CHIGuide

The Best Restaurants To BYOB In Chicago

There are lots of places in Chicago where you can BYOB. These are the best.

Chicago is a city of contradictions. We love giving away Senate seats and red light tickets, but hate giving out liquor licenses. Thankfully the latter situation means there are more BYOB options than intersections with video cameras. Of course, you only want to go to the best ones, which is why we’ve made this guide.

Whether you’re looking for a group dinner, a tasting menu experience, or a breakfast place where you can say f*ck it at 8am on a Wednesday, you’ll find it here.

THE SPOTS

Wazwan is a casual BYOB spot in Wicker Park serving delicious South and Southeast Asian street food. And while the dark, narrow space loaded with barstools feels more like it should be hosting ‘80s trivia nights, the only alcohol here will be what you brought in your purse. Order delicate Nihari momos that are beautifully wrapped packages of beefy love, rich and savory mushroom korma, and a chettinad masala that has the perfect amount of heat and unbelievably tender pieces of chicken. Then hang out to finish that six-pack.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

The Coach House review image
8.5

The Coach House

$$$$

This 25-seat tasting-menu spot is hidden in the courtyard behind Wazwan, and is also BYOB. The Coach House serves an incredible $150 eight-course meal with dishes like momos filled with crab kulambu in a spicy black garlic sauce, chewy fara dumplings swimming in clarified beet butter, and chettinad fish topped with eggplant and crispy shallots. And while this place is expensive, it feels relaxed. You’ll be eating to a chill playlist filled with South Asian pop and hip hop, and since it's BYOB there won't be any surprises when the bill arrives.


Elina’s is an antidote to all the big, shiny new Italian restaurants that have opened in Chicago over the past few years. This BYOB Italian restaurant in West Town is small and dimly lit, with vintage touches like ornate mirrors and moody candelabras dripping wax decorating the space. A meal here begins with complimentary garlic bread, cheesy focaccia, and salami, and while the free stuff is fun, the menu also has tasty dishes like clams casino, rigatoni a la vodka, and chicken parmesan. The service is attentive, and the busy restaurant works just as well for date night as it does for catching up with friends.


The main reason to come to this BYOB Chinese restaurant in Lincoln Park is for dim sum, which they serve all day, every day. And while D Cuisine has a limited selection compared to other dim sum spots in the city, what they do have is delicious. You’ll find excellent pork buns, creamy steamed egg buns, shrimp dumplings, and sesame balls that are crispy on the outside and perfectly chewy inside. The space is on the smaller side, but it works great for any small groups that like figuring out what wine goes best with shumai.


We can’t tell the truth from the false at Bob’s in Pilsen. It looks like a neighborhood bar (meaning small and dark with flat screens playing sports) but doesn’t serve alcohol. And this place claims it makes “Pilsen-style” pizza, which isn’t a thing—but it should be because it’s fantastic. The crust is made with beer and it’s pliable enough to fold, with a slightly charred crust and puffy outer edge. We’re fans of the specialty pies (the pesto and stracciatella is a stand-out) and basics like cheese or pepperoni. Whatever you order, don’t expect to meet “Bob”—because he’s not real either.


Chicago’s lust for pizza can never be sated. Zazas is a casual New York-style pizza shop in Lakeview, and the pies here are very good. The crust is thin and chewy, glistens with olive oil, and is a wonderful vehicle for Zazas’ long list of toppings. You can order by the slice or pie, with options like a sweet and spicy bacon jam, or soppressata with hot honey. For the New York-style purists, there’s also a great pepperoni (with the cute little grease cups) and a white pie topped with fluffy dollops of ricotta. And luckily there’s a Binny’s right across the street.


Considering that this Uptown spot has bottle openers mounted on the walls, In-On Thai clearly takes being BYOB pretty seriously. More importantly, they seem to care even more about making delicious Thai food. The long menu has great curries, salads, and noodles—including our favorite pad see ew in Chicago. And some of the dishes (like the keang pa curry) are so spicy you’ll be grateful for any liquid you can find—whether you brought it or not.


