Bring Your Own Bottle
While it’s easy to spend a few hundred bucks on dinner for two at Philadelphia’s top restaurants, it’s just as easy to spend under $50 by bringing your own bottle to one of the city’s many BYOBs — many of which rival their liquor-serving counterparts in quality.
While locals have long complained about Pennsylvania’s strict liquor licensing laws and high taxes on liquor sales, the fringe benefits are out of this world. The law makes it so hard for a new business to serve liquor, that as a result Philly has one of the largest and best BYOB scenes in the country.
The wide variety offers something for every taste and budget, and BYOBs have to maintain very high food standards to compete. Most maintain a casual, comfortable neighborhood vibe, and few have corkage fees — this added charge for bringing your own is more likely at a place that has a bar of its own but also allows the BYO option. In this case, the fee should be clearly noted on the menu.
There are plenty of BYOBs listed throughout this section, but a few local favorites not to miss include Center City’s Mercato, Audrey Claire, and Pumpkin; University City’s Marigold Kitchen and Vientiane Café; and Dmitri’s South Philly location. Some restaurants, like Farmicia in Old City, offer a full bar but also let you bring your own bottle if you prefer, without a fee.
In addition to those places where wine is the drink of choice for most BYOB-ers, there are also spots where other drinks are commonly brought to the table. Beer is common at causal spots like the Jamaican Jerk Hut, Tacconelli’s Pizzeria, and Plaza Garibaldi. And people love to bring their own tequila to Lolita or Molcajete Mixto, Mexican spots where they will mix your booze into their own margarita mixes.
Purchasing alcohol in Pennsylvania is not always simple. There are beer distributors and state-run Wine & Spirits shops in every neighborhood, but beer cannot be sold at the same store as wine and booze. Hours are limited, with the latest spirits shops closing at 9 p.m., but most closing at 7 or 8 p.m. Beer distributors stay open somewhat later, but very few of either type of store are open on Sunday, so plan ahead. Many bars sell six-packs to go, but expect to pay higher premiums for the convenience.
Visit www.pawineandspirits.com for the state store locations, or ask a local to point you in the right direction.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition