The last time I went to the Peking Duck House on Mott Street, I drank a lot of good wine. This has nothing to do with the restaurant’s own list and everything to do with its longstanding policy of letting diners bring in wine, free of corkage fees.
One of my friends came with a bottle of Dom Pérignon. He’d received it as a gift and, not being a big drinker himself, wanted to share it. I no longer have any idea what I brought. I do remember, though, that on the table next to us were more open bottles than I could count, every one of which came into our possession when our neighbors left.
“You look like you’ll know what to do with these,” one of them said. (This was a good guess.) “We work for some California wineries and we can’t bring them with us on the plane tomorrow.”
If you want to find a good B.Y.O.B. joint, just ask people in the wine business. A lot of bottles get bought and sold over long, tipsy meals in restaurants with generous corkage policies. Most sales representatives and those who flock with them have a mental list of reliable places that won’t turn anybody away for carrying in a suitcase full of wine.
At Wu’s Wonton King, the Dungeness crab is not the only lure for the wine crowd. The restaurant charges no corkage fee.Credit…An Rong Xu for The New York Times
The current favorite, named by just about everybody I talked to, is Wu’s Wonton King, the Cantonese restaurant on East Broadway where, as one wine seller told me, “The bottles on the lazy Susans always outnumber the people at the table.” A close second is Spicy Village, a tiny spot a few blocks west that is home to one of the city’s great feasts for under $20, Spicy Big Tray Chicken. (Spicy Village has a minimum order of $18 for any table that brings wine.)
Where to open that spare D.P.
Here are other no-corkage restaurants that came up in my informal survey. Any of them would make a good place to go the next time you have an extra bottle of Dom Pérignon.
Hot Space Brooklyn, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
This Sichuan restaurant specializes in whole fish. First, you pick your species (buffalo, barramundi and what the menu calls “big mouth bass”). Next, choose a vegetable and a flavor — there’s spicy tofu pudding and pork blood, among others, although the most popular seems to be hot and spicy. Then sit back and watch while all of it sizzles on a tabletop griddle.
L’Antagoniste, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Corkage is waived only on Mondays, which have turned into a low-key industry night at this off-beat French bistro. How off beat? Other restaurants hang my head shot in the kitchen, but L’Antagoniste has it in the dining room, along with de Beauvoir, Gainsbourg and other nonconformists.
Lucali, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
We can argue about Lucali’s exact place in the firmament ofwood-oven pizzerias. But there’s no debating its calzone, which has no real local rivals. The mix of old and new Brooklyn is probably irreproducible, too. If you bring wine, know that each two-top is limited to one bottle, each four-top can bring two bottles, and six-tops are allowed five, according to Mark Iacono, the owner and chief pizza guy. He also said, though, that if customers keep ordering pizzas and calzones, “we let them open more bottles.”
Tanoshi Sushi, Upper East Side
Affordable Edomae sushi bars are rare enough, but Tanoshi Sushi’s low prices (the omakase is $60 to $65 at lunch, $120 to $125 at night) seem even more remarkable when you show up with your own drinks. Among raw-fish freaks, Tanoshi is known for its charmingly ramshackle pair of rooms and its “loosey sushi,” a reference to the chefs’ way of barely compressing the rice under the fish. It tends to fall apart when touched by chopsticks, so use your fingers.
Wondee Siam, Hell’s Kitchen
Pad Thai is certainly on the menu at Wondee Siam, but keep scanning and you’ll see less common Thai treats like stir-fried morning glory, crispy catfish salad, and mieng ka na — dried pork chopped up with onions and peanuts and served with chard leaves, to make a crunchy, spicy wrap. Like Lucali, Wondee Siam keeps each two-top to one bottle, four-tops to two bottles, and so on.
Other places to uncork your extra bottles
A few other names that came up surprised me. I have considered myself a fan of these places for years but had no idea that they allowed B.Y.O.B.: Kashkar Cafe, Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos (where it’s permitted as long as everyone at the table orders food) and Casa Adela. I wrote about Casa Adela in a recent newsletter on the East Village, and it does charge a nominal corkage fee. Still, it’s worth mentioning again because, as my source put it, “chicharrón de pollo and Champagne were made for each other.”
Finally, another wine-trade informants tipped me off that Naro, in Rockefeller Center, is about to open on Sunday nights with no corkage fees. The restaurant confirmed that the new hours and policy start this weekend.
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