Lao Peng You feels like a house party. And just like that party, you shouldn’t come to this small Chinese spot in Ukrainian village empty handed, either. One, because drinking makes the long wait for a table here (they don’t take reservations) more bearable. And two, it turns out that beer and wine go perfectly with Lao Peng You’s handmade noodles and dumplings. Order the cold noodles, pork dumplings in a spicy sour broth, and try to ignore everyone standing around waiting for you to leave after finishing your six-pack.


One of Chicago’s very best SCRPRTCUWFFs, Bayan Ko in Ravenswood is an ideal place to bring a bottle of wine or two to split with your friends. The food here is delicious and easily shared—you’re going to want to order multiple servings of the croqueta tots. The space is small, so if you make friends with your neighbor they might let you taste the petite sirah they brought.


There are a few BYOB places on this stretch of Argyle in Uptown, but we’re suggesting Miss Saigon for two reasons. First, it’s less likely to have a wait than Tank Noodle, which means less time spent carrying a six-pack around and more time spent drinking it. Second, the mi kho is delicious here, with crispy bone-in chicken that pairs excellently with a cold beer.


Not only are the dumplings handmade at Qing Xiang Yuan in Chinatown, you can watch them being shaped through a window looking into the kitchen. The menu offers pan-fried, steamed, and boiled dumplings with vegetarian, seafood, and meat fillings. And if you’re not feeling the extensive tea menu here, feel free to bring in a tallboy.


MingHin’s appearance on this list tells you something you might not have known about this dim sum restaurant. Yes, it's BYOB, a fact they don’t advertise but we promise is true. MingHin is large, has several locations, and is open 365 days a year. You can get tasty entrees like lo mein and rice dishes, but we recommend focusing on the dim sum—especially the pork buns and dumplings, which will go really well with whatever booze you brought.


This small Latin American restaurant in Logan Square has friendly service and excellent entrees, many of which can be made vegan or vegetarian. Get the pork mofongo—it’s like your personal garlicky plantain mountain and tastes best when you’ve brought beer to wash it down.


Dinner at Soule is a lot like a low-key get together at your friend’s house, assuming your friend is really chill, makes delicious soul food, and plays great R&B. In either situation, you’d better show up with some wine. At Soule, whatever you order to go with it will be delicious (you especially want the garlicky shrimp and grits, perfectly fried catfish, and excellent mac and cheese). So you should also bring some stretchy pants, because if you do this place right, you’re going to need them.


It’s convenient if a BYOB restaurant has a place to buy booze right next door, but it also means you need to settle for whatever they have available. This isn’t a problem at The Spice Room, a fantastic Indian restaurant in Logan Square, because it’s across the street from a neighborhood grocery store that happens to have a great selection of beer and wine. So you won’t have to figure out which flavor of MD 20/20 goes best with curry, unless you really want to.


Irazu

$$$$(773) 252-5687
Hours:SATURDAY11:30AM to 9:30PM
Perfect For:Big GroupsBYOB

Irazu offers both delicious Costa Rican food and a solution to our unreliable weather situation, thanks to its big covered patio. The menu is long, with lots of sandwiches, empanadas, and entrees like casado, a Costa Rican specialty with skirt steak, an over-easy egg, plantains, and cabbage salad. It’s cash only, so plan accordingly.


You go to Big & Little’s to eat fancy fast food. They have giant soft shell crab po’ boys, sushi grade ahi tuna tacos, and foie gras topped fries. All of which are fantastic—the kitchen handles these dishes as well as an upscale restaurant would. Add in the fact that you can BYOB, and we’ll come here any day of the week that we don’t want to eat a salad.


This casual spot serves fantastic Southern food. It’s a counter-service operation, and the welcoming staff will make you feel like a part of the family the moment you walk in. The menu includes Southern staples like fried chicken and shrimp and grits, all of which are done extremely well. So come with a friend or two and hang out for a while.


