Best for getting rowdy: Square on Square
When the weekend rolls around at Penn, it’s pretty likely you’ll be attending a BYO before going to the main event of the night. Let’s be honest, when choosing a BYO for this kind of night, the quality of the food really isn’t your top concern. You care about being able to play music as loud as you like, and if the staff doesn’t mind you dancing on chairs, well then that’s even better. However, Square on Square not only lets you do all of the above, but the Center City restaurant actually serves decent Chinese cuisine, including crispy spring rolls, vegetarian lo mein and chicken with vegetables. The dishes are served buffet-style, which means that it is totally acceptable to subtly crush that 2nd or 5th plate of noodles as the drunk munchies kick in or you suddenly need that extra fuel to party on. Full disclosure – the ambience and decor of the restaurant probably won’t blow you away, but the staff is accommodating, the food will fill you up and rowdiness is guaranteed.
Best for good eeeeats: The Farm and the Fisherman
The Farm and the Fisherman knows good food. Run by a husband and wife team, the menu at this BYOB features fresh, sustainably sourced ingredients, including meat, fish and poultry. While this may sound like just another restaurant that’s hopped aboard the farm-to-table movement, The Farm and the Fisherman serves up truly unique and innovative dishes. For starters try the famous beet steak, which is served with yoghurt, aged balsamic and amaranth, to give a perfect combination of sweet and sour in every bite. The Berkshire Pork Rack pairs well with most kinds of wine (which you probably should be drinking at this place since people will judge you if you bring Bankers). Most importantly, don’t skip dessert – the Chocolate Gianduja is bomb-dot-com.
Best for boozy brunch: Kanella
You know when you’re on your Instagram feed, and you see a friend/blogger/Kardashian posting pics from their European adventures, and you get overwhelming wanderlust? I have the solution for you: Kanella. While many people know Kanella for its delicious dinner menu, one of the best kept secrets about this Greek Cypriot kitchen is that it kills the boozy brunch game. When you’re in the mood for a little food with your weekend mimosa, head downtown to this reasonably-priced BYOB. Decorated in whites and bright blues with rustic wooden furniture, Kanella will transport you to a Sunday in Santorini as the daylight pours into the restaurant. A go-to brunch item is the Shakshouka – perfectly poached eggs are nestled in a stew of roasted peppers and cumin-scented tomatoes, accompanied by grilled bread to get your dip-and-scoop on. Their hummus also tastes like it’s made with clouds, and the chicken kebab is unreal.
Best for Girl’s Night Out: Audrey Claire
There are always days when you just need a good dinner with a few of your closest friends and some wine. We’re talking a nice atmosphere, a sound level where you can actually hear each other speak and a good menu. From couples on dates to sorority girls on lineage dinners, Audrey Claire buzzes with a diverse crowd but never feels too noisy or packed. Order any of the grilled flat breads to start, and try some of the mezze plates too. A standout dish that often gets overlooked is the baby arugula salad with candied figs, fresh berries, fresh lentils and warm goat cheese – yeah, go ahead and read that again. If you’re in the mood for something meatier, try the roasted chicken with pomegranate molasses or the shallot-crusted lemon sole, which is fresh, flavorful and light.
Best for staying on Penn’s campus: Beijing Restaurant
I know it’s the second Chinese restaurant on the list, but a compilation of Philly BYOBs wouldn’t be complete without Beijing. Yes, I am talking about that place with the fluorescent lights next to the Quad. Before you judge, consider the fact that Beijing is reasonably priced and that it is right in the heart of Penn’s campus – sometimes you just can’t beat that level of convenience, especially when winter rolls around. So get a fun group together, grab your alcohol of choice, and tuck into some fried rice and their addictive Sesame chicken (since you walked to dinner your exercise should be rewarded).