PHLGuide

The Best BYOBs In Philly

Our guide to the 17 best restaurants where you can BYOB in Philly.

When Cady Heron in Mean Girls said “the limit does not exist,” we’re pretty sure she was talking about BYOBs in Philly. There are so many that it might be hard to figure out which ones you should use for a casual date night and which ones get a little rowdier, making them perfect for a birthday where your best friends bring you a bottle of your favorite red. So we put together a guide of our 17 favorite spots just to help you out. You'll find Thai restaurants, one of Philly's best sushi spots, and so much more.

THE SPOTS

One of the best restaurants in Philadelphia, Kalaya is the first place we think of when we want some fantastic Thai food to impress out-of-towners or have a satisfying night with a few friends. The 30-seat dining room in Bella Vista is always packed, so it’s not a place to just casually walk in. And that’s because they have bowls of sticky or jasmine rice, oniony eggplant dishes that come tossed with chilis, and curries like the sweet and spicy massaman nua that we can't get enough of. They also happen to have sugary treats like mango sticky rice for dessert, just in case you want to celebrate with something other that that bottle of high-end champagne you brought. 


Perla is a Filipino spot on East Passyunk that offers one of the most memorable meals in Philly: the kamayan feast. They replace the tablecloths with huge banana leaves and, rather than using utensils, you eat with your hands. A layer of garlic jasmine rice is spread out on the table, topped with a few different proteins, pork belly, fried whole fish, and bok choy. Try all the homemade sauces on the table to customize each bite, and don’t be surprised if you need a to-go bag for your leftovers.


At Primary Plant Based, there are plenty of large tables and booths where you can spread out with your friends and a few bottles. The extra space will come and handy too, since you’ll want to fill the entire table with basically everything on the menu. This should be one of your go-to vegan places in the city, where you can always expect comforting dishes like masa ball soup with mounds of corn dough, jackfruit carnitas medianoche, and a yuba roast pork sandwich that you won’t stop dipping in the accompanying broth. 


It’s easy for Pumpkin to get lost in a neighborhood with Rex at The Royal, Steak 48, and Giorgio On Pine nearby. But this small South Street BYOB has been around for ages, and while the tasting menu changes often, the food is still consistently great. If there’s a crudo on the menu, make sure it ends up in front of you, but otherwise, you could pretty much close your eyes and point to anything here and it will be delicious. 


Terakawa Ramen is a small, casual spot in Chinatown that happens to be one of our favorite spots for ramen in the city. The rich broths come filled with things like roast pork belly, mushrooms, and soy egg, but there are also bigger dishes like curry platters and donburi rice bowls, as well as a long list of appetizers if for some reason you went to a ramen place but aren’t in the mood for soup. The space is on the smaller side, but it can work for a small group of your friends that spent the afternoon arguing over which wine goes best with spicy tan tan ramen.  


Amma’s South Indian Cuisine is the type of spot where, in preparation for our meal, we eat light all day just so we can fill up on specials like mutton curry with spicy onion and tomato gravy, a creamy paneer butter masala, and stacks of warm parotta. Their dining room is always packed (they don’t take reservations), and that’s because it’s one of the best Indian restaurants in the city. Come here for a fun night where you can listen to a playlist of South Asian pop and hip-hop and sip on that special bottle of chardonnay that's been sitting in your fridge unopened for months. 


Pera Turkish Cusine in Northern Liberties is a place where almost every dish is made to be shared. While it feels like 75% of restaurants tell us that, it’s actually true here—meaning you should bring a group of friends and order a bunch of dishes. Fill your long table with tabouli, silky hummus, and a juicy lamb shank with some smoked eggplant while looking out at the always busy 2nd Street. Always end your night with Pera’s flaky baklava that’s oozing with honey, even if your friends brought a bottle of moscato.


