Category Archives: BYOB


As I always say, there’s nothing like a hidden gem of a BYOB establishment. My friend Andi, who has an expert knowledge of these, recommended Lan’s in Old Town to celebrate our friend Kristina’s birthday. According to Andi the Expert, the place had solid food, rowdy karaoke late night, and low pricing. Of course, we were sold.

I was the first one to arrive, and was surprised (though not unpleasantly) that it was a very small place… Kind of sized like a rather large living room. I was instantly eager to partake in dining in the cozy and intimate setting. There were no other patrons yet, so I settled myself in our table for eight, located smack dab in the middle of the restaurant, and facing their TV and karaoke stage. My friends soon arrived, but soon it was clear we were in for a non-Karaoke night as everyone kept their BYOBs to minimum.

But we were all able to sample some crab rangoon, various dumplings, shrimp, beef, and pork dishes family style. If there is such a thing as “Comfort Chinese Food” I would say Lan’s cuisine is it. Everything I sampled radiated warmth, with uncomplicated flavors. It was typical Chinese food, but I didn’t feel heavy or full to the point of sickness at all. That is hard to do with this type of fare.

I am anxious to go back to Lan’s on a Friday or Saturday night, or any time my cohorts are in a more festive mood. I would love to sample the Kara0ke scene, as well as go back for more of their cuisine (did I mention this place is ridiculously well priced? when we got our bill, I was floored.) For what it is, I highly recommend at 3.5 out of 5 spoons.




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Seadog Sushi

Seadog Sushi Interior

Every Black Wednesday for the past several years, my friends and I have always celebrated my friend Sobo’s birthday. Usually we head straight to whatever club she has a table at that year, but this year we were able to convince her to hold a celebratory dinner before the festivities. This is no mean feat, as she specifically does not like to eat before venturing out (which is of course, the exact opposite of me.) But convince her we did, and so thought it best to ease in with a low-key BYOB sushi. I had heard good things about Seadog Sushi in Wicker Park, so off we went on Black Wednesday. Of course, we had to order edamame, and I personally  must order whatever version any sushi restaurant has of a Crunchy Spicy Tuna roll. So I got that and the Volcano roll and needless to say, I was supremely full and couldn’t even finish all of it. But all of it was very tasty, the fish not too fishy, and quality products used as far as my untrained palette could tell.

Seadog is not a hole in the wall joint, which you can get with certain BYOB sushi spots. Personally, that sort of thing doesn’t bother me, but if you’re looking for a good, inexpensive, nicely situated sushi place, this fits the bill. Definitely a choice spot to go, especially if you plan on parading around Divison street after. Three and a half out of five spoons.

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My friends and I at Coast Sushi

In Chicago, you can’t walk two blocks with out stumbling onto a BYOB sushi joint. Some are good, and some are not so good, but most are pretty freaking cheap. Enter Coast in Wicker Park, which offers the best of both worlds. Now I know I have raved previously about Butterfly, and as cheap and good Butterfly is, it doesn’t even come close to Coast. Coast is slightly more expensive, as well as slightly more anal on their BYOB policy (beware the group that brings too much vodka and beer) but it’s worth it to get buzzed on vino (which is better to eat dinner with anyway) for this food.

My friend Sibbing and I first split an appetizer of oysters, which I made Lisa try since she had never had one before. Though nervous, she bravely shot it down, and immediately loved it. Gratified, I inhaled my two oysters which were divine, and proceeded to chow down on edamame as well.

Side note about Foodie Finch: When I’m hungry, I’m the biggest grouch and the most impatient person so I tend to fill up on things I can snack on and can never enjoy the main course all the way.

This time, thankfully, I had room for apps, my main course of the White Dragon Roll and the Volcano Roll and even ordered an additional White Dragon.

Though set in the land of hipsters, this place is every yuppie’s dream. Booze your face off with the best sushi you can hope to get this side of the Midwest. What else could you ask for?

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Simply It

Pho Soup

A couple weeks ago I planned a dinner for me, my friend Lisa, and Mama Finch at a BYOB in Lincoln Park that I have been dying to go to called Simply It. Early in the afternoon on the date of the dinner, I started to feel a dreaded drip in the back of my throat. With a busy weekend looming before me, I refused to get sick, and almost canceled the evening in favor of my bed and my favorite Thursday night show, “The League.” However, suck it up I did, and boy did I make the right decision.

