How timely. Just after my column on corkage fee policies in restaurants went live, I got an email from the developer of a smartphone app called CorkageFee.
Presumably, this is the app for wine buffs who drive around with a case of wine in their trunks, eager to eat anywhere that has a reasonable corkage policy. It would be perfect for the retired salmon fisherman I once knew, who kept a case of Burgundy in his trunk on the off chance he'd run into someone simpatico and want to break out a bottle.
Available for both iPhones and Android devices, CorkageFee is a free download.
On a map, you can zero in on Southern California and click on any of the Burgundy teardrop-shaped icons. Up pops the name of the restaurant—and its corkage fee. You won't find every restaurant in L.A.: the app is relatively new and relies on wine enthusiasts to add corkage fee information and to rate and review the restaurants. You can also filter by corkage fee, distance or rating.
Apparently, corkage is $15 at Bottega Louie downtown, $30 at Bestia, zero at Maccheroni Republic, $20 at Bäco Mercat, zero at Café Pinot and $30 at Alma.
But Allumette in Echo Park is still listed, though it closed months ago. Can someone go in and delete that?
Other surprises: Barney's Beanery in WeHo is one of the few restaurants in all of Los Angeles where corkage is not allowed. And Urasawa, the extremely expensive Beverly Hills sushi restaurant, has what has to be our city's highest corkage at $70.
Can you guess which restaurant features a $2 corkage? Café Bizou in Sherman Oaks. That's the French bistro's big draw with wine buffs.
Users of CorkageFee can upload photos of a restaurant's wine list, though I didn't come across any listing where someone had actually done this. Click for driving directions to a restaurant — or to order an Uber car right from the app.
The ability to create a list of favorites makes this tool much more appealing, too. But to be truly useful, it needs a much larger database of restaurants.
If you're headed out to a restaurant and don't have a wine at home, click the wineglass symbol at the bottom of the screen and then choose "pickup wines in local spots" to find a map (or listing) of wine shops and liquor stores, with the latter far outnumbering the former. Businesses pay $99 per year to be listed, which may be why the liquor stores dominate.
Angelenos are lucky that so many restaurants allow corkage. But are you really going to choose a restaurant because the corkage fee is under $10 or $15 — or possibly zero? Maybe, maybe not. What's on the plate is important too.
CorkageFee is available as both an Apple App store and an Android App.