BYOB spots in NYC that don’t suck are restaurant unicorns. Compared to cities like Chicago and Philly, New York has extremely few options where you can bring your own booze, and even fewer with food you’d actually want to eat.
But the need to drink on the cheap is an important one, so we’ve put together this list of places where you can show up with your own bottle and be welcomed. Are these restaurants some of the best NYC has to offer? For the most part, no. But are they are places we can actually recommend if BYO is your priority.
German Riesling seems to be the consensus pick for spicy Chinese food, but this isn’t the sort of place you bring a Selbach-Oster Graacher Domprobst, if you know what we’re saying. We don’t know what we’re saying. Just bring beer. This is a Chinese hole-in-the-wall at the southern tip of the LES, and it’s worth a little trip. (Get the Big Tray Chicken.) If you want to have a fun night out with a few friends on a budget, come here. Just know that this place is cash only.
Los Hermanos is part tortilla factory and part restaurant, and - due to its cheap prices and Bushwick location - it attracts a lot of people who look like they don’t remember the 90’s. And these people tend to bring their own beer. Get a spread of tacos and grab a table in the dining room. It’s on the factory floor, so you can watch people making (good) tortillas. If you have beer, great. But if you bring Champagne, that’s a baller move and you’re technically baller.
Tanoshi is all the way up at 73rd and York, so we doubt you’re going there unless you live nearby or you have a company Uber account. (Or maybe you have a car. In which case, we need help moving.) If you do make it over, you’ll find a ten-seat sushi spot that’s pretty good and relatively affordable. It’s even more affordable when you take into account the fact that it’s BYOB. Bring sake and get an omakase.
This is a seafood market that happens to have a grill, a bunch of tables, and some waitstaff. Here, you walk up to a display of seafood, choose what you want, hand it to the staff, and tell them how you want it (grilled, fried, baked, etc.). It’s a fun concept, you’ll spend less than you do on seafood elsewhere, and they also have some Greek food. Be aware, however, that you’ll wait for your table. (People like this place.) Just bring some wine, and you’ll be fine. And while that sounds like something your handsy neighbor would wear on a tank top, we stand by those words.
This place is tiny and unfancy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t charming. Come here for a shamelessly unambitious late-in-the-game weeknight date or an inexpensive dinner with a friend. Upstairs you’ll find a low-ceilinged dining room with a few tables, and if you suffer from claustrophobia, you can drink it away. You’ll have to bring your own alcohol, however, so pick something that goes well with Jamaican comfort food and probably run a marathon first.
This is not your average greasy drunken noodles spot. Lui’s has an impressive menu of somewhat rare Thai dishes you’ve probably never heard of, and they’re all worth trying. Save your go-to Pad Thai order for Seamless and head to Lui’s for an actually-authentic and interesting Thai experience, with the added benefit of BYOB.
Piccola Strada is the definition of a mom and pop. The space is about the size of a walk-in closet, and thanks to the owners’ constant presence, you feel like you’re in your grandma’s living room eating the food she made just for you. The Italian eats are very solid, and if that kind of intimacy and lack of showiness is your thing, you’ll love Piccola Strada.
In theory you could bring a date to any of these places, but the only BYOB spot we would wholeheartedly recommend you bring a date to is Tartine. It’s cute, it’s quaint, it’s in the heart of the West Village, and the food is very good. Tartine is also a power brunch move. Croque Monsieur + BYOB mimosas = dream team.
Ever had Puerto Rican food? Casa Adela is an excellent choice for your initiation. This isn’t just any Puerto Rican food, it’s Adela’s Puerto Rican Food - the 79-year-old grandma has been serving her famous rotisserie chicken, rice, and beans at this location since 1976.
How do you go about making arguably the best pizza in Brooklyn an even better experience? BYOB. The road to sitting down to a table at Lucali isn’t an easy one, but picking up a bottle along the way only adds to the gleeful anticipation of the meal. And once you finally do get a seat, the rewards are endless.
You go to Panna II for two reasons and two reasons alone: BYOB, and what is almost certainly the craziest restaurant decor in all of NYC. Every square inch of this place is covered in foil, mirrors, flashing lights, chili peppers, and giant globes. It might not be the greatest Indian food ever, but clearly their decor-before-food approach is working - this place has lasted for 25 years.
Sometimes you just need some cheap, satisfying Mexican food. Sometimes you just need a beer. These primal needs can both be satisfied at Ponche Taqueria. There isn’t much ambiance to speak of, but there are brick walls, which is enough for most people.
The best Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen also happens to be BYOB. Which means Wondee Siam isn’t just a godsend for people stuck in their offices in Midtown, but also for people who want to get an inexpensive meal and an inexpensive buzz near Terminal 5.
There are more than a few BYOB sushi spots in NYC, but Poke is one actually worth knowing about. The sushi is fresh, the rolls are tasty, and instead of paying $13 for an average glass of white wine, you can bring your own bottle. The only issue? People of the Upper East Side know about it - expect a wait.
Gaia Italian Cafe is not about good vibes or great service. It is about seriously tasty Italian comfort food (panini, pasta, meatballs) at seriously cheap prices, served to you by Gaia herself in a basement level shop you would never know about unless you knew about it. Now you know. (Be warned: this spot closes very early Tuesday-Friday, because Gaia does what Gaia wants. Come on Saturdays when it’s open till 10pm.)
It’s surprising that more neighborhood restaurant owners haven’t caught on to the fact that BYOB instantly and very certainly makes all neighborhood restaurants precisely 16.5x more appealing. Especially neighborhood restaurants that already have very good, very authentic food. Om is an UES Indian spot that gets it right on both counts during the week (on weekends, there’s a fee).