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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

To BYOB or Not to BYOB? 

That's one question being asked around Philly this week. On Sunday, the Inquirer detailed a growing rebellion against restaurants that charge a corkage fee, or refuse to let you bring your own. (Despite oft-repeated claims, no state law in Pennsylvania or Jersey forbids taking your own to a restaurant, liquor license or not.) That's why more and more full-service restaurants are dropping their fees or have dispensed with them altogether. Still, you'll pay $40 to lug one of your own cellar dwellers to Lacroix at the Rittenhouse Hotel (and it has to be one they don't have) and $35 at Striped Bass. (Here's a list of what more than two dozen restaurants charge or don't charge.) The BYOB boom also gets support in a report from food critic Craig LaBan, who likes some of the new license-less restaurants, names establishments with an eagerness to teach about wine, and points out places with wine bars and wines by the glass. Completing this set of stories are a few etiquette tips.

It just so happens, however, that the opposing case is made in the March Philadelphia Magazine. Aliza Green writes, "I feel like I'm in a time warp as small, imaginative BYOBs pop up like dandelions. ... they represent the entirely wrong direction for our city's culinary future. ... BYOBs are starter restaurants that just can't offer the complete dining experience. ... Philadelphia needs a new generation of world-class, full-service restaurants on a par with Buddahan, Susanna Foo and, of course, Le Bec-Fin." The BYOBs lack the visibility -- and liquor licenses -- that lure tourists, she laments, so visitors gravitate too often to chains with both, from Maggiano's to Ruth's Chris.


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