If you know the answer to reader Amberly’s question please leave a message in the blog.

Hi John,

I am a UCSB grad (2008) and longtime reader who now resides in Orange County.  My boyfriend and I are coming up for the weekend, and we are looking for restaurants that have low (or better yet no) corkage fees.  Any ideas come to mind?


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  1. MB/SB says:

    Arch Rock Fish doesn’t have a corkage fee.

    • Chris says:

      I thought Arch Rock Fish had one if you bring a bottle that is available on their wine list (or have they changed policy).

      • MB/SB says:

        If you bring a bottle that is already on their list every restaurant should charge you a fee. When we ate at ARF we brought a good bottle and were pleasantly surprised when they didn’t charge a fee. The food was only ok though.

  2. Jonathan says:

    I believe Petit Valentin charges$10 and Cold Spring Tavern $12.

  3. Peter says:

    While this does not work for the weekend, the Four Seasons Biltmore has NO corkage on Thursday nights for their Seafood Buffet. I’ve been meaning to try it….heard it was quite good.

  4. Susan says:

    Paradise Cafe used to NOT have a corkage, haven’t been in awhile so not certain. Why wouldn’t you want to sample the fine, locally produced wines that our area restaurants offer? Unless you are wine experts, let the knowledgeable sommeliers steer you to our great local wines!

    • sbdude says:

      Because not everyone wants to plunk down 30 bones for a bottle of local wine they could pick up at Trader Joe’s or BevMo for 10?

      Wines (and pretty much every beverage for that matter) have the highest markup at a restaurant. Unless you’re staying with friends, we all know a weekend in Santa Barbara can be costly, and an extra 20 or 40 dollars saved on one or two bottles of wine go a long way.

      • bob says:

        I’m sorry, but you can NOT find any “local” wines at Trader Joes or BevMo for $10.00. Hope it’s not SB Landing or SB Crossing…both are wretched wines.

  5. John Dickson says:

    Fresco Cafe 3987 State St has a corkage fee of $5

  6. Scott says:

    You should bring your own food while you’re at it. Do you not realize that these are businesses and they make their money selling food and alcohol?

  7. Peter says:

    Hmmmm….not sure why people’s tone with the anonymity of the internet seems to be so……bitchy. I’d like to politely point out that a number of restaurants offer nominal corkage fees. Should a patron wish to avail themselves to this policy, I think it is fine to do so notwithstanding the fact that the restaurant would ordinarily like to sell you their own bottle of wine. I presume that if a restaurant chooses to offer such a policy that they have made a business decision that it is in their favor to attract my business at a discount. It’s much the same as a restaurant that offers a discount on a meal (say 2 for 1, or early bird prices, or prix fixe or what have you). Notwithstanding the tone of some of the replies here, I dont think its inappropriate for one to seek out a place that offers a service that meets my budget. Conversely, I don’t consider it truly “gouging” when a restaurant charges a high price for a luxury item. It is a luxury….not a necessity. And they have made a decision that the cost of renting the table for the evening shall include a certain amount of markup on the products they sell. If you don’t like the markup then you go elsewhere……hmmmmmm….and I suppose that’s what this whole string of comments is about. Okay, I shall go back to my coors light now. lol

  8. tcmk says:

    I believe everyone has a right to their own opinion, why, Santa Barbara is expensive to live here, considering that, then one must look for inexpensive restaurants. There are many good places to eat that won’t grab your wallet. Brummi’s has a small corkage fee, if any at all and the food is DELICIOUS……last time I went to Harry’s they didn’t have a corkage fee. Buy a bottle or two at Gelson’s or Bevmo, walk over to Harry’s for a fab dinner. Choose wisely, the menu has a variety of prices to meet everyone’s wallet. I agree that some restaurants are pricey with their wine and do pour half glass. Marmalade Cafe has a wonderful happy hour charging a much lower price for a glass of wine, very good, I might add. If folks plan it right why then there wouldn’t be any whiny people, BUT then again, that’s what makes the world very intriguing.

