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®BRING YOUR OWN......
or corrections, but note that I rarely publish
on a restaurant with just an occasional reader tip if I have not been there
Drop me a note if you have a recommendation
Center City Philadelphia: OTHER South Philly Suburbs South New Jersey
Recent Additions: New Jersey updates and revisions; Fond, Rimedio, Ulivo, Farm & Fisherman
Intro Several years ago, I went into a French bistro-type restaurant in New York City called Chez Napoleon. We had with us a horizontal of 1985 second growth Bordeaux and foolishly assumed we could work out a "bring our own" deal, even though the place had a license. The food was good, the prices reasonable, but the place had always been annoying because of their horrible wine list. Not that I have much interest in buying off overpriced wine lists anyway. The way my "boys" drink, in both quality and quantity, what is there is unaffordable, quite literally, and in any event not likely to be bought just on principle due to the large markups--and of course, because we usually have better at home in our cellars. Why, by the way, is it that a bottle that sells for $30 retail generates a sufficient $30 profit if sold on the restaurant list at a typical markup for $60, but a bottle that sells retail for $90 must be sold at the same markup, leading to a list price of $180--a $90 profit? I've heard the argument regarding the cost of money and cellaring the wines, but let's be honest: very few restaurants cellar wines for decades or even years. Most are happy to look a year into the future, let alone twenty, and they turn over their inventory quickly. Where exactly did this concept of "percentage" markups come from? See my BYOB issues Article for this rant continued. Back to our story: The best bottles on this restaurant's list invariably were Beaujolais-Villages. Yet, the only answer we could get on corkage privileges was "no," "no" and "no" again. We finally offered them the equivalent of their entire profit on one of their nicest bottles of wine as a per bottle corkage fee. Still, "no." So, we left. Apparently, this made no one happy, but it happened anyway.** Every wine lover has a story like this. And every wine lover needs a collection of good restaurants where wine that is brought will be welcomed without hassle. Sometimes that means making a deal with a congenial owner, an option not to be overlooked. There are such. But often it means BYOB. Here are some of my local picks. I've tried most, am a regular at many. The few I have not tried were highly recommended by readers. In particular, the New Jersey category is monitored and frequently written by Beth Sheligo, a member of my tasting group and the President of the national German Wine Society. Don't forget to check...: GoBYO.com free BYOB site...amazing detail, easy to use.
[Some places like to promulgate the myth that it is illegal to bring wine into a licensed restaurant! NB: I obtained a written opinion to the contrary from the Penna. LCB some years ago, which was republished in a more elaborate form HERE. IF there is any issue, it is whether an UNlicensed restaurant may charge corkage for BYO--not whether a licensed one is prohibited from allowing BYO.]
*Chez Napoleon by email told me in 2003 that they now allow BYO with a $10 corkage fee.
Academy Café (Doubletree
Broad and Locust, (215) 893-1675 Heart of Center City, near Kimmel Center Licensed, not a pure BYOB, restrictions may apply
Not yet tried. Has a corkage-free BYOB policy on Thursday nights only, as long as you're at least buying an entrée--which shouldn't be too onerous a policy. This is not exactly the first place that comes to mind for BYOB dining, but it is extremely convenient to the Academy of Music, Kimmel Center and other attractions. I'll be interested to try it to see if the food makes it an under-the-radar choice.
22nd & Sansom, (215) 564-6976 Western Center City
Thai oriented. The restaurant has been there for nearly a decade. reader writes: "Try anything grilled! That's all I can tell you. Actually, try anything period! Everyone enjoyed their selections from the appetizers all the way to the deserts, which are all homemade, BTW. Have you ever tried handmade coconut ice cream or real cream caramel???"
705 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA (215) 928-2838 Center City
Malaysian and Thai, with other influences as well, this has gotten good reviews from readers and I liked it as well. The ambience is somewhat austere and commercial, but the food is good.
20TH & Spruce, 276 S 20th St (215) 731-1222, Western Center City
Lauded by many and Philadelphia magazine's choice for best byob, 1999, for whatever you think that is worth. However, for food, as a pure BYO, I'd rank Overtures, Chloe, PIF, and Django higher in Center City. Not to say there's anything wrong here--the food is super. It's just that the competition these days is real stiff. Bring real glasses! Their stemware was awful as of my last visit. Excellent, unpretentious, and reasonably priced bistro-style food. This is a happening area that, like much of Center City, is now bursting with restaurants and outdoor tables.
1506 Spruce Street, 215 790-0171, Heart of Center City, near Kimmel Center Licensed, not a pure BYOB, restrictions may apply
Formerly called Prima Donna, this is still owned by Giancarlo Frusone of San Carlo and Gnocchi fame and is in the same location. The name change indicates a change of direction. The new menu retains old favorite dishes from Prima Donna and San Carlo, but is also revamped. Terrific antipasti, home made pasta like canelloni, copious quantities. One block from the Kimmel Center. One of the Uptown Little Italy group that has gathered in recent years, this place is best for its antipasti.
7 North Third Street, 215-931-1560 Olde City
This restaurant is just off of the intersection of 3rd and Market Streets. The decor is rather elegant and formal, and the menu is called "contemporary American." I ate here the first week it opened, but it has dramatically improved. I had some of the best venison I've had in awhile.It has become one of the city's upper level BYOBs, with a classy feel and impressive food. It doesn't get enough credit. It has the advantage of being a bit roomier and more attractive than a lot of hole-in-the-wall BYOBs.
261 South 17th Street (215) 790-0103 Heart of Center City
An attractive resto, Branzino provides a nice, reasonably priced menu, with good ingredients and well prepared dishes. I loved the filet mignon special. There is a long pasta list, but other dishes as well. Except for the branzino and various specials. The crowd is rather sedate, often rather elderly, which you may find to be a good thing or not, as your goals dictate.
Caffe Casta Diva
227 S. 20th Street, 215-496-9677 Western Center City
My prior description of this restaurant based on a reader recommendation was woefully inadequate. It is an attractive little BYOB off Rittenhouse Square, which attracts a lot of neighborhood folks. The service is friendly and good. The pastas were excellent and everyone loved their entrees. Entrees included items like steak, salmon and veal. There was also a good value prix fixe for three courses available, although that excluded some of the more interesting selections. Prices are quite reasonable. There are also nice outdoor tables in this attractive neighborhood.
