Drinking at dinner is one quick way to shoot your tab through the roof. Thanks to Chicago’s quirky liquor laws, you can cut down on the expense at BYOB – bring your own beer and wine – restaurants all around the city. Here are some of the best places with no or low corkage fees.
1601 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
Featuring upscale Mexican food at reasonable prices, Mixteco is one of Chicago’s most-popular Mexican BYOs. Think carne asada and chicken in traditional Oaxacan mole.
Prices are reasonable at about $15 per entrée, portions are substantial and service is stellar, but make reservations or be prepared to wait indefinitely.
What to bring: Complement the smoky flavors of mole with a hearty red like a Spanish Rioja, or get festive with tequila and margarita mix or some bottled sangria
1851 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613
In the Italian corner, Terragusto reigns. Serving up generous portions of country Italian cuisine, Terragusto offers a great value to price ratio.
The 4-course traditional meal is the best deal. For under $40, each diner selects an appetizer like crostini or salad and a secondi such as wagyu beef on polenta or egg pasta tossed with braised duck. Then each set of two diners shares a main course like steak del giorno or whole roasted fish.
What to bring: Invest your savings in more wine. Start with a refreshing prosecco, bring an aged Italian red like Brunello or Barolo for the main, and finish with a light Moscato d’Asti.
2728 W Armitage Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647
Bonsoirée promises “a revolution in BYOB” and it delivers. Most days, diners chose from 4, 7, or 13-course menus. On Saturdays, those who subscribe to the “Underground” mailing list are treated to a special $85, 6-course gastronomic feast.
The menu changes monthly but will also feature expertly prepared cuisine featuring fresh local ingredients inventively prepared and artfully presented. This isn’t just a meal, it’s a culinary journey that generally takes about 2 hours to complete.
What to bring: Depending on how many courses you opt for you, you may want to bring several bottles (it’s always better to have more than to run out), which the server will pair with each course.
3800 N Pulaski Rd., Chicago, IL 60641
Get your barbecue fix at Smoque. The menu is limited, featuring just ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken and sausage with a few sides. After one taste of the tender, smoky barbecue you’ll realize it offers everything you need, though, especially when dinner for two can be had for around $15.
What to bring: Nothing complements good old barbecue like a cold beer. Bring a six-pack, or two, or your favorite brew. A hoppy IPA goes particularly well with barbecue.
3404 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60657
This Boystown favorite pulls no punches when it comes to quality “comfort food” with an upscale twist. On the ever-changing menu you might find offerings such as wild boar and cranberry sausage, fried quail on waffles, or a lamb burger with brie on a pretzel roll.
The tiny kitchen and solitary server never keep diners waiting and often go above and beyond the call of duty – it may be the only place the waiter will volunteer to run across the street to procure more wine if you’ve run out.
What to bring: HB’s eclectic offerings pair well with a wide variety of flavors. Bring a few different options or stick with mild profiles like Pinot Noir, dry Chardonnay, or a crisp ale.
3763 N Southport Avenue, Chicago, IL 60613
There’s always a line at this Argentinian steakhouse, but head to the back room to sip your wine while you wait and the time will pass quickly.
Start with some flaky empanadas or gooey, melted provoleta cheese, and then share a heaping platter of tender, juicy, Argentinian beef filets.
After enjoying a steak dinner for two by candlelight for under $50, you just might feel like you’ve been transported to Buenos Aires.
What to bring: Argentine Malbec, of course.
3334 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657
For a more casual BYOB experience, head to the classic diner Nookies Tree. Nosh on classics like BLTs, burgers, Cobb salads, and clam chowder while sipping your favorite beverage in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
Come for breakfast armed with champagne and make a few mimosas to complement your eggs Benedict or blueberry pancakes.
What to bring: Whatever tickles your fancy.
3930 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60613
This tiny joint under the Sheridan L stop serves up some of the best Thai food in Chicago. All the classics are here, like crab wontons, pad Thai and massaman beef curry.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, ask for the secret Thai menu to try specialties like duck sausage and smoked goat.
What to bring: Tone down the spice of Thai food with a dry white like Pinot Grigio.
2830 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
Located on a desolate strip of Milwaukee Avenue on Chicago’s northwest side, Friendship is worth the trek. Chinese take-out dishes are re-imagined and made worthy of the sleek space and trendy scene they are served in.
The panko crusted champagne lemon chicken and spicy merlot beef particularly stand out. For extra savings, go on a Tuesday when all entrees are $8.95
What to bring: Balance the spice of most dishes with a light, sweet white, like a Viognier, or cool down with a Belgian wheat beer with hints of fruit.
2546 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614
The secret is out about Toro – the place many consider to offer the best sushi in Chicago. Expect to wait an hour or more during prime times, or come early to get your fill of delicious fresh nigiri and inventive maki rolls.
With most of the rolls clocking in around $5, two people can gorge on chef Mitch’s crazy creations for under $30.
What to bring: Pair delicate fish and spicy wasabi with a semi-sweet Riesling, or go Asian with some Sapporo beer or a bottle of sake (which the staff will happily heat and serve in a traditional ceramic carafe).
Have any other recommendations for Chicago area restaurants? Let us know in the comments!