  9. Peter says:

    Really, is wine less expensive here than in other parts of the country? I honestly don’t know. I am pretty sure that local lobster is not cheaper here, nor are avocados. There is a demand for our products that goes well beyond SB and if prices were much higher elsewhere you would not see the product offered locally (I think most of our Abalone production goes overseas….same for Cherimoyas). It’s a basic study of economics here. If a restaurant thought they’d sell more glasses of wine at a lower price that generated more total profit they would do it in a heartbeat. They’d be silly not to. I don’t think you can be angry that a restaurant tries to turn a profit (and so few do it’s hard to believe I even used that word). The other part of the picture that you’re leaving out is that $5 beer or $15 wine needs to pay not just for the product but the fact that you are taking up space in their restaurant for the evening. That space (the seat you occupy) needs to generate a certain number of dollars that night to pay for everything (rent, utilities, insurance, wages, food, replacement of things that will wear out eventually, interest on the money that was borrowed to open the place, taxes, fees, maintenance, etc.). You may think that your five bucks is a lot for a beer but plenty of places go out of business even with this exhorbitant mark up. Vote with your wallet. But unless you are privy to the books of these “gouging” restaurants, I’d suggest that your anger is misplaced. And even if they are making money at your expense, don’t go there. I don’t know why people would think that if something is NOT profitable that there would be any entreprenur that would offer it to the market. I guess this is not the place for an economics lesson. Back to the coors light and trader joes pizza. lol

  10. Lily says:

    I worked in a steak restaurant in a hotel during my undergrad years. That particular restaurant did not turn a profit from selling food, instead they make up on their wine sale. I can completely understand why people are turn off by the markup though. A steak can be cooked use different seasoning, in an infrared oven that is not available at home, or aged in a particular way, so you can justify paying the premium for an experience you can not duplicate at home. On the other hand, a bottle of 2009 Kalyra pinot bianco is the same whether you get it in restaurant, the winery, or the market. One can’t help but ask the question, is it justified to charge 3 times the price when the only difference is the location one consumes this wine.

  11. Jonathan says:

    I was looking forward to reading through people’s useful comments that were on subject so I could learn about places with low cost corkage. Instead I read people’s nonsense. Thanks.

  12. Bradley Rodriguez says:

    Remember if you were to bring in a bottle of wine you are to take away from sales that would have been there had you not brought in a bottle. Also the restaurant is providing the stemware and cleaning it after you are done. Corkage fees are beyond just say a waiter opening the bottle for you.

    Hey Amberly where did you and your OC boyfriend end up going?

  13. Branden says:

    I’m with Scott. Why would I let you sit and enjoy something for free at a table when I could have someone else sit there and make some money? It’s not a living room, it’s a business. Every business marks up the price of the item they sell. Wine mark-ups are the same as food mark-ups. You really think it costs Rusty’s $21 to make a large pizza? Nope- maybe $2.50. (No offense Rusty’s, I love you!)

  14. Amberly says:

    Wow!! I completely did not expect my question to be such a hot topic, but glad that it was able to spark conversation and debate. Where I am now living (Newport Beach, CA), many quality restaurants offer free or little corkage, and it really does make a difference in the number of times I visit them. In the day-to day scheme of things, I am much more likely to frequent a restaurant with good food and low corkage than a restaurant with great food and a high corkage. That being said, I always am sure to offer the waiter/ waitress a taste, and tip as if I had ordered a bottle of wine.

    My boyfriend and I had a great dinner at Paradise Cafe on Saturday night. This was one of my favorite restaurants while at UCSB, and despite mixed reviews since my graduation, it was wonderful and did not disappoint! $10 corkage that I was pleased to pay.

    Sunday we went on an all-day wine tour, and therefore were too “wined-out” to have wine with dinner.

    Overall a very enjoyable trip back to one of my favorite cities. Thanks everyone for the tips and interesting point of views.

  15. VT says:

    I can’t beleive you would drive al the way from Newport Beach and then eat at the Paradise Cafe.

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