232 Arch Street, (215) 629-2337 Olde City/Historic Area
In the location Marco's used to have in Olde City, this small place takes no reservations, seems mostly crowded, and serves delicious food. Great scallops, great steak. Everyone seems contented. The most expensive entrees top out around $20. A place with great food, nice energy, atmosphere. For my money, this and Radicchio are the best restaurants actually in Olde City, if you consider Fork to be on the dividing line. NB: We traditionally refer to Northeast of Market as Olde City versus Society Hill, but these days the Powers that Be seem to refer to all of Eastern Center City as Olde City, which is a different matter. I'm a traditionalist in this regard!
Dim Sum Garden
59 N. 11th Street 215-627-0218 Chinatown
An unpretentious BYOB in Chinatown with emphasis on Shanghai specialties, including dumplings.
3d & Catherine, 795 S. 3rd St (215) 625-0556 Queen Village
Philadelphia isn't known for seafood, but this place specializes in Greek-style seafood, calamari, octopus, whole fish. Not your typical Greek-American (moussaka, etc) restaurant, the food is creative and delicious. And cheap--which means that it is typically mobbed. The fact that they take no reservations is the most irritating thing about the place. Get there early or be prepared to hang out in the bar across the street. This place is a nice value, but it has been passed by, I think, by the wave of nice Greek restaurants that are a little classier and more comfortable, the key BYOB being Kanella's. There are also licensed places like Estia and Opa.
1127 Pine Street, (215) 592-8333 Heart of Center City http://www.effiesrestaurant.com/
I know people who think Effie's, which is also haute Greek, is picking up where Dmitri's leaves off--less seafood, though--and Kanella's is powerful competition at the higher end, although Effie's may have some more familiar dishes.
The Farm &
1120 Pine Street, (267) 687-1555 Heart of Center City
Perhaps a bit pricey for a BYOB--especially if you go along with the 4 course menu they obviously want you to order--this is nonetheless a very appealing BYOB with a vision and creativity. It is very fine. They try to do something more and they mostly succeed with fresh ingredients, well prepared. It is an attractive place by BYOB standards and quite appealing. The menu changes frequently. It should be a big success in Center City. Right across from that old stand-by--Effie's.
Farmicia -- farmiciarestaurant.com
15 S. 3rd Street (215) 627-6274 Olde City Licensed, not a pure BYOB, restrictions may apply
Not a pure BYO, they allow BYO with a no corkage on certain nights and with a $10 corkage on other days. They do have a wine list. Call to be sure of the current BYOB policy. The place is beautiful, another trendy, interesting place in Olde City, but also has fine food. I loved everything I had. The ambience and decor are great. As an added bonus, they bought Metropolitan Bakery's Center City outlet and sell fine bread to take home.
La Fontana della Citta
1701 Spruce Street (215) 875-9990 Heart of Center City, near Kimmel Center
This place, which seems so very similar to Branzino, has nice food, the prices are fine and the restaurant spacious. The most impressive thing though is the service--friendly and attentive. They try to make you welcome. A lot of fun for a modest amount of money, and many dishes that seem quite authentic.
306 Market Street, (215) 625-9425, Olde City/Historic Area Licensed, not a pure BYOB, restrictions may apply
Like a lot of licensed restaurants these days, FORK has a policy of allowing BYO at least for good bottles, with a corkage fee. In the section of my BYOB article pertaining to licensed restaurants, I pointed out that BYOB into a licensed restaurant comes with obligations. This is the type of restaurant, with a good list of value selections, where you need to pay attention to my "how to byob" list of do's and don't's. Remember that BYOB isn't an excuse to bring a cheap bottle and save $5. Please don't abuse the privilege or it will vanish. For a restaurant this jammed and this good and this inexpensive, this attractive...BYO is a privilege. Fork can be an experience as well as a meal. Incidentally, it is useful to note that, while in the early days Fork's kitchen was sometimes a little inconsistent even while the restaurant was at its trendy peak, for some time the food has been simply superb, a noticeable uptick of their first six to twelve months, and very consistent. Fork went from a "see and be seen" place to a neighborhood stalwart, a home bar so to speak for a lot of folks, largely due to the savvy marketing and attention to detail by owner Ellen Yin. The new chef in 2013 has upped the ante--the food is a bit pricier it seems, but rather more inventive.
Ghittone--->La Locanda del Ghiottone
130 N. 3d Street, Olde City/Historic Area 215-829-1465.
This place has had its ups and downs, for reasons unrelated to food quality, but it is extremely popular, with hearty, middle of the road Italian food and very reasonable prices. They closed at one point due to fire. At another, they seemed to have an unlisted phone number, none of which hurt their business much. A nice, inexpensive, informal choice.
613 E. Passyunk (around the corner from 5th & South, just next to Overtures, listed below) 215-592-8300 South Street/Historic Area
From the family that owns Bella Cena, formerly Ristorante Prima Donna, both of which were spin-offs of Ristorante San Carlo (now defunct). Inexpensive, mostly pasta and antipasti, with some bigger and better platters mixed in. Excellent, delicious, reasonably priced value. Many of the recipes were identical to San Carlo, for instance, the tiramisu.
108 Chestnut Street 215-922-1888 Olde City
Licensed, not a pure BYOB, restrictions may apply
The best Asian restaurant experience I've had recently, this BYOB in Olde City is simply superb and for my money, no one is better in this type of food in this region. Their food can be very hot--although they offer to tone it down and they have some token dishes that are not as hot. That kinda defeats what they do best, though. The combination of heat and superb cooking is a marvel here. Try the dumplings in chile sauce. Unlike what you get in most Chinese restaurants, the dumplings are tender and the fish is moist and succulent when placed in a hot pot. (The hot pot dish is great!) The dan dan noodles are another terrific dish. If you like the smokey taste--everyone won't--the tea smoked duck is a good choice for those who don't like things as hot. Although the entrees seem pricey, note that these are quite big and are really intended to share. Even with help, I couldn't come close to finishing the hot pot by myself. Six people can easily go in and order 4 entrees and an appetizer each (or less) and be perfectly happy. If you're bringing wine, whites are a must, sweet whites work well, and Gewurztraminer may be the best. This might well be Philadelphia's best Chinese restaurant. NOTE: This review applies only to the Center City location--I have not been elsewhere. The restaurant still allows BYOB although it has acquired a license. Corkage is $10, although I'm told there are plans to have a "no corkage night" once weekly. Check and confirm. Finally, the sign for the restaurant is hard to see when you're walking along the South side of Chestnut Street. Follow the numbers or walk along the North side. I've walked right past it a couple of times!
