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Best BYOB in Philly area right now? Want to treat retiring dear friend with oenophile husband.

Where would you go?

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  1. Wow, tough start! I assume you'll be bringing your own distinctive wines to satisfy the oenophile. If so, I'd say the preferred BYOB right now is probably Fond, though I haven't yet been. On a personal note, I am a great lover of Melagrano, Pumpkin, Russet, Modo Mio, and Mercato (though a few issues with service there a ways back pushed me away, so it's been a while - perhaps others could weigh in). I would rank them in the following order for myself (with a relevant criteria in parenthesis): Russet (tolerance for a louder room), Melograno (best overall experience among my personal favorites), Pumpkin (intimate), Modo Mio (ability to stuff yourself!, cash only), Mercato (highest potential, hardest to predict). You can see I skew towards Italian. I also like La Viola as a good value, but if you are looking to treat someone it's not a great fit.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tfalbo

      I've really enjoyed Cochon lately. I'm not sure what their stemware and wine service is like. Food aside, ss I understand it Bibou is one of the best BYOBs to enjoy very good wine because of the stemware and service.

    2. Koo Zee Doo is really good and great for a group. Dishes are very large and meant to share.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Philly Ray

        Hands down Bibou. Hard table to get, but definitely putting out some of the best food in the city.

        1. re: cwdonald

          I agree. After that I would say Fond and The Farm And The Fisherman. Either one.

      2. I'd go to Bibou. There are a few great BYOBs in the city and Bibou is the greatest. The other ones, in no particular order, are Fond, Will, Kanella, and Koo Zee Doo, but Bibou is in a class by itself, above them. Especially for a special occasion like this, Kanella is a bit too casual and KZD's food is a little too heavy. Fond would probably be my second choice but really, go to Bibou.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Buckethead

          Bibou, I agree. And I also like Fond. Modo Mio is loud and crowded (but great food). I didn't like Russett. I would add Will as my second choice.

        2. As not mentioned yet, l will add Farm & Fisherman.
          Excellent food, great setting, great stemware.

          1. I am going to try for Bibou. It looks like you can make an Open Table res 31 days prior to your requested date, so I'm putting a note on my calendar.

            Thanks for all the great suggestions, but for this ocassion, I want to go to either a French or New American place where the food will be complemented by the bottles of Burgundy and Bordeaux I've already bought.

            I do love KooZeeDoo and Kanella, but this is a an ocassion for, if not more formal atmosphere, more formal food. We've been to Fond with the couple we're honoring, in fact, just recently and while good, it just wasn't love for us.

            If for some reason Bibou is impossible to snare, I think Pumpkin will be our next choice. Along with some recommendations here, another friend told me it is her favorite BYOB.

            14 Replies
            1. re: middleagedfoodie

              I think you are making good choices. Two comments, you may actually do better CALLING the restaurant and speaking with Charlotte. You might even then call back later to find more about the menu especially if you are looking to order foie or sweetbreads which might influence your wine choice as well as what might pair with your dessert.

              Pumpkin. I thought I had heard that their chef left recently and the owner is back in the kitchen. Has anyone been lately. This is not to discourage you by any means but curious whether things have changed or if there is any noticeable difference.

              1. re: cwdonald

                The chef left and opened Will on E Passyunk Ave.

                1. re: barryg

                  Have you been to Pumpkin since he left?

                    1. re: barryg

                      Bibou has a contender in Bistrot la Minette and the place is much more inviting looking, hands down.

                      1. re: arepo

                        It has a liquor license but I'm sure you could bring your own wine with corkage fee.

                        1. re: arepo

                          Bistrot La Minette is not in the same league as Bibou. Anyway, it's not BYOB, which the OP specifically asked for.

                          1. re: Buckethead

                            Strange that you said it wasn't a BYOB. BarryG is correct. We sure enjoyed our 2 bottles of home brought wine with a reasonable corkage fee.

                          2. re: arepo

                            Having been to Bibou a few times and Bistrot la Minette once, I agree with Buckethead. While pleasant enough BLM is not in the same league with Bibou. I wouldnt even include it in my first few choices.

