The Best Restaurants To BYOB In Chicago  guide image

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

Schwa imageoverride image
9.2

Schwa

$$$$

1466 N Ashland Ave, Chicago
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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.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Alegrias Seafood Chicago review image
8.9

Alegrias Seafood Chicago

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.


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photo credit: Sandy Noto

Soulé review image
8.6

Soulé Chicago

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The West Town location of Soulé is temporarily closed.

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.


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.

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.


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.


On one visit to this Mexican spot in a Lincoln Park gas station plaza, we saw some people come fully equipped with a bucket of ice and a 30-pack of beer. In other worse, El Tragón is a great, cozy place to eat tacos or quesabirrias over drinks. Unfortunately the Mobil next door doesn’t sell alcohol, but they do have orange juice to make mimosas, which pair perfectly with El Tragón’s crispy chilaquiles.


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.


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.


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.


The only thing better than eating wings with a cold beer is eating jumbo wings with cold beer. And that reality exists at Crisp, one of the best fried chicken spots in Chicago. This Lakeview restaurant specializes in large, Korean fried chicken wings, so an order of five qualifies as a meal. True to the restaurant name, each bite is perfectly crispy, and they have plenty of sauces to choose from, like spicy BBQ or the sweet and garlicky Seoul Sassy. The casual space isn’t that big, but there are a decent amount of counter seats, as well as large picnic tables perfect for splitting a six-pack with friends.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Taste of Peru opened in 1998, so if you also happen to have a bottle of wine stashed away from that year (we have no idea if that was a good year for wine) bring it to this Peruvian restaurant in Rogers Park. Their long menu has so many different choices and combos it can be hard to decide what to get. So start with their refreshing seafood ceviche with sweet potato and choclo, and make sure to order the lomo soltado. The cozy space only has a few tables, but it’s great for a casual dinner with friends.


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.


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.


Bienmesabe is a casual BYOB Venezuelan restaurant in Ravenswood specializing in arepas. The value move here is to order arepas as your entree—we prefer the After Party (roasted pork, gouda cheese, and avocado slices). The pabellon (shredded flank steak over sweet plantains and rice) is also a standout, and the Bienmesabe Sampler is a heavy but tasty appetizer to share. Head to this spot if you’re already in the area with a bottle of wine and a gluten-free friend.


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.


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.


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 is an upscale Thai restaurant in Edgewater with a prix fixe menu (you can choose five courses for $65 or seven courses for $85). 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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