Hostaria da Elio
615 South 3rd St. 215-925-0930 South Street/Historic Area
Off South Street, not far from Overtures, Django, this place has heavy BYOB competition in the area and acquits itself very well. The food was great, the service friendly, the atmosphere warm, prices reasonable. Very nice. Excellent, in fact.
1001 Spruce Street, 215-922-1773 Center City/Society Hill http://www.kanellarestaurant.com/
This little BYOB with a Greek-Cypriot slant is owned by Konstantinos Pitsillides. Don't look for stereotypical Greek dishes--here you are more likely to get octopus, goat, whole grilled fish and other interesting dishes. I should note that as a nod to Greek cultural traditions, there is Moussaka here! BUT...this is not your father's Moussaka. It is beautifully cooked lamb, absolutely delicious, with an amazing sauce, class and distinction. It makes the typical dish from routine places look like a different dish. There is outdoor seating in good weather and the place is rather attractive for its class. The bill will likely be in the mid-$40s a person, including tax and tip, depending, of course, on how you eat. This place is a nice little find, warm and welcoming with excellent food. The owner is also a wine fanatic, so, not surprisingly, there is decent glassware. This is my favorite Greek place in Philly, and I'd add that it may well be the best "off ethnic" place (meaning, I'm not counting Italian, which is often what Philly seems to be about....).
Koo Zee Doo
614 N. 2d Street 215-923-8080 Northern Liberties http://www.koozeedoo.com/ Reservations: email@example.com
A rare place in these parts, specializing in Portuguese fare. If you like the style, the food is well done and quite inexpensive. The place is quite busy--be sure to reserve. I've come to like this place more and more.
La Baia (Bistro La Baia)
1700 Lombard, (215) 546-0496 Heart of Center City
The former maitre d' from Tiramisu goes out on his own. The place is small and cramped, but the food is very good--and dirt cheap. The standard menu items rarely broke $15 for an entrée, although the specials tended to be $19-$28. I enjoyed everything I had, cramped as it was. A nice neighborhood place.
Lee How Fook
219 N. 11th St. 215-925-7266 Chinatown
Reader recommended for Chinese food.
600 Catherine, (215) 413-3464, Queen Village
More or less around the corner from Dmitri's, focusing on fish, fish, and fish.
106 South 13th (at Sansom), (215) 546-7100, Heart of Center City
Mexican new wave-ish. I was pleasantly surprised by the informal but upscale demeanor of the restaurant, together with the many interesting dishes. The fundido appetizer was superb. The stuffed pork wasn't quite as tender as it could've been, but the price was right, the food plentiful and the atmosphere excellent. This isn't your daddy's basic Mexican place. It is very well done and a lot of fun. If you like modern Mexican, you may also be able to cut a deal at Bugambilias or Distrito, both of which are licensed and not true BYOBs.
37 South 19th Street, Heart of Center City Phila, (215) 564-2925
An elegant, cool looking bistro, between Market and Chestnut. This places defines "BYOB classy." The weekly prix fixe menu at $45 is a great deal and usually very creative. This is a GREAT place and all meals have been creative and fine. It is on any short list of "Best pure Byob in town." Many think it is the best. On many nights, I couldn't begin to argue. It is certainly one of my faves. Nice people, great food. It also survived a change in ownership a few years back. Simply one of the best.
1216 Spruce Street, (215) 985-2962 Heart of Center City
Italian cuisine in an old market, hence the name "Mercato." I liked this place, but wasn't bowled over. Still, this has a certain buzz, crowded, energetic and interesting. The prices were right, running around $50 a person including tax and tip for three courses. The fact that they don't take reservations is a major turn-off though and it makes it difficult to justify when there are so many good Italian restaurants nearby, including nice BYOBs. By 730-745 the place was jammed pack with people waiting. If you go, go early, plan on getting there before 7 and certainly before 730.
317 Market Street, (215) 928-8998 Olde City www.paninisoldcity.com
This place does nice paninis, as you might expect from the name, but also serves a lot of pasta and basic Italian dishes. Owned by an Argentine of Italian descent, it's not exactly haute cuisine, nor particularly distinguished, but it's a lot of fun. It's the type of neighborhood place you'd expect to find in South Philly, often referred to as a pasta and red-and-white tablecloth type Italian place. The service is friendly. The best bonus is that they have outdoor tables for pleasant outdoor dining in the heart of the entertainment district and as a bonus you can do that at lunctime, too. The last couple of times I've gone, the food seemed improved. Just have your expectations in order.
1713 South Street, (215) 545-4448 Western Center City
This popular, crowded and tiny BYOB left me rather unimpressed. Its popularity--it was packed--rather befuddles me considering the quality of the nearby competition. Like many BYOBs it is cramped and a bit uncomfortable. But it is also one of the noisiest restaurants in which I have eaten, so much so that it was hard to hear the person directly across from me at times. The shrieking women behind us didn't help, but even without them the place was a madhouse. There is not much in the way of decor, and the ambience is nil. The open kitchen keeps the place a bit on the warm side. The food was average, pleasant enough but nothing special compared to Philadelphia's list of fine BYOBs. The staff was ok, but not terribly accomodating. (A request for a dump bucket and ice bucket was met with the response that we could have one or the other, but not both--even though we had a table for six.) There are just too many fine BYOBs for this to be my destination. Within a couple of blocks, it has superior neighbors, like Branzino, Fontana della Citta, Prima Donna, La Baia.
