The Best BYOBs For Date Night guide image


The Best BYOBs For Date Night

11 places to bring a bottle and someone you’re into.

There are a few reasons why BYOBs are great for date nights: they’re generally intimate, are usually filled with white tablecloths and candles, and make showing off the four things you know about wine easy. That being said, some are certainly more suitable than others. These are the most romantic date-night spots—the ones that practically whisper sweet nothings into your ear while you eat dinner. And even if you bring a $15 bottle of red wine that you’re trying to pass off as something expensive, any one of these 9 BYOBs will work. 

The Spots

Sakana Omakase Sushi

There’s quick takeout sushi you eat alone in your office, and then there are high-quality omakase meals that can ensure you’ll get a second date. Sakana is the latter. The BYOB sushi spot in Headhouse Square is the perfect place to bring that bottle of sake to pair with one of their two omakase options ($98 for 13 courses or $148 for 20 courses). There are flowers along the chef’s counter and walls, the atmosphere isn’t chatty enough to wash out trading your hopes and dreams, and watching exceptional fish get sliced in front of you serves as a great conversation starter. All the raw fish is stellar, whether you’re eating Japanese scallop, toro topped with caviar, or sweet shrimp with gold leaves.

When you’re dating someone, you’ll end up sharing a lot of things: passwords, hoodies, and code words as a sign to leave a boring party. But at this dimly-lit Fitler Square BYOB, at least the split involves your favorite bottle of wine and some great food. You’ll find a small seasonal menu full of dishes like housemade pasta, marinated mussels with turnips and chili oil, or whole trout with borlotti beans and swiss chard. Spend the night surrounded by a few candles and fighting over the last crumb of their brown butter tart with strawberry glaze.  

When you want something other than Italian but are still looking for the same candlelit environment, head to Perla in Passyunk Square. Your kamayan meal easily feeds four people, so it can work for two or a double date with whomever your best friend is enamored with this week. The table is layered with a base of garlic jasmine rice followed by different proteins and vegetables, like pork belly, fried whole fish, and bok choy. Sort through the homemade sauces on the table to customize each bite, and decide if how they chew is a deal breaker. 

This vegan BYOB is where you and your date can unpack your The Last of Us theories while feeling like you’re in a plant nursery—one that just happens to play throwback R&B. The candle-lit, plant-filled Northern Liberties space has velvety green booths and a chef’s counter ideal for sipping on a glass of your favorite rosé while asking if they’re a dog or cat person. There’s no wrong order here, but our favorite dishes include the crispy fried lion’s mane mushrooms with persimmon jelly, tonnarelli with tofu, and heirloom polenta. We take smaller bites of the irresistibly earthy, creamy mix just to make it last longer.

This intimate Italian spot in Washington Square West has a menu of delicious but reasonably-priced things like fontina-stuffed meatballs and ricotta gnocchi with short rib ragu. Despite the space being so small, they have much more sidewalk seating than your average BYOB. Plus, the floor-to-ceiling windows open all the way up so the entire 30-seat dining room becomes an open-air restaurant, which is especially dreamy on a spring date night surrounded by flowers. 

Pumpkin’s dining room is dimly-lit, generally quiet, filled with two-tops, and has a quiet mix of jazz and indie stuff playing on the speakers. While the three-course tasting menu ($55) changes often, the food is always great. Make sure to order the crudo if it’s available, but otherwise, you could pretty much close your eyes and point to anything on the menu and it will be delicious, whether that’s grilled quail or pork belly in a mustard sauce. 

You know when you train for a race for months and then your brother decides to run at the last minute and somehow beats you? This scenario reminds us of how effortless having dinner at A Mano in Fairmount feels compared to every other Italian BYOB in Philly. The dining room is upscale but still feels casual enough to get away with quoting your favorite movie and asking about their zodiac sign. And the plates of pasta look just as good as they taste. You would expect a place like this to have a long expensive wine list, but they don’t have a wine list at all. Instead, bring your date and a $15 bottle to go with a plate of gnocchi that costs about the same.

L’Anima is an Italian spot in Grad Hospital from the people behind Melograno, and it’s about the size of four average Italian BYOBs put together. It also looks like it had the design budget of four places put together, with a big, open floor plan and lots of colorful furniture. The best reason to come here, though, is for their huge outdoor patio that’s perfect for a date during any season (since it’s heated). They also have good food, and their Roman-style pinsas and cacio e pepe are definite highlights that will pair with any bottle you choose after picking out your best outfit. 

This BYOB right off Passyunk Ave. has a dining room with massive windows, a handful of pastas, and some family-style mains like chicken milanese that you can share with someone you really like. It’s a cozy space with just a few tables, which means you may have to get cozy with your date while eating creamy forkfuls of gnocchi with shitake mushrooms and jumbo shrimp fettuccine. 

Helm in Kensington is an American BYOB, and a majority of the people here are 100 dates in, still like each other, and talk about things like their mortgage or how to avoid another visit from the in-laws. Between the dim lighting and candles on the table, it does the job of a cozy space where you can split your favorite bottle and stare at the twinkling lights surrounding the chalkboard menu. The food here changes often, but the interesting small plates are easy to share—like rhubarb and soppressata wontons and chicken with a sunchoke confit.

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photo credit: NEAL SANTOS

The Best BYOBs For Date Night guide image