The Best BYOBs In Philly image


The Best BYOBs In Philly

Our guide to the 20 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 16 favorite spots just to help you out. You'll find Thai restaurants, one of Philly's best sushi spots, and so much more.


photo credit: GAB BONGHI



Bella Vista

$$$$Perfect For:Small PlatesVegetariansDining SoloCasual Weeknight DinnerFirst/Early in the Game DatesDate NightBYOB


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If the city held an America's Next Top Model-style competition for the next great BYOB, Tyra would be doing a dramatic photo reveal of Mawn. The intimate Cambodian restaurant only has 10 or so tables inside, so while you can walk into the Queen Village restaurant without a reservation, we wouldn’t recommend it. They have a lengthy menu of unforgettable Southeast Asian dishes, but the soft shell shrimp, oysters with a black pepper mignonette, juicy whole fish, and Thai crab fried rice is the perfect lineup for a casual weeknight dinner, date night, or group catch up with your friends surrounded by whatever bottles you agreed on.  

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 $148, 17-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.

Some openings feel like a long-anticipated album release. From a food cart to a pop-up to the current brick-and-mortar location, Bella Vista’s Tabachoy has the buzz of that Frank Ocean record we all still hope will come out. Inside the cozy Filipino restaurant, there are a handful of tables and walls that glow from the neon yellow pig sign, while old T-Pain tracks play overhead. There are no bad choices on the menu here, but we love the fried chicken (think Peking duck rather than breaded chicken) and the pancit bihon noodle dish that balances spice and citrus perfectly. Everything here feels like it's made for comfort, but you won’t leave feeling heavy. If you keep a must-try restaurant list, this spot should be on it.

Passyunk Square's El Chingon is an all-day Mexican cafe and BYOB restaurant. It's a plant-filled corner spot perfect for grabbing coffee and conchas before work or sharing a bunch of tacos and tostados on a casual date night. The whole menu is worth exploring, but the real specialty here are the Pueblan-style cemita sandwiches. We can't stop thinking about the Clásica, which comes stacked with crisp fried chicken, avocado, chipotle peppers, and stringy, salty quesillo cheese, all on housemade rolls. Chingon's chef/owner started the bread program at Parc, so you know those buns are good.

This modern American spot in Fitler Square is cozy, but they make the most of their 20 seats and open kitchen (there’s also a six-seat bar they save for walk-ins only). The small menu of seasonal seafood and produce is full of surprises—get here ASAP for the marinated mussels in miso chili oil and crispy fried clams, along with the rhubarb brown butter tart we’ll forever be fantasizing about. Our fingers are crossed that the sweet and spicy rigatoni amatriciana stays on the menu permanently. Every dish is under $30, so it’s a reasonable choice for a romantic night for two, but if you go with a few others you can (and should) order the entire menu.

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.

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 vegan BYOB is where your group 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 Northern Liberties space has velvety green booths and a chef’s counter ideal for sipping on a glass of your favorite rosé while watching smoked potatoes get sliced. There’s no wrong order here, but our favorite dishes include the crispy fried lion’s mane 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.

There are a few things that surprise us every time we end up at Stina. One is that, even though they have great brick-oven pies, pizza really isn’t the focus here—this place serves some of the best Mediterranean food in town. The other thing is how long we can sit inside and think about the important things in life: our upcoming nap and the next show to binge. When you’re here, go for the merguez—a canoe-shaped Turkish flatbread that has a soft dough that holds a perfect mix of spicy lamb sausage and mozzarella. Plus, with most of the menu costing under $20, your entree will probably be less expensive than the bottle of wine you’re bringing. 

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. 

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.

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.

This BYOB right off Passyunk Avenue 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. 

Bring some friends to this Passyunk Square Mexican spot any day of the week for dulce de leche french toast, peppery chilaquiles, omelets big enough for three, and the sounds of Luis Miguel blasting through the speakers. The colorful BYOB gets packed on the weekend and is cash-only on those days. But there’s an ATM on-site, and if you have to wait in line, the scent of sizzling peppers and cinnamon mascarpone cream will get you through. 

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. 

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.

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photo credit: GAB BONGHI

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