2048 Sansom, (215) 751 1175 Western Center City
Well recommended by readers for reasonably priced Italian fare, apparently beloved by all who have gone--but beware the shoebox size....Convenient to U of Penn campus.
4th & Wood (314 York St., officially) 215-627-6850 Northern Olde City http://www.radicchio-cafe.com
This is a place everyone loves for its low prices and fine Italian food. The downside is that it is loud, hectic and hard to get to, but the food is great and the service is friendly. Their refusal to take reservations is a major irritant and as a result, I don't go as often as I might.
775 S. Front Street, (215) 271-9300 South Street/Queen Village area
Charming, neighborhood BYOB, reader recommended for creative but not intrusive food.
105 S. 22nd Street, (215) 564-2502 Western Center City website
Reader recommended. The owner was at Little Thai Kitchen in Cherry Hill. Open for lunch and dinner. Entrées inexpensive, in teens.
117 South Street,
Thai food, nice looking place, service can be slow with large groups, and the food is good but not exceptional and rather inconsistent. I really liked the salmon tamarind dish. The spring rolls were delicious, some of the best I've had. The fish cake appetizer was rubbery and unappealing. Others complained about the leathery pork, although I rather liked its savory spices. Dirt cheap, we ordered everything in sight and still got out for $26 a person.
521 Catharine Street
New Italian BYOB from the former owner of the late, departed Sovalo. I really liked the first experience..everything was well done, great pasta and reasonable prices. The spacious room may make it easier for groups than in some tiny BYOBs, and there is a little alcove where you might get semi-privacy. This should become a place to watch.
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426 W. Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (215) 351-9144
A reader writes: "The food here is definitely Mexican, but with a difference. It features the cuisine of the Puebla region of Mexico. Consequently the menu is a little different from the average Mexican restaurant. The owners of the restaurant seem to be on the premises, and the food is carefully prepared. I would say that if one appreciates Mexican food, they would love La Cazuelas. It has the additional distinction of being one of the quietest Mexican restaurants in which I have ever eaten."
8121 Rowland Ave., (215)624-4440
Small, family owned restaurant, with entrees from $12-$19. Not tried. In Northeast Philly. No reservations.
501 South 45th, 215-222-3699 (cross street: Larchwood) Off University of Pennsylvania campus (5 blocks south of Market St)
Marigold is very small, with relatively few seats, in an old, turn of the (20th) century home. In the Robert Halpern era, this place has simply been revitalized. A recent meal was up to the standard of any BYOB in the region. Simply, call this one of the best now. The rather obscure West Philly neighborhood, called "Spruce Hill," is actually pleasant in isolation although not far from some iffier areas. The neighborhood is filled with attractive homes that have a certain Victorian feel--it is a West Philly too many Philadelphians ignore. It's worth the journey--Marigold is terrific these days.
161 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 203-8707 Northern Liberties
This may be the best value restaurant in the city. Maybe no one provides better food for less money. The 4 course tasting menu is exceptional at $34. Portions are satisfying, not over the top, and it is in toto plenty of food. It is a also a hot spot, busy, with folks still pouring in at 9 p.m. and beyond. I saw a lot of well known faces, too. It's a tiny little place in a slightly shaky neighborhood in the middle of nowhere and well out of Center City in a neighborhood that may look a touch scary to suburbanites, but it's a destination for the in crowd. There have been times here when I've thought it was as good as any Italian pure BYOB in the city--but there is a lot of competition in that area from places like Melograno and indeed Monsu, also owned by the owner of Modo Mio. It's more accurate to say that some nights are exceptional and the value for the money is very fine.
4443 Spruce Street (Spruce Hill neighborhood), 215- 382-0818 off University of Pennsylvania campus
This is easier to get to from Center City than it appears as the 42 bus stops right on its corner. If that takes care of one obstacle, the others are more daunting. Italian is one category Philadelphia does rather well, and it is hard to see why a journey here is warranted. The menu looks better than it tasted (admittedly sampled early in the restaurant's new life, formerly called RX). It was nice, but nothing special. The service was very shaky, friendly but inept, a combination of the unskilled waiter and the kitchen--they still have a lot to work out. Meanwhile, there is all that competition. They do have nice tables outside for warm weather dining. But unless you live in this neighborhood (in which case, try Marigold Kitchen) or must eat outside, it is hard to justify the journey.
12012 Bustleton Ave. (215) 671-1990 Northeast Philadelphia
A Russian-themed placed in the Northeast, this is reader recommended for its authenticity, basic but good food, and low prices.
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(a mecca for BYO's due to NJ Liquor license laws)
Bistro Di Marino
492 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, NJ 08108 (856) 858-1700.
From Beth Sheligo, German Wine Society President: "Very nice Italian menu with reasonable portions and reasonable prices. The seafood and veal dishes are outstanding, and the pasta is pretty darn good, too."
714 Haddon Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08108 (856) 8543444 http://www.blackbirdnj.com/
Chef Alex Capasso changes his eclectic menu seasonally. The food is delicious, however, the menu pricing is unique, with a “base” price for each dish and then a choice of “add-ons” for an additional fee. A good place to go if you are not quite sure what you feel like eating, as you can craft each dish to your liking.
1720 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 (856) 751-7388
Excellent Korean cuisine, including traditional shoba dishes and barbecue, as well as a sushi bar. Good value and a lot of fun.
563 Haddon Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08108 (856) 854-5555 http://www.mycasona.com/
Cuban themed restaurant in a lovely old house. The menu is a bit limited, but this is the only Cuban byo in town.
Coriander Indian Bistro
910 Haddonfield Berlin Road Voorhees, NJ 08043 (856) 566-4546 http://www.coriandernj.com/
An expansive, excellent menu offers good value and choices from many different Indian cuisines. The tandoori is particularly well done, including a delicious salmon dish that retains its moisture and soaks up the seasoning to perfection. This is a very popular restaurant on weekends, reservations strongly suggested.
