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Mizu Sushi on 40th street had the second-cheapest menu item out of 24 BYOs across University City and Center City.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Philadelphia's Bring-Your-Own restaurants are a staple of the Penn student experience. The Daily Pennsylvanian set out to find out which BYO is the cheapest.

The DP's analysis examined the menus of 24 BYOs across University City and Center City, analyzing the prices of dinner entrees and appetizers in each restaurant to determine which are the cheapest. According to the analysis, the median menu dish price — excluding sides, drinks, and desserts — averaged to be $19.39 across all 24 restaurants. A majority of restaurants analyzed had median dish prices between $15 to $22. 

Mapping 24 BYO restaurants, from University City to Center City

Because of Philadelphia’s strict liquor licensing policy, many restaurants classify themselves as “BYOs," allowing customers to purchase and bring their own drinks when dining. These BYOs serve customers without checking their identification information, assuming all members of the party are over 21.

Many clubs at Penn host events and socials at BYOs, which often accept reservations for large groups. However, Philadelphia’s extensive BYO scene leads to a significant variety in the prices of menu items across different restaurants.

Mizu Sushi Bar was the cheapest overall for the cheapest menu item cost, and ranked at the bottom for median menu item cost. Among median menu items, Pumpkin BYOB, which only offers a prix-fixe menu at $55, was the most expensive. After Pumpkin BYOB, Entree had the highest median dish price at $26, with other Center City restaurants, like La Viola Ovest, also ranking high. Manakeesh had the lowest median menu item overall at $10.95.

Among local BYOs, the median cost of a dish ranges from $10.95 to $55

“La Viola is a little more upscale compared to the BYOs on campus, so it’s a nice spot for a date or fancy dinner with friends," College sophomore Ayesha Patel said.

Patel added that La Viola is a popular spot to eat before sorority date nights due to the quality of the food and the restaurant's atmosphere.

The analysis found that popular Penn locations, like Ken’s Seafood Restaurant, Pattaya Grill, and Ochatto, were consistently in the middle of the price range. 

“The classic choice is Don Barriga, but Ochatto is the nicest experience,” Engineering junior Vikram Singh said. “[But] my favorite BYO on campus is Virasat Haveli. It is underrated because people don’t know it’s BYO, or that it exists in general. It’s pretty expensive, but the food is good.”

BYOs closer to Penn tended to be less expensive and offered more extensive menus than restaurants in Center City. Italian and American cuisines tended to be more expensive, while Asian, Mediterranean, and Mexican food had lower median dish prices.

“I like Cilantro," College sophomore Jack Burgess said. "Although it is not as close to Penn, I think it’s cost-effective and very fun."

For Burgess, one of the highlights of Cilantro Mediterranean Cuisine is that the restaurant offers a discount if customers leave them a review before they leave. He also cited the friendly staff and generous portions as additional reasons why he enjoys the further-away BYO. 

Other Asian restaurants near Penn, like Thai Singha House and Pattaya Grill were also on the cheaper side.

“Thai Singha is so convenient and has relatively cheap prices," College and Wharton sophomore Yared Zegeye said. "Even though it’s small, if you reserve ahead for a group, it’s a great, intimate space.” 

Burgess also thinks that Ken’s, which serves Chinese food, is a “Penn classic,” citing the restaurant’s $20 per person price and large portions as reasons why the BYO is popular. “It is a rite of passage for Penn students,” he said.

College and Wharton sophomore Amaan Omer prefers Japanese restaurant Ochatto and Thai restaurant Pattaya, citing their quality food and location as reasons why he frequents the BYOs.

The analysis also examined the most and least expensive items on each BYO’s menu. Of the 24 restaurants, maximum dish prices ranged from $18.99 at Mizu Sushi Bar to $55 at Pumpkin BYOB. On the flip side, Mizu Sushi also had the minimum dish price with $2.50 for miso soup, while Luna BYOB had the highest minimum dish price with a $14 Caesar salad, after Pumpkin BYOB’s $55 three-course meal.

The maximum dish prices at local BYOs range from $18.99 to $55

Omer emphasized that compared to other social events, attending BYOs also has options for students who, like him, do not drink. 

“While some people do go to BYOs for the drinks, I go for the community and people,” Omer said.