While eating out and sipping on cocktails goes hand in hand, ordering drinks at a restaurant can get expensive. Fortunately for us boozers out there, Chicago has some bizarre liquor laws that have made way for a low-cost liquid loophole: BYOB.
Yes, ‘bring your own bottle’! It’s the affordable alternative to getting buzzed on a budget. More than 400 Chicago restaurants not only allow you to bring your own bottle, they encourage it! The only downside: you can’t leave with a partially empty open container (this is never a problem for us). So you’ll just have to finish it (or sneak it out).
It’s a popular privilege that many locals have been enjoying for quite a while now, but for first time BYOB-ers, walking in with your own bottle can be a little intimidating. While there are some slight differences here and there, most BYOB restaurants play by the same rules. So lets break it down for you.
First of all, it’s always a good rule of thumb to check with the restaurant first to make sure they allow BYOB. Not all Chicago restaurants do, but the typical BYOB restaurants are cheaper ethnic places like Chinese, Thai, Mexican and sushi joints.
Typically, there is a small corkage fee, but it’s always considerably cheaper than it would have been to buy a bottle anyways. And then sometimes... there’s no corkage fee at all! Either way you’re saving a bundle on booze.
Occasionally restaurants will limit the adult beverages being brought in to just wine and beer, but not always. There’s even some eateries that allow you to enjoy your very own bottle service with vodka and mixers. Just be sure to check on this a head of time.
Need some good BYOB mixing methods? If you’re going out for brunch, order orange juice from the restaurant and spike it with your own bottle of champagne for mimosas. Make your own Mexican fiesta by ordering cheaper virgin margaritas and adding the tequila you brought. How about bringing in sake and Sapporo's to enjoy with a late night sushi snack. Then there’s always the option of just bringing a good old fashioned bottle of Two Buck Chuck.
Check out a few of our favorite BYOB restaurants in Chicago:
- Tango Sur
A fantastic Argentine steakhouse that has a lowkey, but oh-so-romantic vibe. One of our favorite things about this BYOB restaurant in Chicago is that it has no corkage fee, so we can afford to order desert! This is a perfect date spot for those looking for romantic things to do in Chicago, and especially those looking for a romantic night out that won't blow the banke!
- HB Restaurant
Another special date night restaurant, HB has delicious American cuisine that's extremely innovative. Start a meal with the almond stuffed bacon wrapped dates, baked perfectly with brown sugar, and don't leave without indulging in the chocolate bread pudding!
in River North
This Japanese/Sushi bar plays relaxing music downstairs, and the ambiance is just right. The tuna tuna salmon and the lobster spring rolls are favorites on the menu, and you can bring whatever alcohol you feel goes best with your meal!
- Diva Sushi
The hangar steak and garlic fries make a great meal, and the BYOB aspect makes this steakhouse hard to resist!
- Chilam Balam
This Mexican restaurant is cash only, and has some delicious fare that you won't want to miss! Bring along your favorite cerveza and dig in!