517 Station Avenue Haddon Heights, NJ 08035 (856) 546-8840 http://www.elementscafe.com/
The concept here is small plates, that are actually more filling than they at first appear. Chef Fred Kellerman is one of the best kept secrets in the area. His creative approach to ingredients are sometimes whimsical, turning traditional concepts sideways (i.e., a deconstructed venison reuben), frequently intriguing and always delicious. While undervalued across the board, the “Last Chance Sunday Suppers,” featuring a one-day-only 4 course menu for $24 per person is an amazing deal.
910 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, In the Ritz 16 plaza in Voorhees, near Ritz Seafood. 856-566-3221.
We had a fine bargain in a Chinese banquet for $35 that included fabulous lamb and great soup. Some of the other items were a little hit and miss, but this is a lot of quality for the price. Also loved the tuna steak. A lot of quality for the price.
El Sitio Grille Café
729 Haddon Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08108 (856) 240-1217 http://elsitiocollingswood.com/
The restaurant offers an array of South American cuisine, including meat, fish and fowl. The seasoning is right on and the food, including steaks, are done precisely to your order. Another great value.
116 E. Kings Highway, Haddonfield, N.J. 856-354-8200 WEBSITE
Reader recommended. Japanese and Sushi. Open for lunch and dinner most days.
IndeBlue Indian Cuisine
619 Collings Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08107 (856) 854-4633 http://www.indebluerestaurant.com/
693-695 Haddon Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08108 (856) 833-0808
Those seeking sophistication should look across the street to Nunzio’s, but those seeking deliciously rendered Italian food at incredibly low prices should queue up out front with the rest of the locals. The food is incredible; there are always specials in addition to the menu items – don’t miss the rack of lamb. Be advised that the tables are small and close together, and having a reservation is no indication of when you will be seated. But these inconveniences are worth it – the food is THAT good.
Kuzina by Sofia
Sawmill Village, 404 Route 70 West, Cherry Hill, NJ 856-429-1061 http://www.kuzinabysofia.com/details.html
312 Kresson Rd., Cherry Hill, NJ (856) 429-7647 www.lacampagne.com
Echelon Village Plaza (near Genuardis), White Horse Road, Voorhees, NJ (856) 627-3700
This is owned by the folks who own Radicchio in Philadelphia. I think the food is better at Radicchio, but the places are very similar--noisy, frenetic, jammed. One difference is that Radicchio does not take reservations. Although Laceno pretends to take reservations, for a group in particular that may be mostly a guess on busy nights. Not bad, but not exactly a calm, elegant establishment, either.
A Little Café
Plaza Shoppes, 118 White Horse Rd., Voorhees, NJ 609-784-3344
A reader writes: Appetizers are creative, i.e. crab cigarettes. Seafood, chicken, pork and beef. Balance of flavors are done well." In my own experience, the food here is upscale and excellent. This is one of the most elaborate BYOs on this page, competing more with classical places like La Campagne and Overtures, than Dmitris and Gnocchi. Nice little touches like "amuse bouches," as in fancy places. As you might expect, a little pricier than the cheaper bistros, too, but surely worth it.
Luc Palladino Seasonal
1333 New Road, Northfield, NJ 08225 (609) 646-8189 http://lukepalladino.com/Do not miss the lemoncella tiramisu, an ethereal twist on the classic dish.
1990 Rt. 70 East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 (Village Walk Shopping Center) 856-489-6228. Traditional Japanese with an exceptional sushi bar. They also offer 30% off sushi on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, which is a great deal. They make a host of exotic specialty rolls, of which my favorites are the Spice Girl Roll (spicy tuna, spicy salmon, spicy yellowtail and avocado inside, flying fish roe outside) and Volcano Roll (spicy crunchy tuna with avocado, hot spicy sauce on top). Their featured specialty is white tuna, a melt in your mouth delicacy, which they will prepare to your order, either raw or cooked.
18 Tanner Street Haddonfield, NJ 08033 (856) 354-1333 http://www.melangerestaurants.com/Haddonfield/
Nonna’s Tuscan Restaurant
211 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, at Route 561, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 856-795-1778 http://nonnascherryhillnj.com/
706 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, N.J. 856-858-9840
Good news for Philadelphians: this is two blocks from the Collingswood High Speed Line (Patco). Eagerly awaited, the opening in 2004 saw people streaming in. Why? Nunzio was the celebrated chef at The Monte Carlo Living Room in Philadelphia, where some of Philadelphia's best food was served during his tenure. After a rocky start, the quality soared, and the food seems like it is coming from Nunzio again.
Oliver a Bistro
218 Farnsworth Avenue Bordentown, NJ 08505 (609) 298-7177 http://www.oliverabistro.com/
Pelican Fish Company
508 Hurffville-Cross Keys Road, Sewell, N.J. Washington Township 856-589-6969
From German Wine Society President, Beth Sheligo: "Tucked away in a strip mall in the wilds of South Jersey, this is a VERY popular (at least, by Saturday night standards) restaurant. The large dining room was filled to capacity, and there was a lengthy table wait, even for those with reservations. Once seated, however, the pace was perfect. Our orders were taken promptly, though we were not rushed, and the food arrived in the amount of time it took to prepare it. The menu offers numerous versions of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans, with obligatory chicken and beef for the non-fish fans. The house speciality is steamed king crab legs, which looked fantastic, and probably explained the lengthy table wait (they take some time to eat). Appetizers included cajun crab cakes (all crab meat)with two dipping sauces, mussels, grilled portabello mushrooms, salad and fried calamari, priced at $6-$9. Entrees included rosemary crusted salmon (done to perfection, the creamy fish flesh and the fragrant herbs make the palate do backflips), salmon in parchment, chilean sea bass, lump crabmeat crabcakes, and seared ahi tuna with wasabi sauce, done as rare as you like it. I asked to substitute the rosemary and mushroom smashed potatoes for the garlic smashed potatoes, an inspired choice, as they were truly awesome. Entrees are a great value, ranging from $13 to $20; the most expensive item was $24. Homemade desserts rounded out the evening beautifully. Passing on the chocolate and cheesecakes, the peach cobbler was a perfect ending to what was a longer than expected evening. I'll definitely go back, most likely mid week rather than weekend."
