BYO Bonanza in Philly



Mercato chef Mackenzie Hilton

When it comes to a BYOB restaurant scene, Philadelphia is a real corker.

With more than 230 bring your own bottle eateries around town, diners can save big bucks – and drink their favorite vintages without paying a restaurant mark-up. Sticker shocked by the high price of liquor licenses, more chefs, like Ian Moroney, who owns the 28-seat Pumpkin on South Street, opt to do what they do best. “I got into this business to cook, not run a bar. BYOB works for us, and our customers love it.” Moroney, like most BYOB owners, doesn’t charge a corkage fee, another reason to wine and dine, Philadelphia style.

Three to Try …

Mercato: Chef Mackenzie Hilton infuses the slow cooking of Old World Italy with a bold take on new Italian American cuisine at this airy cash only BYOB. Large floor-to-ceiling windows open out onto a lively street scene. 1216 Spruce St, (215) 985.BYOB


Mercato in Midtown VIllage

Pumpkin: Artful New American cuisine, locally sourced produce and a great deal on Sundays: five courses for $35, including dishes like seared scallops over lentils spiked with a beet vinaigrette and braised branzino with fennel, preserved lemons and olive tapenade. 1713 South St. (215) 545-4448


Kanella: Cyprus meets Greece at Kanella’s table, where chef/owner Konstantinos Pitsillides coaxes wonderful flavors out of slowly braised rabbit with butter beans and the daily whole fish, simply roasted with seasonal greens. Or come for the Cyprus breakfast, eggs fried in olive oil with tangy houlami cheese. 1001 Spruce St. (215) 922-1773

BYOB Bits: Reservation policies vary, so call ahead. Ask in advance about credits cards – cash only is not uncommon. And if you don’t have your favorite Super Tuscan handy, not to worry, here’s an interactive map of the city by neighborhood, complete with the locations of the nearest liquor store.




Garden to Plate New Zealand Style at Colenso Cafe


Ruth Pettit snips away in her fragrant garden, gathering an armful of aromatic gardenia and lemon verbena to steep for tea. It’s a sample of what awaits the hungry visitor in search of both beauty and sustenance in the North Island’s stunning Coromandel coastline along the northeastern shore. When asked about farm to table cuisine, Ruth seems a bit flummoxed.  “Well, we’ve always done it this way,” she says with a shrug.

Ruth and her husband Andy own the Colenso Country Shop & Cafe, an outgrowth of the family orchard business.  “With four children to put through school, we needed more than mandarins,” said Ruth, who opened the cafe and shop 22 years ago.

Perched on a scenic hillside overlooking Mercury Bay, the cafe is on “state highway” 25-A – one of the ribbons of gorgeous roadways crisscrossing the North Island. The Cafe’s menu is all about fresh and seasonal comfort fare, usually starring herbs, veggies and fruits from the garden out back. Dishes might include local lamb enfolded in buttery puff pastry, wedges of feta and spinach pie and grilled ham and cheese panini featuring happy porkers from a nearby pasture. Homebaked scones, with clotted cream and fresh peach jam, are the perfect accompaniment for Ruth’s just-picked herbal tea.

After lunch, browse through the stylish shop for a few New Zealand made goods to take home. At the very least, buy a jar of local Manuka honey, a tonic for just about anything that ails you.  Then again, the same can be said for New Zealand, a destination that’s definitely good for the soul.

Salad from Ruth's garden

Lamb pie and salad for lunch