If saving money is important to you but staying sober isn't, a BYOB restaurant might be your best bet for dining out. In the past few months, five new spots with a liberal DIY libation policy have opened their doors. To take the guesswork out of your booze buying, we asked staffers to suggest what beverage would best match each eatery's most popular dishes.
The Lazy Parrot
2257 W. North Ave. 773-227-5299
What to bring: Pinot grigio would partner well with this tropical Bucktown eatery's shrimp fiesta dish ($18), which features more than two dozen garlic-seasoned and coconut shrimp, said manager Samantha Laguardia. Red wine also works with the restaurant's oxtail stew, which is made with tender oxtail that's marinated for about a week and served with white rice and black beans ($19). "I've noticed a lot of people prefer merlot with it," Laguardia said.
Bonus beverage: Look for non-alcoholic mojito and margarita mixers to debut in a few weeks so you can spike your own cocktails at the table.
BYOB until: February. The restaurant plans to apply for a liquor license in January and is hoping to receive it by Valentine's Day.
Corkage fee: No charge.
Local liquor supply: Evolution Wines and Spirits (1704 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-772-9463)
Embers on Broadway
2835 N. Broadway 773-327-9593
What to bring: The best beverage to sip with the Lakeview eatery's surf and turf platter ($25.95)—Maine lobster tail, served with a 7-oz. strip steak—would be red wine. "People love merlot with it," executive chef Alan Peterson said. Or try the farm-raised grilled tilapia ($15.95), served with a dill sauce, matched with pretty much any variety of white wine.
Bonus beverage: Starting Saturday, Embers will offer brunch every day from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. with orange juice at the ready for mimosa-making.
BYOB until: The end of the month, at least. Peterson said Embers eventually will apply for a liquor license, but a timeline isn't finalized.
Corkage fee: No charge.
Local liquor supply: Apple Bite Mart (2919 N. Broadway 773-477-2710)
1953 W. Chicago Ave. 312-243-6343
What to bring: "Any red goes wonderfully with the braised lamb shank," manager Nathan Godfrey said. The dish is served with rosemary-seasoned yukon gold potatoes and a mix of roasted carrots, celery, broccoli and cauliflower ($19.50). Pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc or other white wines pair well with linguine and sauteed cod with a slightly sweet tomato sauce ($13.50). Just don't expect fancy stemware: Because of the trattoria's rustic (and therefore a bit uneven) tabletops, wine is served in small water-sized glasses to curb spills.
Bonus beverage: Diners who prefer vodka to vino can mix it with San Pellegrino's lemon- or orange-flavored sodas ($3).
BYOB until: Forever. Trattoria Ultimo has no plans as of yet to apply for a liquor license.
Corkage fee: $5 per bottle.
Local liquor supply: The Noble Grape (802 N. Bishop St. 312-846-1204) and Dominick's (2021 W. Chicago Ave. 773-799-9000)