Lincoln Park is full of casual spots that are affordable enough for college students, and Toro falls into this category—helped along by the fact that it’s BYOB. Because of its high-quality sushi, small space, and no-reservations policy, this place is always crowded. Increase your chances of getting a table by coming with just one other person, not a group. But you should still expect a wait (and to be surrounded by college students).


Schwa imageoverride image
9.2

Schwa

$$$$773-252-1466
Hours:SATURDAY5:30PM to 10:30PM
Perfect For:BirthdaysBYOB

Schwa is known for its excellent food and unconventional atmosphere. This place is one of the best tasting menu spots in the city, but to call it casual is an understatement—the chefs serve you, you’re probably going to hear at least one f-bomb, and the bathroom is located in the tiny kitchen. Plus, it’s BYOB. So plan on bringing enough drinks to go with a roughly three-hour-long meal. If you want to look like a regular, go ahead and bring extra for the staff.


Tango Sur review image
8.0

Tango Sur

$$$$773-477-5466
Hours:SATURDAY3:00PM to 11:30PM
Perfect For:Big GroupsBYOB

If you’re looking for a quality steak place without expensive steakhouse prices, Tango Sur is the spot. It’s an Argentinian restaurant in Lakeview, and all the meat here is great—including their morcilla and chorizo. And the fact that they only take reservations for parties of six or more makes Tango Sur an excellent choice for big group dinners. Come with your friends, load up on red wine beforehand, and prepare for some meat sweats.


Nookies is a Chicago diner staple (the Old Town location as been around since 1973) for a casual breakfast or lunch. This place has a lengthy menu that rivals the Cheesecake Factory’s, so you can eat everything from eggs and potatoes to meatloaf, and every location is BYOB. That said, we prefer Nookies for brunch—and we particularly like the crunchy French toast, battered and fried in corn flakes.


Angry Crab imageoverride image
8.1

Angry Crab

$$$$(773) 784-6848
Hours:SATURDAY1:00PM to 10:00PM
Perfect For:Big GroupsBYOB

Make sure you come to this Cajun-style crab boil spot prepared. It’s on an otherwise barren strip of Lincoln Ave. near Bryn Mawr, and there’s nothing close by—so remember to pick up some beer on the way. But the outstanding seafood here is worth the trip. Bring a group and order boiled shellfish (shrimp, crab, and lobster) by the pound, and dig into seafood so good it has no business being in the Midwest.


Chilam Balam is a small, casual Mexican restaurant in Lakeview. The menu changes regularly, and includes dishes like ceviches, empanadas, and pork ribs. Even though it’s BYOB, there are some restrictions: you can bring one bottle of wine or six-pack per couple, or one 750ml bottle of tequila. We don’t make the rules, we just pass them on.


This is an upscale Thai restaurant in Edgewater with a prix fixe menu (you can choose three courses for $38 or five courses for $52). The spicy fish soup is fantastic, with a light coconut broth that has a lot of heat, and the grilled tofu is delicious, with roasted ground chili, shallots, and mint giving it lots of flavor. Herb is nice enough for date night, but relaxed enough for dinner with a few friends and a bottle of wine.


JJ’s is a very small, casual, slightly pricey restaurant in West Town. Their specialty is Thai street food, so you can expect dishes like khao mun gai (chicken with rice) and gai satay (chicken on skewers), all of which are very good. And very spicy—so bring enough of your chosen drink to keep your tongue from burning up.


The Korean BBQ here is delicious, but Cho Sun OK is also an excellent neighborhood restaurant to hang out in. It’s a fun and lively spot that works best for group dinners. Just make sure that besides the BBQ, you also get a seafood pancake and some pan-fried dumplings. All are good for soaking up the booze.


Sticky Rice review image
7.6

Sticky Rice

$$$$773-588-0133
Hours:SATURDAY11:30AM to 11:00PM
Perfect For:BYOBCheap Eats

Sticky Rice is a Thai restaurant in North Center. The food here - like tom kha soup, pad see ewe, and mango chicken—is reliably good, and overall it’s an ideal casual option for catching up with friends during the week. Also valid for when you just want to eat noodles by yourself.


