Bring the really good bottle to one sixtyblue
photo: courtesy of Bridget Cicenia
If a classy date is a once-a-month affair for you, make it an affair to remember at one sixtyblue, named Restaurant of the Year by Sun-Times
restaurant critic Pat Bruno. The French-meets-American cuisine is memorable, if not light on the wallet, with entrees easily touching $30. And while it would be a major faux pas to BYO a $7 Malbec, the last-Friday-of-every-month Dust Off That Bottle! night makes a trip here a less of a stretch. Call in advance to find out what the varietal of the month is (in January, it's Merlot). Grab your best bottle: Chef Martial Noguier creates a menu designed to pair with the featured grape for $65 per guest. No corkage fee.
Bring something crisp and white to Izumi Sushi
If you're craving Sushi Wabi, dressed to the nines and lacking a Benjamin or two, step across the street—bottle in hand—to this deserving neighbor. Izumi stocks a full bar but allows diners to BYOB wine only. High ceilings meet with dim lighting, allowing for a surprising snugness; adept, unassuming service makes it easy to think of nothing but your twosome—almost. While you won't find Sushi Wabi's Ecuador maki on the menu, you can sink your teeth into the Hawaiian roll, with unagi, avocado and macadamia nuts topped with sliced mango. No corkage fee.
Save the lush wintertime red for Bonsoiree Cafe and Delicacies
If you're looking to dine over delicate platings of seasonal eats that have a delicate touch on your wallet, a BYO meal at Bonsoiree is in order. Though the enclosed outdoor patio makes for magical summertime dates, the restaurant's modest 30-seat interior keeps things intimate year-round. Slow-cooked rabbit with sage gnocchi is a can't-miss appetizer; diver scallops, duck leg confit-style and a clam- and mussel-filled bouillabaisse are stand-out entrees. For an even better deal, dine on Tuesdays: There's a three-course prix-fixe no restrictions menu offered for $30 per person.
Uncork some Sangiovese at Think Cafe
If your gut tells you Rosebud, let's hope your heart screams "Think!" Sure, Chicago Italian bigwigs provide a marinara-filled evening of Chianti and romance, but things only get more original (always a date plus) when you leave the typical confines for a white-clothed table at this sweet Italian BYOB on Western Avenue. Don't expect a cheap plate of noodles: You'll pay $15 for a homemade lump crab cake appetizer, $18 for maple leaf roasted duck risotto and $35 for a Tuscan veal chop, plus a $4 corkage fee.
Fight the urge to bring tequila to Mundial Cocina Mestiza
If you're looking for a dinner destination somewhere between Taqueria Moran and Topolobampo, make a beeline to this Mexican-with-a-Mediterranean-twist restaurant. Praised as fine-dining without the price tag, you'll find impressively presented dishes on the changing menu, like pineapple-tinged gazpacho with macadamia nuts, squash blossom empanadas and a version of camarones a la diabla that peps up the shrimp with Applewood bacon. A $3-$5 corkage fee is sometimes charged.
You don't have to stop at five BYOB dates. Keep the romance flowing at:
BYO anytime, but there's no corkage fee on Monday and Tuesday; grab a seat by the fire and order chipotle-barbecue salmon over buttermilk hotcakes.
Coast Sushi Bar
There's almost always a wait for a table at this Bucktown sushi hotspot; there's also a South Loop location.
HB Home Bistro
Natural stone, mosaics, chocolate booths and a menu of Hawaiian snapper and pork loin on homemade sauerkraut wow at this Lakeview BYOB.
Dine the real-deal Italian way at this BYOB: For $70 per couple, you pick two first courses, two pastas and one meat or fish to share.
Like dining in Paris without that pesky plane flight, grab a seat outdoors during warm weather and dive into that order of escargot.
More appropriate for a double (or triple) date, this boisterous Argentinean restaurant is a great place for steaks.
May St. Cafe
Prepare to be blown away by the Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and American flavors found in May St.'s gourmet, seasonal cooking.