Chicago's BYOB Restaurants
Great Spots to Bring Your Own

Dry precinct. Location within 100 feet of a school or hospital. Moratorium on packaged goods and consumption. The list of reasons the City of Chicago can deny liquor licensing is notoriously long, so it’s no wonder many restaurants choose to forego the process altogether. Instead, they opt for a simple workaround: customers, bring your own.
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Lakeview: Romantic Argentine

Flickering candles and a handful of chandeliers light Tango Sur’s interior, casting a golden glow over exposed brick walls and the eatery’s signature Argentine fare. Chefs serve empanadas, fire-grilled short ribs, and matambre, an Argentine specialty that consists of rolled veal cooked with vegetables and served cold. No corkage fee.


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Avondale: Inventive Asian

To chef Bill Kim, UrbanBelly’s fare—squash-and-bacon dumplings and pork-belly ramen—is an expression of his creativity. NBC Chicago suggests a shiraz to accompany the spicy Asian cuisine, which is served on long wooden tables that were once part of Indonesian ships. No corkage fee.


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Pilsen: Time-Honored Mexican

The Gutiérrez family founded their BYOB restaurant in 1962, naming it after the Mexican state from which they emigrated. 50 years later, the authentic menu—highlighted by a signature new york strip served with guacamole—and mural-strewn interior continue to pay homage to their homeland. No corkage fee.


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Uptown: Vietnamese

Ann Sterzinger of the Chicago Reader notes that Tank Noodle Restaurant is a bit short on tableside spices. She’s hardly complaining. “When your pungent dish arrives,” Sterzinger writes, “you realize there’s no need to drown it in spice.” Stir-fried squid is a perennial favorite, but don’t overlook the pork pancakes and ginger duck. No corkage fee.


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Chinatown: Chili-Peppered Chinese

Owner Tony Hu draws unexpected influence from former Chinese revolutionary Mao Tse-tung. He incorporates the Chairman’s favorite ingredient, chili peppers, into many of Lao Hunan’s spicy dishes. The Chicago Reader’s Mike Sula went so far as to call the Hunan chili in black bean sauce “one of the most irresistible things [he’s] eaten.” No corkage fee.


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Lincoln Square: Seasonally Inspired

Chef Chris Nugent is nothing if not consistent—not one detail seems out of place at Goosefoot, from the modern French cuisine to the sleek china on which he plates it. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that his tasting menu is built around an ever-changing selection of seasonal, artisanal ingredients. No corkage fee.


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Noble Square: Cuban

Though Habana Libre’s ropa vieja gets the most press—the Chicago Reader claims that the shredded beef in tomato sauce “may be the best… in Chicago”—it’s hard to go wrong with any of the restaurant’s Cuban plates. The chefs seem to understand that grandma knows best; their menu is anchored by her tried-and-true recipes. $3 corkage fee per bottle.


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Lakeview: Mexican Small Plates

Chilam Balam’s buzz isn’t the only thing that’s sustainable about the restaurant. The staff takes care to find ingredients from local farmers and ranchers for the Mexican shared plates that garnered a four-fork review from the Chicago Tribune. No corkage fee; BYOB is limited to one wine bottle or pack of beer per two people.


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River North: Japanese Fondue

Each of Cocoro’s tables is outfitted with its own burner—a flame that simmers a Japanese variation of fondue called shabu shabu. Instead of cheese or chocolate, the simple broth contains water, seaweed, and salt for cooking ribeye beef and veggies. Though it isn’t the main attraction, the sushi is not to be missed. No corkage fee.


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Noble Square: Michelin-Rated Sushi

From its softly lit patio to its refined, brick-walled dining room, the backdrop at the Michelin Guide-recommended Seadog Sushi Bar begs to be savored with a cocktail. Something chilled might be the best pairing for the spicy lava sauce that tops the signature volcano maki. No corkage fee.


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North Center: Authentic Greek

Sisters Toni di Meola and Vicky Zervas—both born and raised in Athens—share an obsession with authenticity. This has been a boon to their mother’s frequent-flyer account, as they often enlist her to hand-deliver spices directly from their home country. $5 corkage fee per bottle of wine or six-pack of beer.


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Ukrainian Village: Family–Style Italian

Briciola’s romantic, light-strung patio and indoor dining room make it popular for larger groups, and chef Mario Maggi wouldn’t have it any other way. His vision was to create a place where friends and family break bread, which is why he named it Briciola, which means “bread crumbs” in Italian. $3 wine corkage fee.


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Lalibela: Ethiopian

It’s hard to find chefs more modest than those at Lalibela, who claim that their injera bread and hand-wrapped spinach sambusas are par for the course as far as Ethiopian cuisine is concerned. _Centerstage _ feels otherwise, noting a suspicion that the humble kitchen crew “must be harboring some secret spices in the back.” No corkage fee.


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McKinley Park: Mexican Seafood

A tough economy almost forced Alejandro and Diana Guerra to return to Mexico in 2007. Fortunately, they decided to stick it out. Seafood lovers now come from all over the city to sample their snow-crab pincers, garlic calamari, and extra-hot shrimp. The tiny restaurant converts its parking lot into an outdoor patio to handle summertime crowds. $1.50 corkage fee.


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