Drink specials are a dime a dozen in New York City. But restaurants that offer free corkage AND excellent food are much harder to find. My sister Melanie Teixeira writes about her favorite BYOB restaurants in NYC.
Melanie Teixeira moved to New York City immediately following graduation from the University of Oregon in 2014. In two short years, she has gained experience as a server and bartender in some of the city's finest restaurants including Estela, recently voted among The World's 50 Best Restaurants. Simply put, I don't know anyone who knows NYC dining and drinking trends as well as she does - just one more reason I'm lucky enough to call her my sister!
BRING YOUR OWN BOOZE (BYOB)
For simple and exquisitely executed Italian food, Gaia Italian Café is the place to go. Hidden right in between the East Village and the Lower East Side, this downstairs cubby is cozy and completely unassuming. The atmosphere is very casual as costumers order food at the front counter. I recommend any pasta with red sauce, Monday night pizza night, and any of the daily specials. Lunch is walk-in only and dinner is mandatory reservation. There is, however, one catch to this gem (those who work there have a specific way they like to do things- don’t impede your expectations onto their program.) Click here for a detailed list of their “house rules,” but in general, know what you want, enjoy it when and how it is made, and be nice! That’s not too much to ask, is it?
The beloved old school pizzeria Lucali is the most well-known restaurant on this list and is famous for being Beyonce and Jay-Z’s favorite pie in the city. It’s located on a quaint and picturesque neighborhood street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn and dishes up only pies and calzones! Be ready to wait once you have your name on the list, and make the most of your what time hanging at one of the several bars in the area. One pie is big enough for two to share and have leftovers. Thin crust, bright and mouthwatering tomato sauce, and whichever toppings you choose. Also, I always ask for extra red sauce because it’s delicious. Be ready - it’s cash-only! If you get there with no bottle in hand, check out Fat Cat Wines a couple of blocks away on Court Street - nice people, good wine.
Although technically not in New York, the Portugese tavern Broa is located in the “sixth borough” of Jersey City, New Jersey. It’s a cozy place that is simply decorated with lots of unfinished wood, brick, and the day’s menu written in chalk on the wall. Order the bacalao, the morcilla, and the chickpeas. They have one dessert that you should order, too. Additionally, most of the food is stored in a display icebox, so if you aren’t familiar with Portuguese cuisine, you have a visual aid. And in the words of Andrew Zimmerman, “if it looks good, eat it!” Don’t have a bottle with which to enjoy your dinner? A block away at Cool Vines, they have great recommendations for bottles to pair with the menu, They’ll even deliver your purchase to your dinner table!
To enjoy a full-on, white tablecloth, tableside duck carving dining experience, Peking Duck House in Chinatown is the way to go. There is an extensive menu available, but by far, the most popular dish is their namesake Peking Duck. Two people could easily share one duck and be full. I do, however, recommend mixing up your meal with an appetizer so as not to get overwhelmed by the rich duck meat. Pro- Tip: when you order the duck, ask your server to pack up the duck carcass to-go. The bones still have lots of meat on them that will make a great stock, stretching your dollar that much further.
At Bun-Ker Vietnamese, as in life, much of the enjoyment is in the journey. Located in Ridgewood, Queens, Bun-Ker is about a mile away from the nearest train stop in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The walk through the abandoned and industrial streets in the grey line between Brooklyn and Queens only serves to build anticipation and appetite on your pilgrimage to this delicious Vietnamese restaurant. There are few restaurants I can say with certainty that I have never had a bad dish. Bun-Ker is one of these places. Go hungry and order everything. Order on the menu but pay particular attention to the specials that are hanging on clotheslines above your head. There is a $10 corkage fee for each bottle of wine or 6-pack, but given you can’t find a glass of wine for that price in the city, I still think it qualifies as BYOB. Go to Henry's Wine & Spirits by the train before you begin your trek and buy something cold and refreshing to cool down the spicy food.
Gaia Italian Café
251 E Houston St.
New York, NY 10002
Closed Sunday & Monday
575 Henry St.
New York, NY 11231
297 Grove St.
Jersey City, NJ 07302
Closed Sunday & Monday
Peking Duck House
28 Mott St.
New York, NY 10013
46-63 Metropolitan Ave.
Maspeth, NY 11378
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