Going out to dinner at D.C. restaurants can get expensive quickly, and buying marked-up wine can inflate a tab even more. While Washington does not have a robust BYOB culture, several restaurants allow customers to bring their own wine — sometimes even for free.
Alexandria Restaurant Partners is generous with waiving fees, offering the deal at all its local restaurants any night of the week, and Georgetown newcomer Reverie also lets diners pop their own bottle for free. Other fine dining destinations are more choosey; 1789 only offers connoisseurs the complimentary perk on Tuesdays.
“Most places will, of course, waive for a special bottle if you call and ask the sommelier or beverage manager,” says roving certified sommelier Andrew Stover.
Diners should always keep corkage etiquette in mind whether or not they’re paying for the privilege: offer the sommelier a taste, don’t bring something on the list, and consider buying more wine from the restaurant as well.
Another tip: leave gratuity corresponding to the amount you may have paid for the bottle at the restaurant. The server still pours the wine, and the glasses are washed in the kitchen.
And a no-corkage fee policy shouldn’t be seen as a ticket to take “cheap grocery store” wine to dinner, adds Stover: “Use this opportunity to take a stellar bottle costing perhaps $50-plus retail — the restaurant price would be well over $100,” he says.
Here’s a growing list of places where it’s free to uncork and enjoy:
1789 Restaurant (1226 36th Street NW)
The Georgetown staple has a well-stocked wine cellar with hundreds of different varieties, but corkage fees are waived on Tuesdays for oenophiles with their own collection.
Alexandria Restaurant Partners (all Northern Virginia locations)
All of the group’s local restaurants (Palette 22 in Shirlington, Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap in Del Rey, and The Majestic, Mia’s, Vola’s Dockside Grill, and Joe Theismann’s Restaurant in Old Town) offer free corkage every night of the week, with a two-bottle limit. A group out of Key West, Florida, bought Alexandria’s Virtue Feed & Grain earlier this year but plans to keep the corkage deal intact when it takes over on Jan. 1.
Belga Cafe (514 8th Street SE)
Enjoy free corkage on Monday at chef Bart Vandaele’s Barrack’s Row Belgian spot. There’s a two-bottle limit.
Bistro Cacao (320 Massachusetts Avenue NE)
This romantic Capitol Hill French bistro waives corkage for Monday night dinner, one bottle per table.
Cedar (822 E Street NW)
Corkage is free on Mondays.
Charlie Palmer Steak (101 Constitution Ave NW)
American wines get free corkage Monday through Thursday and Saturday, with a limit of two bottles per table. On Fridays, the policy is widened to include foreign wines.
Daily Grill (multiple locations)
Members of the restaurants preferred guest program can take advantage of free corkage (except during happy hour) with a limit of one bottle per couple.
Dino’s Grotto (1914 9th Street NW)
The Shaw staple offers free corkage on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays for an unlimited amount of bottles (Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve excluded).
Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill (1054 31st Street NW)
The Georgetown’s secluded seafood spot offers free corkage for up to three bottles of wine on Mondays (exclusive to wines not on its wine list).
Et Voila! (5120 MacArthur Boulevard)
One bottle per table is free to open every Monday at this French-Belgian bistro in the Palisades.
Farmers Restaurant Group
All locations — including Farmers Fishers Bakers and Founding Farmers — offer no corkage fee for the first bottle, and $25 for each bottle after (as long as the wine isn’t available for sale at the restaurant).
Le Chat Noir (4907 Wisconsin Ave NW)
Sunday night is free corkage night at this Tenleytown cafe.
Le Grenier (502 H Street NE)
This French restaurant advertises free corkage on Sunday nights.
Macon Bistro and Larder (5520 Connecticut Avenue NW)
This Chevy Chase restaurant waives their $20 corkage fee if the table orders the second bottle of wine from their list.
Medaterra (2614 Connecticut Avenue NW)
This Middle Eastern eatery waives corkage costs any night of the week for Woodley Park diners.
Reverie (3201 Cherry Hill Lane NW)
Executive chef Johnny Spero’s newly opened Georgetown restaurant offers guests a free corkage fee for their first bottle of wine. The second bottle brought in will have a fee of $50.
—Updated by Tierney Plumb
Have another favorite local spot for BYOB or free-corkage? Let us know in the comments.