This seafood-focused Mediterranean BYOB is just down the street from the Betsy Ross House. Even though it only has a handful of wooden tables, the cozy dining room is usually full of small groups of friends, families, and a few couples hanging out. Outside of the buzzy dining room that will make you feel like you’re at a dinner party, they have menu options that go great with your favorite bottle of red or white. You'll want a few small plates, like octopus served with a peppery romesco sauce or mussels swimming in a limoncello pesto, but don't ignore the shareable dishes. All of them, from the seafood-loaded pastas to the citrusy branzino, are fantastic.


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Charley Dove is an open-air, Mediterranean BYOB in Rittenhouse that’s always crowded and will remind you how much better your dining room would look if you bought fresh flowers regularly. This place is ideal for any kind of date, and they also have heated outdoor seating if you need the bonus of people-watching as a conversation starter. There’s a great bottle shop across the street if somebody forgets to bring some rosé or a merlot. Pair whatever you grab with their roasted beet salad and whole roasted branzino that’s big enough for two.


If you’re in the mood for seafood, Little Fish in Queen Village is the BYOB for you. It’s a small corner shop with a menu that’s made up of mostly sea creatures, like monkfish, grilled octopus in a hot mustard vinaigrette, sashimi platters with a house soy glaze, and whole branzino. And although the dishes on their rotating a la carte menu can be kind of hit or miss, it kind of feels like you’re a part of a test kitchen—where everything you’re eating is going straight from the chef’s mind onto your plate.


Elwood is a meat-heavy, Pennsylvania-Dutch-inspired BYOB in Fishtown. Eating there kind of feels like being on a second-grade field trip to the Constitution Center or Liberty Bell, as everything on the menu, from the pierogies packed with white wine braised onions to the cheesecake tart for dessert, has a history lesson attached. Even the space itself, which has original paintings from the 1800s and antique silverware collected by the chef, makes you feel like you’re in a museum. The whole experience can feel a bit strange at first, but the food is so good that you’ll be happy you took a field trip out here.


Musi is an Israeli-inspired BYOB that’s one of the best restaurants in an area that’s otherwise full of casual cafes and a Pizza Hut inside of Target. The Pennsport menu changes as often as a four-year-old’s favorite snack, but you can find things like silk chili bowties and celery heart tartare that’s made up of chilled root vegetables. It's a cozy place where you can spend date night or have a friendly hangout session before hitting the bars at East Passyunk.


Whenever you’re looking for somewhere that feels expensive but isn’t, Helm in Kensington is one of your best bets. They change up the three-course tasting menu (that has around five options for each course) a lot. But you can expect dishes like tender cuts of pork over butternut squash, lamb ravioli, and a beets and smoked carrots small plate. If it all sounds great, you can always bring a big group here and make sure everyone picks a different dish so you can all sample the entire menu. 


A lot of omakase-only spots have long lists of expensive bottles of sake that just end up adding ridiculous amounts of money to your already high check. Sakana’s BYOB policy, though, lets you bring your own bottle to pair with their $98, 10-course signature omakase. That means that, instead of saving that special sake for an anniversary or your dog’s golden birthday, you can bring it to a weeknight dinner and drink it alongside some very good raw fish.


Cafe Ynez looks like the love child of a New Jersey diner and a Mexican beachside hut: It has wood-paneled walls, turquoise booths, and strings of colorful lights hanging from the ceiling. In addition to the food, which ranges from things like $10 carnitas tacos to a $25 whole chicken, they also make all their own mixers in house. They have carafes of mango-mint margarita mix to pair with your handle of tequila, and there’s also a blueberry-thyme lemonade that you should mix with vodka to make a very inexpensive DIY cocktail.


Kanella Grill is a staple in Philly, and even though it’s changed locations a few times, their excellent and affordable Greek food keeps them busy no matter what. For around $40 a person, you can get a family-style Greek feast, with things like kebabs, hummus, and dolmades spread out in baskets across your table. During the summer, they also have a bunch of outdoor seating on the sidewalk. Roll in on a Thursday night with a date and a bottle of pinot grigio and pretend you don’t have to wake up the next morning for work.


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, 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 own $15 bottle to pair with a plate of gnocchi that costs about the same.


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