Alice & Friends' imageoverride image

Alice & Friends'

Vegans like to bring their own booze, too. Luckily, there’s Alice & Friends’, a casual BYOB vegan restaurant in Edgewater. The Asian-inspired food here is great—for example, the seitan skewers, marinated in turmeric and other spices. And the good news is that non-vegans will probably enjoy the light and fresh dishes as well. Just don’t let them bring their own meat - that would be rude.


This is one of the best places in the city for a large group dinner, or to just hang out with a friend or two. 90 Miles serves authentic Cuban food in a fun but relaxed setting, and you can bring your own wine or rum to add to the sangria and mojito mixes they offer. The back patio is enclosed and heated in the winter, and the friendly waitstaff won’t make you feel weird if you spend all day here pretending you’re on vacation.


This is the original Tanoshii Sushi Mike’s, not the one in the West Loop. And while both have quality sushi, the original is our favorite location when we want a quiet place that lets us bring our own liquor (the one on Randolph has a full bar). Try one of the chef’s choice rolls, which often come with a light truffle sauce that’s good without being overbearing.


There’s something rebellious about a BYOB breakfast—maybe it’s the way the cashier at the grocery store looks at you when you’re buying champagne at 9am. Thankfully there’s a Jewel near M. Henry in Andersonville. This neighborhood breakfast spot has everything from bacon-wrapped baked eggs to fluffy pancakes covered in blueberries and granola. It’s usually crowded on the weekends, so expect a wait.


Smoque BBQ imageoverride image
8.4

Smoque BBQ

$$$$773-545-7427
Hours:SATURDAY11:00AM to 10:00PM
Perfect For:BYOBQuick Eats

Smoque keeps it simple with straightforward BBQ and sides. It’s a counter-service spot in Irving Park, and your meal will be served on butcher paper and a metal tray. Everything here, from the brisket to the pulled pork to the ribs, is delicious—and we have it on good authority that meat and beer go very well together.


This casual Mexican seafood spot in Wicker Park is ideal for groups. Not only because it’s BYOB, but also because the portions are huge and everything will come to the table at once. Definitely order the prawns and lobster—the prawns come in a delicious spicy broth, and the lobster has a tasty seafood stuffing.


Sultan’s Market serves affordable, tasty Middle Eastern food in Wicker Park. We like the falafel and shawarma sandwiches, but the platters are a solid order as well. If you really want to take advantage of Sultan’s, pick up some beer and grab dinner on the small patio in the summer.


Spinning J in Humboldt Park is a great place to go to pretend you’re a kid again - you can order grilled cheese, chicken pot pie, and chocolate malts served with whipped cream on top and a stainless steel cup filled with the leftovers. But when you’d rather act your age, they have helpful tips on how to pair the liquor you brought from home with their housemade mixers. Try their sparkling lemon drop soda with gin or the ginger milkshake with bourbon, then do something else you couldn’t do when you were a kid: pull out your credit card and order a third slice of pie.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

.
Where To Go When You Don’t Want To Make A Big Deal About Your Birthday, But You Actually Kinda Do guide image
Guide
Where To Go When You Don’t Want To Make A Big Deal About Your Birthday, But You Actually Kinda Do

21 places to try when you weren’t going to do anything for your birthday, but now you are.

The Best Restaurants For A Weekday Breakfast In Chicago guide image
Guide
The Best Restaurants For A Weekday Breakfast In Chicago

Our guide to the best places for an early-morning meal in Chicago.

The Best Restaurants In The West Loop  guide image
Guide
The Best Restaurants In The West Loop

Our favorite places in the neighborhood.

The Best Restaurants In Logan Square guide image
Guide
The Best Restaurants In Logan Square

All our favorite Logan Square restaurants for all sorts of dining situations.