                    2. re: cwdonald

                      You know a lot more about wine than me. My husband and I don't eat foie gras, but I love sweetbreads. I bought a 2006 Pauilllac (sp?) and a French Burgundy, but not typing near my wine stash and can't remember more than the fact it was, I think a little newer and about 40% cheaper than the Bordeaux. Do you think either will work with sweetbreads? Although, actually, the wine is to please the husband of the couple and if neither pairs with a particular dish, we can make other choices.

                    3. re: middleagedfoodie

                      Bibou only takes reservations a month or less in advance on Opentable but if you call them they'll take them further in advance.

                      I'd ask your friend when was the last time she was at Pumpkin, as has been mentioned, the chef she may be thinking of left there not long ago to open Will. Not that Pumpkin must have necessarily suffered after he left, I haven't been there in a while.

                        1. re: middleagedfoodie

                          Will's food was terrific but there were long, long waits in between courses. I'd go with Bibou -- can't be beat in Philly and they do a great job serving fine wines.

                    4. I'll also say Bibou - it is really THAT good.

                      If you're up to it, the tasting menu is a great value.

                      1. I BYOB at least once a week. Here's my top 5:

                        1) Bibou (but you'll probably need a long lead time to get a good reservation time)
                        2) Blackfish (or Mica, although the latter has a big corkage fee)
                        3) The Farm & Fisherman
                        4) Matyson (Amazed no one has mentioned, their Mon-Thurs 6-course tasting menu is one of the great bargains in Philly)
                        5) Fond (go now, will have a big corkage fee once they get their liquor license)

                        So many other good ones...Modo Mio, Monsu, Russet, Pumpkin, Cochon, Koo Zee Doo, Will, Kanella...

                        1. Has anyone been to Pumpkin since Chef Kearse left to start his own restaurant?

                          1 Reply
                          1. As long as you limit it to Philly proper I would have to say that I don't mind paying a $15 corkage fee to Bistrot la Minette.
                            Many will also say Bibou which gets a lot of positive press.

                            1. I'll second Matyson as being really underrated. Outside of that, Farm and Fisherman and Bibou are the best IMO. Fond is great but no longer BYOB.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: scooby6469

                                Why was this post resurrected from November? Drives me crazy.
                                It is a tricky thing to do to someone who doesn't always look at the fine print dates.
                                Nothing more of interest was added and I feel like a fool to have innocently responded to a thread I responded to months ago. (At least I was consistent with my answer)

                                1. re: scooby6469

                                  I'm not 100% sure, but I think Fond will still let you BYOB with corkage. We have a res soon, so I'll report back.

                                  Not to be overly semantic about it, but contrary to what some people in Philly seem to believe, in the great wide world outside of PA, BYOB means "bring your own bottle", nothing more, nothing less. It doesn't matter whether the restaurant has a liquor license or charges a corkage fee, only whether they will actually let you bring your own bottle.

                                  We're so spoiled in Philly. People in other cities are astounded when they hear we have so many great restaurants that let us BYOB without corkage. Philly is totally unique in that regard.

                                  LOL, I used to live in Boston, and as far as I can remember, there is only one really good restaurant in the Boston area that has legal BYOB without corkage.

                                  Of course we would BYOB all the time at many different places, just not legally. Wink, wink...

                                  1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                    Yeah part of this is a by-product of PA's liquor laws. Is most other states, you still need a license to allow BYOB. Not true in PA; if you have a legal restaurant, people can bring in alcohol. So there is no real cost to the owner to allow BYOB, aside from stemware/service if provided. Combined the high cost of getting a license to serve, this is what has created the class of great BYOB restaurants that we enjoy today. The other nice thing is that you can bring beer and wine to the hole-in-the-wall taqueria or the Chinese buffet (yes I do this--the buffet doesn't even have a bottle opener available but they don't mind that we drink).

                                    You're right that we are spoiled, but in local parlance, BYOB is a specific type of restaurant and implies no corkage fee. The list of restaurants that will allow you to bring in bottles for a corkage fee is so long as to be a pointless discussion.

                                    1. re: barryg

                                      Question for the day: Is Blackfish a BYOB ($2 corkage)?

                                      Of course, since their full name is "Blackfish BYOB" (at least that's what it says on the banner at the top of their webpage, and they describe themselves as a "gracious BYOB"), it would be pretty funny if they are not actually a BYOB.


