
If the restaurant has a Sommelier, they will often open the bottle for you. It's always a nice gesture to offer them a small pour, they may or may not take you up on it. It does help create a good rapport with them and start a conversation. Sometimes they will even waive the corkage.
Even though you pay a corkage fee, leave an additional tip for the each bottle opened at dinner. It doesn't have to be huge, but figure it in.
Here is our incomplete list of restaurants and their corkage fees. We intend to update this list regularly, as we continue to do our research. If you have any restaurants that you would like to see included here, just let us know, and we will do our best to find out for you (or you can let us know if you've done the legwork already).
Barcelona Wine Bar Patio in Inman Park
Antico Pizza - West Side - Free!
Old Vinings Inn - first one free!
AG Modern Bar and Steakhouse - free on Sundays
Cooks and Soldiers: $15/bottle up to 4 bottles.
Bar Mercado - $15
Iberian Pig- $15
Double Zero - $15
Canoe - $15
Rumi's Kitchen - $15
Crispina - $15
Aspen's Signature Steak - $15
Bones - $15
Porchlight Latin Kitchen - $15
Barcelona - $15
Pasta da Pulcinella - $19
Local Three: $20
White Bull - $20 (max 2, cannot be on their list)
Tavernpointe - $20
The Optimist - $20
Alma Cocina - $20
Empire State South - $20
Fleming's Steakhouse - $20
Gunshow - $20
Pasta Vino - $20
Cibo E Beve - $20
Fifth Group Restaurants (Ecco, La Tavola, South City Kitchen, Lure) - $20, however if you also buy one off of the menu, the corkage is forgiven.
JCT Kitchen - $25
Steak 101 - $25
Capital Grille - $25
Antica Posta- $25
Kimball House - $25 (if you also buy one from their list they wave the fee)
Kyma - $25
Ray's on the River - $25
Ray's in the City - $25
Aria - $25
Atlas- $35 for the first, $50 for the second