480 Route 38 E Maple Shade, NJ 08052 (856) 755-0188 http://www.penangmapleshade.com/
Pho So No
2442 Route 38, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002 (856) 321-1888
Authentic Vietnamese cooking in a space the size of a closet. Do not miss the lemongrass chicken.
910 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, (856) 566-6650 In the Ritz 16 plaza in Voorhees.
Review by German Wine Society President, Beth Sheligo: "Sandwiched between Chez Elena Wu and The Blue Gill in The Shops at the Ritz, this restaurant/seafood shop is the hottest place in Vorhees right now. Limited seating, word of mouth and a good review in the Philadelphia Inquirer make calling ahead a must. The food is Asian/fusion (i.e., andouille sausage spring roll), reasonable and delicious. The New Zealand green mussels in broth are to die for; the soft shell crab almondine exquisite. There is also a 1-1/2 lobster special with corn on the cob and cole slaw for $14.99. Be sure to leave room for dessert, one dish that changes daily with the whim of the chef: bread pudding. Not just any bread pudding; they range from double chocolate to any sort of fruit in season, served warm with vanilla ice cream. A great place to open your favorite whites." Now has Kobe beef!
501 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, NJ 08108 (856) 858-2288.
Beth Sheligo, German Wine Society President: "Sapori means "flavors" in Italian (at least, it says so on the back of the menu) and this little gem is full of them. Wonderful, authentic northern Italian cuisine. Every dish is cooked to order, the pastas are wonderful and the meats even better. (They get my vote for best lamb chops in the Delaware Valley). The service is pleasant but never hurried, the staff courteous and the pacing perfection. It is possible to dine as they do in Italy, and order your courses one at a time, if you prefer. A hidden treasure." .
2117-2119 Route 70 West, Cherry Hill, NJ (TRACK TOWN MALL)
Continental dishes with oriental touches, a fusion of Thai/French cuisine from owner/chef Siri Yothchavit. Excellent value for the quality (but not Chinatown kind of prices.) Very good. Dinner and lunch served. It's an easy trip from downtown Philadelphia--over the Ben Franklin bridge to 70E, a few blocks past the Hilton, in the plaza on your right. The "Golden Bags" appetizer is a favorite, crispy outside in sweet and sour sauce, stuffed with seafood. The lamb dishes are usually excellent, as are the beef dishes.
Echo Shoppes, 200 White Horse Road, Voorhees, NJ 856-782-1771
Venerable Thai restaurant, one of the oldest BYO's in the area. Excellent food and great QPR. The Salmon Garlic Chili is a favorite, you might prefer the fish steamed in banana leaves. (This place is next door to A Little Cafe.)
Medford Plaza Center Hartford Road and Rt. 70 Medford, NJ (609)714-9050
Reader recomended: "Oversized portions, great food. They do sell local winery wines, but are still a BYOB. They accept reservations for parties of 6 or more only. We've been known to tailgate in the parking lot while waiting for a table, but always worth the wait. Mostly Italian food, but mixed menu and specials with fish, steak, etc. The owners are there 7 days a week and join in on a few songs with Willie (an older accoustic guitarist that actually sounds somewhat like Willie Nelson singing Italian songs, but adds to the fun) on Friday and Saturday nights. They and the staff make everyone feel like part of the family. My favorite BYOB. It's become a tradition in our group of friends to spend our birthdays there."
703 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, NJ 856-869-3345
Innovative BYOB on Haddon Ave. The colorful decor,and excellent Spanish guitar player added ambience to this cheerful spot in what has become a happening restaurant town in South Jersey. One look at the days special menu, and there is little incentive to peruse the regular items buried in the back. ...[O]ne of the finest pieces of tuna I have ever tasted. .. Throughout the evening, service was excellent, attentive but not intrusive, courteous and warm. The owner told us he is planning to expand into the space now occupied by a deli next door, a good move, considering the somewhat limited seating space.
Umpasri Authentic Thai
2442 Route 38 Westbound @ Plaza 38 Mall, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002 (856) 482-0377 http://www.umpasrithaicuisine.com/
753 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, NJ (856) 858-2999 http://www.villabaronesite.com/
YoshiaYa Pan-Asian Cuisine
1475 Brace Road Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 (in the former Super G shopping center) 856-428-8999.
From Beth Sheligo, German Wine Society President: "Two excellent chefs, both named Steve, head up the helm here: one supervises the shushi (which is excellent), the other the cooked food. Together, they are capable of presenting a unique and remarkable meal. A blend of Chinese, Japanese and Caribbean cusines, the sauces are the star here. There is a private room to accommodate large parties, and the chefs are amenable to working out a tasting menu in advance. "
618 Collings Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08107 (856) 854-2670 http://zeppolirestaurant.com/
*The New Jersey category is monitored and frequently written up by Beth Sheligo, a member of my tasting group, N.J. resident and the President of the national German Wine Society.
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1617 E. Passyunk Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19148 (215) 339-5211 South Philly / Passyunk Square Restaurant Row area
Part of South Philly's burgeoning Restaurant Row, this attractive restaurant does a real nice job (loved the Cioppino sauce!) at reasonable prices. The portions are large, the service friendly.
1415 W Porter St, South Philadelphia (215) 389-4252
This is deep in South Philly, a very old fashioned trattoria. A hole in the wall, its location is downscale and it seems like a neighborhood joint. Three courses (pasta, entree, dessert) ran around $48 per person including tax and nice tip. The food is good, not exceptional. The pastas were better than the entrees. It was pleasant enough, if crowded and cramped. It's a good spot for pre-Phillies game diners. In the old days, this would've been a find. As it is, it is one of a large group of Italian BYOBs -- a very, very competitive field in this city.
1009 S. 8th Street (between Carpenter & Washington Streets), 215-965-8290 Queen Village/South Philly/Italian Market Area
The best pure BYOB in Philly proper? There is some competition--for instance, Matyson, Fond. And the "ethnic" places like Kanella's, Modo Mio, Han Dynasty and so on. Creative, and exceptional, though, this is typically a cut above and on any given night, it is often a show, filled with wine and food fanatics. It's not cheap, as BYOBs go, but you don't get food like this as interesting as this in a typical BYOB either. This restaurant is in the old PIF location, and provides a welcome reiteration of a modestly scaled French bistro, something that this city has sorely needed, but with an upscale touch of class. In this incarnation, the owners are actually French, too, and they are charming as well as talented. I love the food here, specifically the sauces, and the atmosphere seems authentic. If only we could add Jeanine Mermet singing Piaf, we would have recreated that one time classic--Jeanine's atop La Truffe, from days gone by. Time moves on! The food may be better and more creative here, though. There is free city parking at the lot next door. There is a prix fixe $45 menu on Sunday evenings. Closed Mon/Tues. CASH ONLY.
