Ultimate BYOB Guide


Pif

What to Know Before You Go: Cash only, reservations recommended.

Buy A Bottle At: 724 South St., Philadelphia.

If the new school of Philadelphia BYOBs is all about low-key ambience and high-quality dining, then Pif is the Philly restaurant par excellence. There is no pretension here, no theme-dining show. It’s just one tiny room, a brilliant chef and a few dozen extremely happy customers. Every time I’ve dined at Pif my experience has ranged from simply wonderful (a perfectly sautéed skate wing in a sauce of red wine and demi glace) to life affirming (a pot of steamed mussels with a sprig of gently smoldering rosemary laid across it). Chef-owner David Ansill changes his menu daily, but miraculously enough, no matter what he finds on his early-morning shopping trips, the result is always the same: A dining experience as perfect as any in the city.

1009 S. 8th St., Philadelphia, 215.625.2923.


Figs

What to Know Before You Go: Credit cards accepted, reservations recommended, outside seating.

Buy A Bottle At: 1935 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia.

Fairmount may seem like an odd place for a Mediterranean oasis, but don’t let the neighborhood fool you. Figs is nothing short of the real deal, a souk of culinary pleasure in an area otherwise known more for its excellent bars than its exotic restaurants. There’s nothing kitschy here, though, no Disney-esque, Casablanca-fied version of what Morocco should be. Instead, you’re simply treated to a meal whose roots are clearly in the native Morocco of chef Mustapha Rouissiya, but whose heart and soul are firmly in Philadelphia. Dishes like the grilled shrimp with vanilla-scented basmati rice in a curry sauce studded with pine nuts, raisins and currants instantly transport you out of the neighborhood and into a culinary universe half a world away. The lamb chops in honey-saffron broth with cinnamon-apple cider demi-glace are excellent, too. You may need a cab to get to Figs from Center City, but it’s better than the alternative: A Moroccan meal this tasty is usually a plane ride away.

2501 Meredith St., Philadelphia, 215.978.8440; www.figsrestaurant.com


Audrey Claire

What to Know Before You Go: Cash only, reservations available except Fridays and Saturdays, outside seating.

Buy A Bottle At: 1913 Chestnut St., Philadelphia.

There’s something elemental about Audrey Claire, some sort of honesty that pervades the cooking itself as well as the dining experience as a whole. In fact, in this tenth year of doing business at the corner of 20th and Spruce, it’s fair to say that Audrey Claire was one of the restaurants that started the dining trend for which Philly is now famous. The menu consists of simple, impeccably prepared dishes that are reliably rich and flavorful but never heavy-handed. The steamed littleneck clams in garlic broth with pancetta and jalapenos are, despite its ingredients, somehow restrained: The natural richness of each component is allowed to shine, but not one of them is overpowering. And the roasted chicken with pomegranate molasses is better than any bird has a right to be. Good restaurant food is often thought of as being synonymous with fancy restaurant food. But Audrey Claire is so enjoyable because it refuses to buy into that old-fashioned logic. In that sense, this is the perfect Philly-style BYOB.

276 S. 20th St., Philadelphia, 215.731.1222; www.audreyclaire.com


Lolita

What to Know Before You Go: Cash only, reservations available except Fridays and Saturdays, outside seating.

Buy A Bottle At: 1218 Chestnut St., Philadelphia.

When you name your restaurant Lolita, there are certain obvious expectations the dining public will have. Fortunately, Marcy Turney’s Nuevo Mexicano doesn’t disappoint. From the deep red tiles lining the outside of the open kitchen to the suggestively lithe flower painting hanging on the exposed brick wall, everything here is sexy. As for the food, it’s as well conceived and expertly prepared as any in the city, nuevo, Mexicano, or otherwise. Standouts include the pulled chicken and toasted pasilla chili tamale, which is authentically presented in a split corn husk, and the orange-and-cinnamon-glazed carnitas. And, as dessert is the sexiest part of any meal, it should come as no surprise that Lolita does sweets exceptionally well: The cheesecake rests on a base of ancho chili-spiked Mexican chocolate that would get anyone hot and bothered. And no visit is complete without taking advantage of Lolita’s BYOT policy: Every evening, the kitchen prepares a selection of exotic house-made margarita mixes. Some of them, like the mango-cilantro one, are so good that you may even want to splurge on a bottle of high-end tequila. No booze ever had it this good; your taste buds fare pretty well, too.

106 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, 215.546.7100; www.lolitabyob.com


Bistro 7

What to Know Know Before You Go: Credit cards accepted, reservations recommended.

Buy A Bottle At: 32 S. 2nd St., Philadelphia.

Old City is famous for its painfully hip, beautifully decorated restaurants and the world-class single scene in it bars and lounges. Which makes the unassuming Bistro 7 such a welcome break from the norm. Not that it’s average or boring – far from it. The sage walls of the dining room are as warm and inviting as anywhere in the city. And the food, while not succumbing to wild flights of culinary fancy, is simple and elegant with an occasional well-conceived twist that surprises and delights. The salmon tartare, for example, is delicious, and its accoutrements of pickled vegetable relish, salmon roe and black pepper crème fraiche, all set atop a sweet pea pancake, couldn’t have been better. And the malt-infused chocolate pot de crème is exactly consistent with the rest of the dining experience: low-key, deeply satisfying and just the slightest bit unexpected.

7 N. 3rd St., Philadelphia, 215.931.1560.

AroundPhilly Staff

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