Considering most BYOBs in Philly are small, family-owned Italian places filled with two-tops and candles, it’s hard to find ones that aren’t good for date night. 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 $10 bottle of red wine that you’re trying to pass off as something expensive, any one of these 12 BYOBs will impress your partner.
Helm has two different locations. The one in Kensington is BYOB, and a majority of the people here are somewhere past their 100th date, splitting a bottle of wine, and talking about things like their mortgage or when their dog should go in for his next round of vaccinations. The food here changes often, but the small plates are easy to share - like rhubarb and soppressata wontons and chicken with a sunchoke confit.
This small Italian BYOB 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.
Much like an umbrella or a stick of gum in your back pocket, Jaxon has the potential to save any date night. It typically isn’t too hard to get a reservation here (even last minute), and, during the summer, there’s a bunch of sidewalk tables sitting under a string-lit awning. Even if you’re running late for your date and show up in a T-shirt, you won’t feel underdressed. The menu is always excellent no matter the season, with heavier dishes like lamb tikka masala in the winter and watermelon salad in the summer.
Let’s say you have an important date, but you don’t want to eat at a place with white tablecloths. Book a table at Cadence in Fishtown. The food is excellent, the atmosphere feels upscale but not too stiff, and the restaurant has its own collection of wine at Bottle Bar East down the street. You could go a la carte here, but we recommend going all in with the $65 pre-fixe menu. Just make sure to choose the Alina duck as your entree - it’s one of the best things we’ve eaten in recent memory, and will easily feed you and your date.
Umai Umai is a small sushi spot in Fairmount that’s great for a casual date night. Most of the specialty rolls are over $10, but each one is pretty elaborate. The Lost-themed 4-8-15-23-42 with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado, and mango wrapped in pickled daikon is one of our favorites, but any roll here is great - especially if you want to feed them to your significant other across the table.
Laurel is a place you come to impress someone. The small French spot in East Passyunk has tall, throne-like chairs and one of the best tasting menus in the city. Some of the things you’ll eat will indeed feel French, like foie gras or escargot, but a majority of your dishes will be odd combinations that somehow work well together. Two of our favorites are the kombucha shot with mustard seeds and the caviar and potato crisps topped with ice cream. You’ll probably try something you’ve never had before, but that just means you’ll have plenty to talk about with your date throughout the night.
Noord is the place to go when you want to eat some food that’ll keep you full hours into your post-date Netflix binge. The Dutch food they serve is hearty, with things like fish stews and meat-and-potato dishes dominating the menu. Whatever you do, just make sure you get an order of bread to soak up whatever sauces are left at the end of your dishes. And, even if you don’t have any room left at the end of your meal, you and your date should get the brambleberry bread pudding to go and split it later while you watch The Office.
When you want something other than Italian but are still looking for the same candle-lit environment, head to Perla. When they aren’t serving their kamayan feast, which is their multi-course meal that happens on Wednesday and Sunday nights, this Filipino spot still has a great menu with dishes perfect for sharing - like the short rib kare kare or a whole barramundi.
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 menu 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 should also know that it’s cash only, so you’ll want to hit both the bottle shop and the ATM on your way over.
You and your partner finally did the math and decided you can’t afford that trip to Italy after all. As a backup plan, you should go to Zeppoli over in Collingswood. It has some of the best Italian food in the entire tri-state area, including a ricotta and spinach gnocchi dish that we’d request for our last meal on earth. Plus, like Italy, we hear New Jersey is beautiful this time of year.
Radicchio is a pretty nondescript Italian BYOB - the kind that exists on pretty much every corner in the city. But instead of paint on the walls, it has rows of wine corks that will make you wonder how much they had to drink to acquire all of the raw materials. The menu is full of solid pasta dishes like spaghetti positano, which comes with crab, arugula, and tomatoes, and gnocchi al pomodoro. Also, it’s less expensive than most of the other places on this list, which makes Radicchio the perfect place to do a last-minute date night during a busy week.
There are places on this list with more romantic atmospheres than A Mano, and spots with better food. Still, it’s a place we always recommend for date night. Maybe it’s because it’s a staple in the Philly Italian scene - their goat cheese gnocchi with almond pesto is excellent. Maybe it’s because the staff is incredibly accommodating and can always seem to find you a table, even if the place is super crowded. Or maybe it’s because their $65-per-person, family-style meal is perfect for sharing when nobody wants to make any more decisions. Whatever it is, A Mano is consistently a great option for a last-minute, one-on-one dinner with someone you’re into.