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BYOB movement is growing at WNY restaurants

Q: Can you recommend some restaurants in the city, North Buffalo, Amherst or Williamsville where you can bring a bottle of wine with you? Am I likely to be charged a corkage fee?

-- Sarah from Amherst

A: BYOB (bring your own bottle of wine) is a restaurant idea that seems always to be with us. It's a big issue. Some bemoan the fact that there aren't more BYOB eateries in Western New York; others insist the movement is growing. But that's just part of the controversy.

The corkage fee that accompanies the practice makes some people see red (or white, depending on your preference).

A restaurant might levy a so-called "corkage fee" to pay for the service, the loss of the sale and the expenses incurred by providing glasses and/or washing those glasses (which some places must think is considerable. Just try to get a glass of tap water in some restaurants without having to ask for it). Corkage fees can run high sometimes, maybe even $25 a bottle, and that sort of precludes your bringing in a glass of inexpensive vino unless you're madly in love with it.

So ask ahead of time. If you're a really good customer, management may even waive the whole thing.

Corkage fees are a very emotional subject and I'm not going to get into them in this column, although I'm sure some wine lovers will have a thing or two to say.

What I am going to do, Sarah, is list a few restaurants that do have BYOB policies without charging corkage (I'm sure there are more of them -- if you're out there, please e-mail me). Some of these are BYOB only on certain nights, so call ahead to be sure you're following the rules.

First we have a Greek restaurant, Vasili's at 299 Kenmore Ave. Bring in any bottle with no corkage -- but this applies only to Friday nights, the only time the restaurant is open for dinner service. (It is known for its breakfasts.)

The next couple of restaurants are more upscale and policies are more restrictive.

City Grill, 268 Main St., boasts a handsome wine cellar of its own but does allow diners to bring in one bottle of wine per two people and pay no corkage on Saturday nights. After that, there's a corkage fee of $7 per bottle. And that $7 fee is half of the corkage fee imposed the rest of the week -- $14.

If it's a Monday night, consider Jojo Bistro & Wine Bar, 5493 Sheridan Drive, Amherst. It's a great-looking space and on Mondays you can bring in your own bottle and pay no corkage. Corkage is $15 the rest of the time.

Should you want to bring your own to the place right next door to JoJo, the really glam-looking Black & Blue, centered around a glass-enclosed wine storage room approached by means of a circular staircase, go right ahead. But you pay a $15 corkage anytime.

I'm also listing Thai House, 39 Evans St., in the village of Hamburg, even though it's outside your geographical stipulations because its policy is most lenient of any I know. Here it is: Bring in anything you like; no corkage fee charge. Anytime.

Coming next: Where to take a guest from out of town: Restaurants that serve so-called "Buffalo Cuisine."

Want to know who serves the most innovative desserts? Looking for breakfast all day long? Send your dining questions to longtime News restaurant critic Janice Okun at

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