A Philadelphia diner’s favorite four letters: BYOB. That’s short for Bring your own bottle and that’s exactly what diners are doing throughout the city, at everywhere from cozy mom-and-pop places to four-star caliber finds. (Photo by G. Widman for GPTMC)
This is the first in a series of posts that rounds up best bets for BYOBs in Philadelphia, categorized by neighborhood.
September means the return of summer vacationers to the city, back-to-school season and the kick-off of a fresh fall season.
Whether you’re new to Philadelphia, a long-time resident or just visiting, the beginning of autumn and the start of the academic year and is an exciting time to get out and explore the city. And what’s better than exploring by eating?
The thriving BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) restaurant scene has always been a defining characteristic of Philadelphia dining, and has taken off even more in the past few years.
BYOB means you can bring your own bottle of wine (and sometimes beer and liquor as well) to enjoy at a restaurant for a romantic date or a fun dinner with a group of friends. Sometimes there’s a corkage fee, but often there isn’t.
There are literally hundreds of BYOBs in Philadelphia, so this isn’t a full, comprehensive guide (in fact, there’s an app for that.) But just in time for your return, or trip, to the city and maybe to campus, we’ve put together a multiple-part guide to some great spots.
First up is our Center City West of Broad edition. Stay tuned over the next week or two for the rest of the series.
Note: Many BYOBs are cash-only. Like we said, some may charge a corkage fee. Also, don’t forget to give restaurants a heads up if you plan on going with a large group.
Check out our top picks for great BYOBs west of Broad Street in Center City , below:
• Audrey Claire: Audrey Claire’s large windows, open kitchen design and outdoor seating — not to mention the tasty and fresh Mediterranean and American fare — all add to the cool and casual ambiance at this corner bistro.
• Aya’s Cafe: Mediterranean meets BYOB with Aya’s Cafe on Arch Street. All of their entrees are between $12 and $30. Try their lobster and portabella ravioli or their lamb stew.
• Bellini: Rittenhouse isn’t shy when it comes to authentic Italian BYOBs. Bring your bottle of wine to Bellini to go with any of their panini or homemade pasta selections.
• Bistro La Baia: Another incredible Italian BYOB, Bistro La Baia serves up a wide variety of appetizers, followed by the pasta and meat dishes that go perfectly with some wine.
• Branzino: This old-world Italian eatery specializes in fish, seasonal pastas and meat. While the weather’s still warm, you can dine in Branzino’s spacious outdoor backyard garden.
• Caffe Casta Diva: A small apartment converted into a cozy Italian restaurant, Caffe Casta Diva dishes out delicious filet, gnocchi and scallops over risotto to go perfectly with your wine.
• Erawan: As the first Thai restaurant in Philly, Erawan features affordable and delicious Thai cuisine ranging from spring rolls to Pad Thai to Erawan’s chef specials.
• Jamaican Jerk Hut: Learn about Jamaican culture and food at Jamaican Jerk Hut with an awesome outdoor area with colorful tables and chairs. It even had a starring role in the film In Her Shoes. Hibiscus and bamboo plants, candle-lit pathways and reggae music playing softly in the background set the mood for an awesome evening.
• La Fontana Della Citta: The Italian BYOB La Fontana is popular among students and residents alike. They offer a wide variety of salads, pastas, meat dishes and risotto, and there’s great sidewalk seating.
• La Viola: This small, authentic Italian BYOB was so popular, it expanded to space across the street. Go to either La Viola location for large portions of classic dishes at very reasonable prices. Insider tip: there’s an outdoor table for two at the La Viola on the north side of the street. You have to ask.
Read on for more of our picks.
• Mama Palma’s Gourmet Pizza: Neighbors have tried their best to keep this wood-fired pizzeria a secret. Enjoy a variety of traditional and creative pizzas at Mama Palma’s and don’t forget to bring your beer or wine.
• Matyson: The fresh, locally sourced American plates are even more tempting Monday through Thursday, when Matyson offers its $45 five-course tasting menu. And try out their new Suckling Pig Sunday prix fixe menu.
• Melograno: Chef Gianluca Demontis prepares authentic Italian specialties, including pappardelle, ravioli, a spicy fish stew and several fish dishes at Melograno. Sounds perfect with your own bottle of wine.
• Porcini: Brothers Steven and David Sansone opened this small Italian eatery in 1996. Procini’s menu includes calamari, mussels, filet, scallops, a daily fish special and osso buco.
• Pumpkin: Enjoy your wine at this great locally sourced spot on South Street. Pumpkin features American cuisine made from fresh and local ingredients and a Sunday five-course prixe fixe menu. So delicious, and sustainable to boot.
• Roberto’s Cafe: At 21st and South Streets, Roberto’s offers delicious Italian food in a warm atmosphere (wooden floors, earth tones) with lunch specials to boot.
• Russet: Husband-wife team Andrew and Kristin Wood have opened this farm-to table BYOB to critical acclaim. Russet serves a daily-changing menu (six appetizers, six entrees) sourced from Green Meadow Farm, Erdenheim Farm and other local purveyors within 100 miles of the restaurant. Bring an organic bottle of wine for an extra green bonus.
• Salento: Bring your favorite bottle of wine over the Walnut Street Bridge to this Italian BYOB. Salento is a good place for a fun meal and their long tables are great for bigger groups.
• SliCE: For a laid-back dinner with a few friends, grab a six-pack and enjoy some delicious pizza at SliCE, now offering gluten-free dough and vegan mozzarella options at both their Rittenhouse and Italian Market locations.
• Smile Cafe: For a modern twist on Thai cuisine, stop by Smile Cafe for a selection of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. They use all fresh and authentic Thai spices and ingredients, giving you a great BYOB cafe experience.
Stay tuned for the rest of our guides to BYOBs in Philadelphia. Let us know what your favorite BYOB West of Broad is, in the comments.