                                      MA is the polar opposite to PA. If a restaurant has a liquor license, BYOB is not legal throughout the state. If they don't have a liquor license, then whether it is legal or not is determined by the city laws. And most of the cities don't allow BYOB (at least last time I checked, just like us they are constantly battling the state's anti-consumer liquor laws, but at least they allow mom-and-pop wine stores). So legal BYOB is pretty rare.

                                      But most of my trips back to Boston are for BYOB dinners, so where there's a will, there's a way...

                                      1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                        I guess a better definition is a place that encourages BYOB and does not have a liquor license. Blackfish is an exceptional case, but the 'burbs seem to have more corkage fees all around.

                                  2. re: scooby6469

                                    While I'm thinking about it, there are also many places in Philly that officially don't allow corkage, but will still let you do it if you ask nicely and promise to bring some good bottles that are not on their list. And even wave corkage.

                                    I've dined in the past year at several of the more famous non-BYOB restaurants in the Philly area and they offered us corkage-free BYOB.

                                    But part of the wink-wink of it all is to agree not to mention their names, since they obviously make a lot of money off their wine lists and don't want to be inundated with requests like this. But if you are a "regular", keep it on the down low, bring great bottles, share them with the chef/staff, and tip well, you can pretty much BYOB anywhere.

                                    Except, according to RocketJSquirrel, Le Bernardin. Apparently even Mayor Bloomberg can't BYOB there.

                                    @PhillyBestBYOB on Twitter

                                    1. re: scooby6469

                                      I believe Fond is still BYOB (no corkage) Tuesday-Thursday, and they'll let you BYO (with a corkage fee) Fri-Sun.

                                    2. Well, although we have yet to make it to Bibou (although we have a reservation for March 9), we went to Will last night and were not wowed. Everything was good, just not "to die for". We had 3 different appetizers. The scallop crudo was OK, a bit too sweet. The hen of the woods mushroom was delicious, with a nice smokiness and great texture. The parsnip soup was delicious. Our friend had the monkfish and liked it, though I did not taste it. The pork shoulder was not described well. It was actually ground pork with a delicious green puree on top, I think kale. The poulard was the best dish of the evening, really juicy with a stuffing that had a chicken taste too, not sure if it was from ground chicken or some innards. We're all average eaters, and we all thought the portions were small. The pork entree was the size an appetizer would be at most places. Usually my husband and I share a dessert, but we were still hungry and had two. I ordered the cheese. While good, there was only one cheese offered. To me, along with enjoyment, the point of a cheese plate is the contrast between different cheeses. Can't even remember which my husband had. It certainly wasn't memorable. It's a disappointment to me when a place that takes itself seriously doesn't offer espresso, but their cafe press was excellent, so I wasn't terribly disappointed. They sent us home with two really authentic French sponge cookies which we ate as soon as we got in the car since we were far from stuffed.

                                      1. We finally took our friends to dinner at Bibou last night. It was all you guys who are fans said it would be. My husband and I both had the excellent steak tartare to start. I had sweet breads which are a favorite of mine and these were the best I've had. They were served with tiny mushrooms which tasted delicious. My husband ordered the lamb shank. Very tender and the accompanying flagelots were delicious. Dessert was not quite as good as the 1st and 2nd courses, but still above average - a floating island that was a little denser than I expected and a gran marnier souffle that had an ice cream like consistency (although the server warned us that it would not be traditional). As the free sweet, we each got one perfect meringue and one macaroon that surprisingly was the Manishewitz style, not like the ones that come from Fauchon or Lauderee.

                                        And, next to the great food and service, the best part was the bill - just over $300 with tip for the 4 of us.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: middleagedfoodie


                                          You should make a reservation for the Chip Roman/Pierre Camels collaborative dinner at Blackfish on April 8th.

                                          Not to tweet my own horn (pun intended), but it was apparently inspired by a tweet I sent Chip & Pierre as to how I had been to Blackfish & Bibou each 7 times in the past year, and that they needed to "shake hands and call it a draw".

                                          We have a table for 10, so you know it will be rockin...

                                          @PhillyBestBYOB on Twitter