If we’re polling acronyms, a simple four-letter abbreviation would be tops. BYOBs, or restaurants where you can “bring your own booze,” save you money and let you control just how much you imbibe. And whether you’re toting wine, tequila or beer, here are the best BYO bets in Center City. - Chelsea Karnash
1216 Spruce St
Old World meets new at this Italian American BYO just east of Broad. Try the four-course tasting menu, often hailed as one of the best deals in town, and be prepared to be stuffed to the brink of explosion. Just don’t forget – Mercato is cash only (with no in-house ATM!) and only takes reservations for pre-theater dinners. Get there early, and have a back-up plan.
1127 Pine St
For stellar Greek food served in the cutest spot around, head to Effie’s with several bottles of wine in tow. On a warm summer night, there’s nothing like a table on the outdoor patio and some saganaki (fried cheese, yum!), while winter calls for a bowl of avgolemono (chicken and rice soup with lemon) and a perch inside the wood stove-heated “hideaway” out back.
1001 Spruce St
With simple, rustic décor and reliably good Mediterranean fare, Kanella has been a Washington Square West standby since it opened back in 2008. While dinner is a must — be sure to order the grilled octopus and the dips of the day to start – Kanella’s brunch menu includes a full Cyprus breakfast of eggs fried in olive oil, haloumi, lounza and bread that’s deliciously different.
106 S 13th St
Marcie Turney’s Mexican joint is BYOT — Bring Your Own Tequila — and you absolutely must, if only for the one or two or eight of Lolita’s famous blood orange margaritas. While service can be snooty and there’s an actual food per person minimum listed on the menu ($18, FYI), it’s hard to go wrong with a pitcher of margs, a boatload of guacamole and, well, pretty much any entrée.
276 S 20th St
Excellent service and seasonal ingredients are the hallmark of this Rittenhouse Square gem. Frequented by young professionals, Audrey Claire tends to fill up fast and get noisy inside, but it doesn’t detract from the quality of the food. Pair your vino with the anti pasti platter and any one of the inventive specials, and you’ll be pleasantly plump by the end of the meal.
37 S 19th St
A prototype for the city’s hyper-local food movement, Matyson has been keeping Philadelphians full since way back in 2003. And with ample candle light, accommodating service and beautifully plated food that’s tasty to boot, it’s not hard to see why the Rittenhouse restaurant remains a favorite – despite being practically elderly in the food biz.
Garces Trading Company
1111 Locust St
Pick up your wine and some gourmet goodies inside the GTC retail store, then sit down to a casual meal from Philly’s most famous Iron Chef (sorry, Morimoto). Order anything that comes with the duck-fat fries. Seriously, anything.
1713 South St
What’s not to love about this tiny South Street eatery? Okay, maybe its cash-only policy. But the food is fresh and delicious, the atmosphere is warm – if a little short on décor – and the specials are always interesting. If you’re an adventurous eater looking for new flavor combos, Pumpkin won’t disappoint. Just don’t go with a party of, uh, five – there’s no room for that type of thing here.