11th & Tasker (215) 334-6404, South Philly/Passyunk Square Restaurant Row area
Traditional Italian restaurant, inexpensive, roomy and located in the hot restaurant area which has places like DaVinci's, High Note Cafe, Tre Scalini, Paradiso, Mama Maria and others. I thought the Veal Parm was big and well done. This does have a somewhat traditional feel, lacking the distinction I sometimes see in the competition in this field, but it does what it does pretty well. Open on Monday, unlike most.
801 E. Passyunk Ave. (Passyunk and Catharine) (215) 923-7675, South Philly/Passyunk Square Restaurant Row area
Not surprisingly, given the name, it is hard to eat here if you don't want pork, bacon, pork sausages, etc. There are some token dishes (duck cassoulet, for instance) that appear from time to time that are not reliant on pig (although even that had a big sausage in it), but basically--if you're not a pig fan, don't go. This has a certain rusticity to it. The food is good, in a solid French country bistro fashion. Nothing was particularly refined, but it was a tasty, hearty and filling. This isn't going to make any "best of byob" short lists I draw up, but it is a nice neighborhood choice that fills a niche. As of this writing--CASH ONLY.
Da Vinci Ristorante
1533 S. 11th Street (215) 336-3636, South Philly/Passyunk Square Restaurant Row area
This restaurant, part of the Passyunk renaissance, is a cut above the typical South Philly joint. The specials here--like a whole sea bass filleted at the table, or black linguini with sea food, were excellent, the restaurant is attractively appointed, and the food carefully prepared. Even during restaurant week with a $30 menu, we got some very interesting and creative dishes. The specials tend to be a cut above, though. It has some level of authenticity, too--the owner, Francesco Parmisciano, is from just south of Salerno. This is one of the better Italian restaurants in this increasingly hot restaurant row in South Philly, but if you go, do yourself a favor, don't order the simple menu dishes for the 'hood. Let the chef do what he wants.
1537 South 11th Street ( 215) 551-5000, South Philly / Passyunk Square Restaurant row area NEW ADDRESS
Licensed, not a pure BYOB, restrictions may apply
As of December 2, 2012 this is a new location (as listed above), and no longer a pure BYOB. I don't expect the excellent food to change and it is well priced. This was one of my "top 5" BYOBs in Philly, and there is no reason to expect a problem. As a bonus, they are a key player in the Passyunk Square restaurant renaissance. I love the energy of the area, especially in warmer weather. BYOB was scheduled to be permitted Tuesday-Thursday, with a small corkage fee at other times, according to what I was told. Make sure to ask.
1927 East Passyunk Ave. (Between Mifflin and McKean) (215) 271-5626, South Philly/ Passyunk Square Restaurant row area WEBSITE Licensed, not a pure BYOB, restrictions may apply
This place faces some competition in the red hot Passyunk Square restaurant row area, which has become quite the destination, chock full of great places like Fond and Monsu, and nightlife . But it truly excels, with a lovely outdoor dining patio and the best pasta dishes I've had in Philly in years. The food was great and reasonably priced. It is BYOB only on Tuesday. It's easy to bring here as of this writing--no corkage and not much worry of duplicating their modest list if you are a real wine person.
901 Christian Street, (215) 440-0495, Queen Village/South Philly/Italian Market Area
This is a venture by the owner of popular Modo Mio (Peter McAndrews). A hop, skip and a jump from Bibou, right at the Italian Market area, there is now a $40 prix fixe (optional) and it is an excellent deal for the quality and quantity. Stuffed swordfish was terrific, but the cocoa sauce lasagna was amazing and rich. On a later visit, the interesting preparation of osso bucco was great, with a crunch topping. It's a bit quieter than Modo Mio, too. Anyone who has been to Sicily knows that the cuisine has a lot of fish--so that's always a good option, too. There is plenty of excellent pasta available, but this isn't a macaroni and meatballs joint. Very nice, another great success. Philadelphia does not lack for Italian restaurants and BYOBs, but this one makes a mark. Cash only.
1540 West Ritner Street, (215) 755-0860
Public relations release: from a former Girasole chef of Neapolitan heritage, a cozy spot in South Philly. Not yet tasted, but reader recommended.
2500 S. Broad Street (at Porter) (215) 468-3900
Reader recommended for good food in a friendly atmosphere. Italian, of course, way down near the stadiums.
1915 E. Passyunk Ave. *It was formerly at 11th & Tasker, if you haven't been in awhile.* (215) 551-3870 South Philly, Passyunk Square Restaurant row area
With a devoted fan base, this restaurant is usually reliable, although the competition has become pretty fierce in the area.
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7 West King Street, Malvern, PA (610) 644-4009
Located just west of the intersection of Warren and King, Alba is directly in front of the train station. Reader recommended. A reader writes: "They cook with locally grown foods and many of the dishes are prepared over a wood burning grill. The menu is not long, but the options all sounded delicious. I had the Hanger Steak and my wife, the Tagliatelle. Both were fantastic. Prices are reasonable. Most entrees were in the mid 20’s. The staff was very attentive and helpful in deciding on an entrée. The crowd was on the older side…55+…(comparatively to my wife and I who are in our late 20’s) ."
Lower Gwynedd/Ambler vicinity, Bethlehem Pike & Norristown Road in Springhouse Village Center. 215-646-5055. Reader recommended. "This is an inexpensive spot, average entrees are $10-12, a few may be $15-17, great salad entrees and wood burned pizza for under $10...
Glenside, across from the Keswick Theatre.