Simply It is a cozy place, which fits about 20 small tables. The divine smells wafting from the kitchen trigger hunger pangs as soon as you walk in. Though it was 7pm, relatively early for a dinner, the room was quite full with patrons with their vino. Seeing as how I was pretty under the weather, Lisa insisted I try her favorite Vietnamese dish, Pho soup. I didn’t need much convincing and a few minutes later I was inhaling amazing vapors from a steamy concoction. With noodles, and beef, the soup came with a plate of rice noodles, basil, cilantro, hot peppers, hot sauce, and sweet sauce to put in your soup as you pleased. Being me, I dumped all of the hot sauce, one cilantro sprig, several hot peppers, and a few basil leaves into the mix. Let me tell you, it was to die for. The soup was hot, the beef flavorful, and the added ingredients to my liking made for just the right amount of heat. As many can tell you, I am not a soup person. But I would eat this soup every day.

Though on the cusp of feeling deathly ill, I had quite the pleasant evening with my soup and my wine thanks to the amazing Pho soup. I will be back at Simply It; and I can’t say I’ll try something knew, for that soup was so damned good, but I feel I definitely ought to. The soup was a whopping $6.95 so go ASAP. For McD’s prices, you’ll get as flavorful a meal as any hoity toity joint in River North.

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This past weekend, some chicks and I ventured to (K)new (not sure what they’re getting at with the double entendre here) for Jamie’s birthday. I had been before; it’s a great BYOB spot that used to be called Think, and has been revamped by the same founders. The only problem with the place is its location, on the 2500 block of West Fullerton. Sure, parking isn’t a problem but if you’re planning on hailing a cab after the meal, I’d call one far before the end of your meal.

(K)new is small, but you don’t feel compact, and with warm colors the place is inviting, good for dates, as well as group dinners. Even with a table of 8 girls, we had plenty of room to breathe, which is generally not the case with most BYOBs.

Of course, being typical girls, we split everything…  Playing a game of puff puff give, we passed around firstly, the piquillo peppers that came with lump crabmeat, goat cheese, truffle oil, and a saffron and butter emulsion. Next came a pastry with tomato, buffalo, mozzarella, pancetta, prosciutto, and truffle oil, and I honestly have to say, God bless truffles. I notice (K)new uses them in a fair amount of their dishes, and while you could tell them to stop relying on truffles to make good dishes, I am not complaining. Keep the truffles coming, if you please.

My favorite dish of the night was the Cavatappi pasta, with lobster, shrimp, tomato, mascarpone cheese, and seasoned with mint, basil, garlic, and olive oil. I am sucker for mascarpone cheese, and this dish kind of put me in mind if what a reinvention of a macaroni and cheese would taste like. Definitely get this one if you go.

Finally we had the Fish of the Day, which turned out to be Halibut, and flavored very well with lots ‘o’ butter. Like truffle sauces, you can never have too much butter.

As we were on a deadline, (we had a surprise trolley picking us up for the b-day girl filled with all her favorite people), we unfortunately skipped dessert. However, I would definitely go back to Knew and give their desserts, and their other dishes I have not yet had, a try. I suggest you do the same. Heck, let’s go together.

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Hurricane, Crunchy Spicy Tuna, and Sunrise

Hurricane, Crunchy Spicy Tuna, and Sunrise

Ah, Butterfly. If there is ever a go-to, BYOB epitomized, it is this restaurant. It is all the simple joys of good sushi, without the inflated prices. Emphasizing substance over style, Butterfly is perfect for both the pregame dinner on weekends, or ordering in on a weeknight. It’s small, with dim lights, and an attentive staff. They not only have sushi, but hot entrees as well, and I can honestly say I have never had something that I did not like at this place (that is, until I went last week), but it was overall, as usual, a delightful experience.

My favorite sushi maki on the face of this planet, the one roll I have to get at every sushi restaurant I go to, is the Crunchy Spicy Tuna. So of course, I had to order that. And at Butterfly, spicy it is, with avocado, and tempura crumbs. I also have a penchant for tempura on maki. I just love the crunch on the outside of the roll followed by some fishy goodness. Yum. I also ordered the Hurricane, as it is my favorite original roll from Butterfly, with shrimp tempura, spicy mayo, scallion, tobiko, cream cheese, avocado, cucumber, and topped with tempura crumbs, eel sauce, and wasabi mayo. This sounds like a lot, but it comes in a perfect bite-sized portion. I hate when rolls are too big for one bite, because then the thing just falls apart and that’s just annoying trying to clean all that crap up for another mouthful. I tried the Sunrise Unagi maki which is tempura crumbs wrapped with shrimp and topped with miso sauce and ikrua, which I did not like at all. They consistency of the wrap was chewy and weird, and it’s the only thing I have never wanted a second bite of at Butterfly.

Of course, dinner at a Japanese restaurant would not be complete without Mochi ice cream. I could seriously house that stuff all day. No matter how full I am after a meal, I will always say yes to Mochi. It was my first time trying Red Bean, which is a lot of people’s favorite, but I’m sticking to Green Tea Mochi as the way to go.

Go to Butterfly. It’s cheap, it’s good, and what you see is what you get. I probably go once every couple months, and once you go, I bet you will too.

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