Due to liquor licenses in Philly being harder to get than Eagles season tickets, we have a ton of BYOBs. But it really works out in the end because the need to drink on the cheap is real, and sometimes it’s kind of fun to be your own sommelier. Many BYOBs are dark and cramped inside, however, so it’s vital to have a bunch of places that you can go and drink at when it’s nice out. So we’ve put together this list of 14 places that won’t keep you and your $30 bottle of cab franc, or $7 bottle of sauvignon blanc, hostage inside.
THE outdoor SPOTS
L’Anima is an Italian spot in Grad Hospital from the people behind Melograno, and it’s about the size of five average Italian BYOBs put together. It also looks like it had the design budget of five places put together, with a big, open floor plan and lots of colorful furniture. The best reason to come here, though, is for their huge outdoor patio. It’s the perfect spot for a summertime date, and if there’s a sudden drop in temperature, they even have heat lamps so you don’t have to move inside for your last glass of wine.
Zeppoli technically isn’t in Philadelphia - it’s over the bridge in Collingswood - but it’s worth a trip to New Jersey just for one of their Sicilian barbecues in the summer. They happen every Monday night on their backyard patio, and include everything from homemade pasta to whole roasted lambs. You’ll have to basically stalk Zeppoli’s social media and jump on the reservations as soon as they become available (the dinners sell out faster than we imagine a Destiny’s Child reunion tour would), but it’s probably the best outdoor BYOB dinner experience you’ll find in the entire tri-state area.
Little Fish is another Queen Village BYOB, but this one has pretty much exclusively seafood. While you can eat inside year around, the sidewalk tables are only available in the months where it goes above 60 degrees. The food here (which changes daily) is always excellent, and every Sunday they do a $48 tasting menu that’s basically a never-ending parade of fish. It’s worth giving up a night of baseball and crippling pre-work anxiety to enjoy.
Audrey Claire is an open-air, Mediterranean BYOB in Rittenhouse that’s always crowded and will remind you how much better your dining room would look if you bought fresh flowers regularly. It’s ideal for a date any time of the year, but especially during the summer when you can sit outside and make it a throuple situation by bringing your dog. They only take reservations on weekdays, but there’s a great bottle shop across the street if you need to kill time on a weekend night while you wait.
Kanella Grill is pretty small inside, which makes it a tough place to go with anyone who prefers to eat without making accidental contact with their neighbor for the length of the meal. But in the summer, they line a bunch of two-tops up on the sidewalk that are a much nicer place to sit. The food here is also pretty affordable, and for around $30 a person, you’ll be fed a family-style Greek feast. The kebabs are perfect for sharing, as are all of the dips (which are only about $3 each), and they’ve got lots of options for anyone with dietary restrictions.
People don’t talk about Jaxon enough, which is probably the best thing in the world for anyone who lives in Northern Liberties and has made it their second home for weeknight dinners and pretty much every friends-in-town situation. But Jaxon’s a BYOB that’s worth coming to even if you don’t live in the immediate area - especially in the summer, when they set up a couple of tables out front. Invite a few friends, send them there at 5pm to stake out one of those tables, and then show up a few hours later to join them for some grilled octopus and lamb tikka masala.
During the winter, Noord is a good place to eat food reserved for months when you’re trying to stay warm, like fried pork croquettes and shellfish stew. But in the summer, the Dutch BYOB opens up their large windows in the front, and lines a bunch of tables up on the sidewalk. It basically means that no matter where you sit, you’ll feel like you’re right out on East Passyunk - except maybe not in the middle of the road blocking traffic. That’d be dangerous.
Not only does Hearthside have floor-to-ceiling windows that open out onto the sidewalk outside, making you feel like you’re out in the Collingswood wild even if you’re technically under their roof, they also have heated floors on their front patio area. So when our planet decides to randomly drop the temperature to 58 degrees on a July night, you’ll still be able to enjoy your venison au poivre without plugging in your personal space heater.
The two-tops out front of Tre Scalini on East Passyunk go super fast on nice nights, but if you call ahead, you can sometimes get them to hold one for you. If not, it’s still usually not too bad of a wait, and you only have a few months to take advantage of eating outside anyways - so just suck it up and stare down the guy who’s nursing the last few sips of his glass of pinot grigio until he finally abandons his post.
Whereas most places with sidewalk seating out front will line up a few tables nicely along the front of their shop, La Locanda makes the most of its wide sidewalks by jamming in as many tables as it can fit - all the way to the curb. And while that may make it a bit less spacious than you’d like, it also means way more people can fit out there - even if you show up with your entire heavy-metal yoga class. They serve great red-sauce Italian food, and because of the low prices (combined with the BYOB policy), your whole dinner will almost never exceed $25 per person.
There are so many Italian BYOBs in Philly, and you can go to pretty much any of them and get a solid plate of pasta or chicken parm. And while Mercato is no exception - it’s a classic Italian neighborhood place that serves things like fontina-stuffed meatballs and ricotta gnocchi with short rib ragu - they have much more sidewalk seating than your average BYO. Plus, they also have windows that open all the way up so that the entire 30-seat room becomes an open-air restaurant.
Lots of BYOBs throw a few tables out front when the weather is nice, but not many places have a secret patio like Effie’s does. The Greek spot in Washington Square West only has about 15 seats inside, but there are another five or six tables in the back garden - pretty much doubling its space on a nice night. Taken together, the food, space, and relaxed atmosphere make Effie’s a place worth knowing about, and much like your juvenile records or Halle Berry’s real age, it’s a secret you should probably keep to yourself.