A reader writes: Moussaka to die for, and other Greek specialties that are a good excuse for opening up your zin collection. Warning: no credit cards! Personal checks are accepted. Quite busy on show nights. Outdoor deck is a good place for larger groups. No corkage fee.
312 South High Street West Chester, PA Chester County
Eclectic. Partly owned by the guy who owns Amore next door. Mid-priced. Includes Mediterranean, Carribean and Southwestern cuisine. Dinner, Tues-Sun.
1403 Hollow Rd., Birchrunville PA (610) 827-9002 Chester County
I've been here a couple of times. The food is French (as is the owner), and very good, prices reasonable. The noise level can be incredible, and is one of the worst I've ever seen. Evidently, something about the design magnifies the noise. It's a shame--located in an historic building, with good food, this moderately priced place is otherwise a find. Warning: No matter how often I go, I get lost every time. And finding it in the dark is a real trick as the area is so unlit and so black that I actually had to stop the car at street signs and get out to see where I was. Last reviewed, 2003. A reader wrote in 2005 that the noise level had been substantially reduced by installation of a new ceiling, but I have not had the chance to test that myself.
Bridge Street, Phoenixville
Reader recommended: "The owners of The Black Lab Bistro .. bought an old pharmacy ... and put in a first class Bistro that serves the local walk-in trade as well as the McMansion crowd that is taking over the area. They promote themselves as a bakery, too, so there are always fabulous breads for sale and served with sandwiches and other meals. Desserts, too, are inventive and top notch. The typical lunch and dinner menu includes everything from Portobello Mushroom sandwiches on thick slabs of home made bread, hamburgers, club and chicken sandwiches to full-blown entrees ..from crab cakes to lam to steaks – you name it. Priced $10-$15. There’s a huge municipal parking lot behind the restaurant, another on the corner and lots of on-street parking.
152 Lancaster Malvern PA 610-651-2836
Thai-French fusion. Reader recommended. Not personally tried. Menu limited, features things like escargot ($7.00) and roast duck ($14.95) or rack of lamb ($18.95). The stemware is decent.
818 Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr 610-520-9100
No longer a BYOB, this long standing restaurant still offers BYOB without corkage on Sunday nights in its relatively new (December, 2006) Lancaster Avenue location.
57 West State Street, Doylestown, PA (215) 230-9100
Reader recommended for fine Italian cuisine.
Fayette Street Grille
308 Fayette Street, Conshohocken 610-567-0366 Montgomery County
Reader review: "Surprisingly diverse (seafood, pork, chicken and filet) menu, which I would label 'American with a French influence.' The three course prix fix menu is very well priced at $27.50/person. Reservations necessary a week ahead. Crowded and noisy but fun and worth it"
Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, (610) 642-9009
Reader review: "The food is good, reasonably priced, plentiful and a nice atmosphere on the kitchen side of a 2 room establishment. No corkage fee."
Business Rt 30 @ 322 in Downingtown, Chester County, 105 E. Lancaster Avenue; 610-518-9170
A reader writes: "A BYOB with NY class, open kitchen, great execution, good staff/service, decent glassware, extensive menu, and (are you ready?) $15 prix fix if you get there by six pm for four courses. This is absolutely a trip! If it was in Philly, it would be another Dmitiris. Four visits and no bad reviews yet. Get the quail appetizer. $8-10 apps and $15-22 entrees." Another reader reports being baffled by this reviewed, constantly finding overcooked dishes. I haven't been...
Kitchen 232 King Street, Pottstown, PA 19464
Hours:Lunch ( Tu-Fri) 11:30-2:30 Dinner (Tu-Sat) 5:00-9:00. I have not yet tried this but the owner says the idea is to bring a city style of dining to the 'burbs, with Modern American food. It has gotten some good reviews from readers.
High St Café
JULY 2012--ABRUPT DEPARTURE FOR ONE OF THE REGION'S BEST
133 East Gay Street, West Chester, (610) 431-2800 Chester County
583 Horsham Road, Horsham, PA 19382 (215.441.5514) WEBSITE
I've not tried this yet, but this Thai/French restaurant is from the former owner of the venerable Alisa Café, so it should be quite interesting.
113 Fairfield Street, Upper Darby, PA (610) 352-1002.
10 Lepoard Road, Berwyn (610) 251-0265
Reader recommended. Contemporary American cuisine.
13-17 W. Benedict Ave., Havertown, PA 19083 (610) 789-5983
Long-standing resto in the 'burbs that has a devoted following and serves the by now well know French with a touch of Asian mix. I've always liked their food.
227 Morton Avenue, Folsom, PA (484) 494-5155
Reader recommended for Cajun cooking from an alumnus of Media's former New Orleans Cafe.
The Orchard website
503 Orchard Ave., Kennett Square, PA (610) 388-1100
Reader recommended for its elegant food and atmosphere, one of the more popular BYOBs in the 'burbs.
36 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, PA (610) 896-2755
A reader writes: "Has been there for years. It was originally located on Main Street in Manayunk, but several months after losing its lease there, reappeared in Ardmore, where they have been turning out consistently good à l'americaine Thai food ever since."
696 Unionville Road, Kennett Square, at 926 and 82, Chester County. 610-444-5600
A reader writes: "excellent Italian styled cuisine and attentive staff who just love to see you! Very crowded most of the time, with the horse breeder/Land Rover crowd. Decent glassware, not great. This kitchen turned out my crab crepe in record time, despite the onslaught of at least 50 covers in 20 minutes. Extensive menu, and very good execution. No bad remarks to make in three visits. $8-10 Apps, $14-20 entrees."
Whiteland Business Park, 880 Springdale Drive, Exton, PA 610-524-8600
Reader recommended, contemporary cuisine. From the owner of the former Peaches.
Teresa's Café Italiano
124 N. Wayne Avenue, Wayne, PA 610- 293-9909
Inexpensive Italian food on the Main Line.
372 W. Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, Pennsylvania. 610-688-5853
Reader recommended especially for the spicy dishes. (Bring gewurz!)
19 South Whitehorse Road Phoenixville, Pennsylvania 19460 (610) 415-1300
288 Lancaster Avenue, Frazer, PA 610-644-7464
Reader recommended for its Italian food.
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