The Ultimate Guide to Philadelphia’s BYOB Restaurants
Grab a bottle and go.
Bring your own bottle (BYOB) restaurants in Philadelphia are a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because for the budget-conscious diner, they offer an opportunity to save money on pricey alcohol markups that quickly drive up the price of a meal. A curse, because those pricey alcohol mark-ups are often essential for a restaurant’s bottom line.
But Philadelphia has so many of them. Why is that? Pennsylvania’s alcohol laws are very weird, and very archaic. In most states, liquor licenses cost anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, but in Pennsylvania, they often top $150,000. That means many new restaurants decide to go without, because the cost of the liquor license could more than double their start-up costs.
Hence, some of the best restaurants in the city are BYOBs, which means you’re empowered to bring, yes, a bottle of wine of your choosing or a six-pack of beer. You can also bring, say, a thermos of pre-mixed Negronis, or a straight-up fifth of tequila to mix with a bottle of Jarritos at your favorite Mexican restaurant.
The options are endless and we’ve rounded up some of the best spots here, but just remember to tip generously since you’re saving on the price of alcohol. Oh, and don’t sit too long. Most BYOBs require a pretty quick turnaround on seating to make their bottom-line work.
There are certainly more famous Mediterranean restaurants in Philadelphia, but Apricot Stone is the type of place you could go every week. Go with a group of friends so you can share a wide selection of their dips, mezze plates, char-grilled lamb, and perfectly fried falafel, and you’ll feel like family immediately.
When it opened, Cadence was a critic’s darling. It was named one of Food & Wine’s best new restaurants and was generally adored by local critics. It remains an excellent dining experience, with warm, casual service and set-price four-course meal that draw inspiration from southern, Mexican, and regional cuisine. Oh, and the desserts, including ricotta pie with apricot whipped cream and housemade sorbet and ice cream, are some of the best in the city.
Elwood is a pretty one-of-a-kind place. Chef Adam Diltz serves food based on the rich culinary history of Philadelphia, which means there are influences from all other the world. You’ll pick up elements of Native American, Dutch, African, Carribean, French, and many more cuisines at this ambitious, white tablecloth restaurant. This is the type of place where you’ll likely encounter dishes you’ve never had before, and that’s a good thing.
Kalaya Thai Kitchen
Kalaya is one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia, hands down. Chef Nok Suntaranon’s fiery Thai dishes are unlike anything else available in the city—and they’re completely addictive. A bottle of Riesling with a little sweetness will carry you through a very spicy meal of fried fish cakes, laab ped (duck salad), rich southern-style chicken curry, and stir-fried noodles.
How to book: Reservations via Tock. Takeout and delivery via Toast.
L’Angolo is a perfect neighborhood restaurant. They serve homey, comforting Italian dishes that are affordable priced and well executed. Try the artichokes seared in garlic and olive oil, the penne melanzane and whatever is on seasonal special. Bring a couple bottles of wine—they won’t rush you out and the desserts, especially the lemon sorbet, are worth lingering over.
How to book: Call for reservations or order takeout via BeyondMenu.com or phone
Chef Gianlucas Demontis has been called the Cacio e Pepe King of Philadelphia, which is probably enough for you to head to L’Anima right now. In case you need something more to convince you, he also serves a refreshing and crisp tuna crudo with sicilian orange and fennel, lemony roasted artichokes, and a grilled Berkshire pork porterhouse with gorgonzola and polenta. You will not leave hungry.
How to book: Call for reservations
When you are looking for a restaurant that is quintessential Philly, look no further than Little Fish. Chef Alexander Yoon’s menu is very seafood focused, with a strong Asian influence and a lot of creativity thrown in for good measure. It’s not cheap, but it’s the best place in Philly to find an ethereal scallop toast, succulent grilled octopus, and an ever-changing rotation of whole and fileted fish.
Mari took over from long-time Queen Village stalwart Dmitri’s last year, serving a seafood-focused, Sicilian menu that is perfect for summer dining. Bring a bottle of Italian white and feast your way through a menu that features balsamic-glazed calamari, monk fish piccata, crab pasta, and stuffed zucchini flowers. Just don’t forget it’s cash only.
Neighborhood Ramen remained closed for most of 2020, which is a real shame because there is perhaps no more comforting dish than a steaming bowl of this shop’s ramen. They’ve now reopened, seating people in their back patio. Bring a six-pack and go to town ordering all of the sides (there are only three) and a couple of bowls of the chewy, rich noodle soups.
How to book: Walk in only. Order ramen kits via Chowhound
Noord is a real testament to the variety available in the Philadelphia food scene. Not every city has a genuinely delicious and very fun Dutch restaurant. Upon first look, the menu may seem to be full of unfamiliar dishes, but it turns out the bitterballen are just fried bites of bacon and caramelized onion, the gehaktallen are meatballs, and the herring sliders are the pickley, herbaceous bites you’ll crave for weeks.
Pumpkin is the type of place that makes Philadelphians wonder why they haven’t eaten there sooner. It’s beloved by those who know about it and a gift to those who do not. The ever-changing three-course dinner menu is $50 a person for options like gulf shrimp salad, Peking duck with braised artichokes, and chocolate peanut torte. Whether you’re looking for a place to catch up with a friend over a lovely meal or an intimate first-date spot, this is your place.
Stina is great for every occasion: Date night? Bring a bottle of wine. Dinner with your parents? Bring two. The food ranges from craveable and familiar—wood-fired pizzas, watermelon salad, chocolate layer cake—to foods you’d expect to find in a much fancier, much more expensive place, like seared octopus, soukouk (a cumin-scented beef sausage) and mushroom pide, a boat shaped, cheese-filled pizza-like item typical of the chef-owner’s Mediterranean homeland.