The Weekly Eater
Nadine Kam

B.Y.O.B. Why pay more?

The specter of restaurant pricing
drives diners to drink from their
own bottles

I field a lot of restaurant questions, but the one I'm hearing more often these days is: "Where are all the BYOB restaurants?"

The Wine Stop

Where: 1809 S. King St.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays

Call: WINES07 (946-3707)

Maybe it's because of the growing number of wine enthusiasts in the state. Maybe it's the "Sideways" effect that has people planning road trips through various wine countries, lugging their vine finds home to share with friends.

Whatever the case, I can usually name only three or four on the spot, and not always for the type of cuisine the inquisitor has in mind.

Well, to the rescue comes the Wine Stop, which offers a list of BYOB restaurants -- with corkage fees of free to $10 -- on its Web site at www.thewinestophawaii.com.

It's a simple list with just names, locations and phone numbers, which I've expanded below to include addresses, and a little description of their menu offerings if I'm familiar with the place.

It's a great service that they want to expand to include restaurants that have liquor licenses but are still BYOB-friendly. That's important because there will always be people who "no like make A" by showing up with their own bottles when a full cellar awaits.

"We're a big advocate for BYOB restaurants," said the Wine Stop's general manager, Kim Karalovich. "Of course we can sell a lot more wine, but we want to help the consumer as well."

Lianne Fu, president of The Wine Stop, offers up a reasonably priced Luna Pinot Grigio 2003 that sells for $16.99.

With 20 years of restaurant work behind her, Karalovich said she's also an advocate for better wine pricing at restaurants.

"It helps the restaurant because people will be more willing to pay for their wines," she said. "When people bring their own bottles, it's not necessarily because it's a good wine. They just don't want to pay restaurants' high prices.

"I think most people don't mind paying 1-1/2 to two times the retail price, but when they see wine priced at four times retail, they feel they're being ripped off. There's already a markup at retail."

Sometimes the pricing can be justified, she said, such as at a top-tier restaurant with fine food and a deep collection of vintages stored in perfect conditions.

"But when you see wine lists that are not very good, with no vintage depth, those, I feel, are the ones ripping people off," she said, if charging more than two times retail without any value-added service.

In general, it's reasonable to pay two times as much as your entree for a bottle of wine, she said. So if entrees are about $15, there should be bottles available for $30 and under. "But if you're spending $10 for an entree and have to spend $40 for a decent wine, there's a problem," she said.

HERE IS the Wine Stop's list of BYOB restaurants, in no particular order:

» Café Yao's: Japanese-influenced local dishes, at 2671 S. King St. (just past Kokua Market if eastbound). Call 946-8580.

» Le Guignol: Creamy French cuisine in a casual setting, at 1010 S. King St.; corkage $5 per bottle. Call 591-1809.

» Olive Tree Cafe: Simple Greek fare big on souvlakis with plenty of refreshing raita. At 4614 Kilauea Ave., behind Kahala Mall. No corkage fee. Call 737-0303.

» 12th Avenue Grill: Comfort food with a gourmet twist. At 1145-C 12th Ave. Fee per glass $1.50. Liquor license pending. Call 732-9469.

» C&C Pasta: Italian fare with red and savory sauces. At 3605 Waialae Ave.; corkage $5 per bottle. Call 732-5999.

» La Pizza Rina: At 1425 S. King St. Call 941-6634.

» Champa Thai: Thai cuisine emphasizing rich coconut curries, at 3452 Waialae Ave.; corkage 50 cents per person. Call 732-0054.

» Antonio's New York Pizzeria: At 4210 Waialae Ave.; no corkage fee. Call 737-3333.

» Indian Cafe: Specializes in masala and dosai, or Indian pancake, wraps. At Kilohana Square, 2851 Kihei Place; no corkage fee. Call 737-4600.

» Zaffron: Indian cuisine accented with cumin and cardamom. At 69 N. King St. downtown. No corkage fee. Call 533-6635.

» Ono Hawaiian Foods: Who knew there would be a day when people would be pairing their laulau and other kaukau with a fruity white like Sokol Blosser's Evolution? The wine's fruit and low acidity marries well with heavy food. At 726 Kapahulu Ave.; no corkage fee. Call 737-2275.

» La Bamba: Home-style Mexican chimichangas and fajitas, plus fruity and complex mole negro. At 847 Kapahulu Ave.; no corkage fee. Call 737-1956.

» Kakaako Kitchen: Local-style gourmet plate lunches at Ward Centre; no corkage fee. Call 596-7488.

» Chao Phya Thai: At 45-480 Kaneohe Bay Drive; no corkage fee. Call 235-3555.

» Luigi's: Italian fare, with a few Mediterranean specialties tossed into the mix. At 442 Uluniu Place; corkage $1 per person. Call 263-5678.

» Mekong I: Thai cuisine at 1295 S. Beretania St.; corkage $1 per person. Call 591-8841.

» Mekong II: Thai cuisine at 1726 S. King.; corkage $10 per bottle. Call 941-6184.

» Sushi Land: At 1610 S. King St.; no corkage fee. Call 945-2256.

» Sabrina's: Italian classics with lamb, skewered meat and pork selections that go beyond the usual pasta selections. At 3036 Waialae Ave.; no corkage fee. Call 739-0220.

» Irifune: Teishoku meals at 563 Kapahulu Ave.; no corkage fee. Call 737-1141.

» Maharani: Wide range of Indian fare rich with garlic, onions and spices. At 2509 S. King St., near Down to Earth. Corkage $1 per person. Call 951-7447.

» Dew Drop Inn: Northern Chinese cuisine at 1088 S. Beretania St.; no corkage fee. Call 526-9522.

» Yama Chan: Basic Japanese teishoku and sushi at 1145-B S. King St.; no corkage fee. Call 596-YAMA (9262).

» Sunrise: Okinawan cuisine at 525 Kapahulu Ave.; no corkage fee. Call 737-4118.

» Casablanca: Moroccan cuisine ranging from a vegetarian plate of hummus, baba ghanouj and pita, to grilled lamb spiced with fiery harissa sauce. At 19 Hoolai St. in Kailua; no corkage fee. Call 262-8196.

» Kotobuki: Japanese cuisine at 617 Kapahulu Ave.; no corkage fee. Call 732-1630.

» Abbe Brewster Caffe: Simple salads and wraps at 451 Piikoi St.; no corkage fee. Call 596-8866.

» Montien Thai: 2671-D S. King St. Call 949-2679.

» Town: Fresh local organics whenever possible, go into sunny-tasting Mediterranean fare with local and Asian touches. At 3435 Waialae Ave. (corner of 9th Avenue); $9 corkage per wine bottle, $1 for beer bottles. Call 735-5900.

DINERS OR restaurateurs who want to add another name to the list can e-mail thewinestop@verizon.net.

The Wine Stop also offers complimentary wine tastings on various themes from noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday.

Italian wines will be featured on Saturday, and port and dessert wines will be the focus on April 30.

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

very good, exceeds expectations;
below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to nkam@starbulletin.com

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