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BYOB Chicago
June 21, 2005 | 4 Comments

Of the fair amount of email that I receive through this site, the most common question or request is for BYOB information. Some people want a simple recommendation, some want a complete and unabridged list of every BYOB restaurant in Chicago. I used to think that if I had such a list, I'm sure I could sell it. Not a bad idea, and like most good ideas, someone else has thought of it first.

BYOB Chicago is a guidebook designed specifically around that idea. It cross-references it's list of about 150 restaurants by cuisine and by neighborhood (with maps). Each restaurant has a short description/review along with contact information and a series of icons that indicate whether the place has amenities like parking or if it's non-smoking, among others. The comprehensive list stands on it's own as a pretty good guide to small, ethnic, unassuming eateries across the city. I've found a few omissions (Irazu, Ed's Potsticker House), but not many.

There are also some sections in the book with more general information like BYOB etiquette, corkage information, and an examination of the origins behind Chicago's BYOB tradition. These sections are short and well worth the read.

I have two small bones to pick with this book, neither of which preclude my recommendation. First, it is peppered with advertisements for restaurants that appear in the listings (some contain coupons). Some people might enjoy this "yellow pages" aspect of the book, but I prefer my guidebooks to have an air of impartiality. Secondly, the reviews and descriptions of the restaurants are written very unevenly. Some are written in the voice of the restaurant's owner, some by a third-party. I would love to see this guide have a more consistent eye across all the listings.

I know very few people who don't enjoy visiting a BYOB, whether it's for the cost-savings or for the greater selection, Chicagoans love to bring their own. I was personally disappointed when Lula opened a bar, and even more disappointed when Lovitt announced their impending closing, but there's plenty more spots to explore.

Pick up a copy of BYOB Chicago at or at wherever you can find Chicago guidebooks. It's a key resource to have in this town. has no affiliation with the author or publisher of BYOB Chicago.

Posted 09:29 AM
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