I thought this book would be of interest only for Bay Area foodies, but as one of my wine club members explained “all paths lead to San Francisco eventually“. So I post this review for perusal by all who want to be prepared for that next trip to San Francisco, even if that trip is yet to be planned!
Local author, Kimberly Lovato, was kind enough to attend a wine tasting I organized, and discussed her latest project. You’ll find it refreshingly unique among restaurant books in that it doesn’t provide reviews or ratings. Instead, its objective is to illuminate interesting restaurant history, local foodways, and tidbits unique to the city’s food scene.
It makes no attempt to document the city’s thousands of restaurants, or even to isolate its handful of “best”. To earn its way into this book, a food establishment had to be sufficiently unique and interesting to stand out from the crowd in one way or another – like the donut shop featuring a donut as big as your head. Good ol’ “Bob’s“. Or the oldest continuously operating restaurant in California – the Tadich Grill – who doesn’t take reservations and whose white-coated staff proudly turns away the world’s rich and beautiful alike if they are unwilling to wait their turn.
These and many more discoveries await in this new book from Lovato. Crack the cover of “Unique Eats & Eateries” and you’ll find your brief perusal has quickly turned into many minutes spent flipping from one interesting feature to the next.
Today brings a bit of good news for San Francisco diners. We’re gradually losing our reputation as a city of restaurants with excessive corkage fees. Today’s article in the online version of the WSJ (Bay Area Edition) reports that more and more S.F. restaurants are waiving their corkage fees.
The reason is clear. It’s the economy, stupid. And as a wine merchant who might benefit from such a movement, you’d think this would be good news for me as it may be for you.
But will such waivers last beyond the current downturn? Once we put this devastating period behind us and move on to economic recovery, will corkage fees remain waived? I doubt it. Here’s why…
Restaurants who have waived their corkage fee (usually $10 – $20) have done so in hope that more diners will choose them over they restaurant next door. It’s a fish-eat-fish world out there in today’s competitive dining marketplace.
But here’s the challenge – a waived fee has to bring in ENOUGH additional customers to make economic sense. First, there’s the basic loss in revenue – wines sold from the restaurant’s wine list provide a substantial margin – often about 300% of cost. That’s higher than anything else on the menu except perhaps coffee or bottled water.
Then there’s the out-of-pocket costs. Any increase in traffic will also have to offset broken glassware (assuming the patron doesn’t bring their own glassware is a pretty safe bet) which can cost a high-end restaurant $500 – $1000 per month. That’s a lot of additional dinners!
It’s been a tough few years for many of us. But I’m glad I’m not in the fine dining establishment. Many of my favorites have gone under in recent months, and many more are hanging on by a hangnail. I don’t begrudge them their corkage fee – it’s still a bargain relative to buying wine off the list!
So hey, it’s Monday night. The first work night of the new year, for most of you. Why not celebrate our hope for better things to come by enjoying a night out, complete with wine?
Dave the Wine Merchant