2006_11_food_shallonb2.jpgWhether you're ready or not, the holidays are fast approaching. Thanksgiving is just around the corner with Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa just a hop, skip and a jump behind. For many of us that brings happy thoughts of turkey, bourbon and pie but for others, it brings anxiety about all those gifts we have to buy. Now, save the “It’s not about the gift, but rather being with the people you love” speech. Whether we like it or not, if we don’t give the super who took three weeks to fix our garbage disposal a present, we better forget about getting that clogged drain snaked. So, we are going to tighten our belts (at least until the pie comes, then nothing but elastic) and spend the next two months dining BYOB (bring your own bottle).

Restaurants that offer BYOB are some of the great hidden values in the city. If you drink like us (which we think you might), often more than half your bill is alcohol. Being able to enjoy a good bottle of wine at dinner and not have to pay a huge mark-up puts us in the holiday spirit. So in an effort to stay focused and organized this season, we put together a list of our favorite BYOB restaurants (it’s so much easier to stay organized when only food is involved).

Cube 63, 63 Clinton St (between Rivington and Stanton)
The only thing better than fresh, creative sushi is all of the aforementioned with some BYOB sake. We recommend a bottle of Jummai Daiginjo. It’s crisp, refreshing and the perfect foil to cut through some of the richer rolls.

Tartine, 253 W. 11th St (at W.4th St.)
Usually the first place that comes to mind when thinking BYOB is Tartine and there is good reason for that. The wine-friendly menu allows many creative wine pairing options. We recommend the herbed goat cheese salad with walnuts paired with a Sancerre to start and finish with steak aux poiveres with a red from the Rhone (splurge: Cote Rotie, value: Crozes-Hermitage)

Nook, 746 Ninth Ave. (at 50th St.)
Who knew so much tasty resided in this end of Ninth ave? This restaurant, aptly named for its small digs, offers some amazing dishes just begging for a good glass of wine. Bring a great Oregon Pinot Noir to pair with the pan seared salmon with pillow soft chive mashed potatoes. It tastes so good when it touches your lips.

Amy Ruth’s, 113 W. 116th St. (between Lenox and 7th Ave.)
Amy Ruth’s hold’s a special place in our hearts because the fact that it’s BYOB is the second most appealing attribute to this Harlem soul food joint. The waffles and chicken with a biscuit wins out with a slight edge. On our most recent visit we went with robust californian cabernet to cut through the grease and hopefully deliver a burst of anti-oxidants. Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask for to-go cups if you don’t finish your wine. They don’t mind and a little wine in paper cups never hurts for the subway ride home.

Also check out...
Di Fara, 1424 Ave. J (at 15th) in Brooklyn for fabulous pizza. Bring a bottle of Chianti or a Barbera.

We figure with the money we’ve saved on alcohol we’ll be able to buy gifts for all our loved ones and even the ones we don’t particularly like but are morally obligated to buy for. Just one small step in stopping re-gifting.