Yelp’s Chicago Users Are Looking for Nightlife (Preferably BYOB)

What do Chicagoans want? When they’re on Yelp, they’re looking to hit the town, searching for nightlife more than users elsewhere in the country. And an unusually large share of them are looking to bartend their own party, with higher rates of searches for bring-your-own-booze (BYOB) options than almost anywhere else in the country.

The Yelp Data Lab dug into its databases for insights about the Windy City to help introduce our Local Business Partner Corey Dane to Chicago businesses. In his role, Corey focuses on outreach to the local businesses that Yelp matches with its users. Among the advantages a business owner gains when claiming their Yelp page is access to insights about their customers and how they interact with the business on Yelp.

We wanted to know more broadly just what Yelp users in Chicago are looking for. And search is where Yelp users tell us what they want. When what they want is to go out at a “comedy club” or “sports bar” or “Irish pub” or “dance club,” our algorithm recognizes that what they’re looking for is a night out on the town, grouping those searches into the nightlife root category, one of 22 broad categories on Yelp that contain the thousands of more specific business categories. And nightlife is unusually popular among Chicago users, making up 4 percentage points more searches than elsewhere in the U.S. in the year that ended on April 12. It’s by far the biggest gap between their habits and those of the rest of Americans. By contrast, they’re slightly less interested in auto businesses than other Americans are, perhaps because of the El (or “L”), Chicago’s extensive elevated train system.

Top five:
Event Planning & Services
Arts & Entertainment

Bottom five:
Active Life
Hotels & Travel

Within Chicago, Wrigleyville comes alive at night more than any other neighborhood. The share of searches within the area around the Cubs’ Wrigley Field seeking nightlife exceeds the rest of the city’s by 26 percentage points – many of them seeking a pint and a TV before and after home games. Yelp users in the South Side neighborhood of Roseland, by contrast, are almost never looking for nightlife – they’re much more often looking for shopping or beauty services.

Top five:
River North
Old Town
River West

Bottom five:
Little Village

Most Yelp users searching for a night on the town aren’t looking to drink or are fine buying while they’re out – or at least they don’t specify otherwise. But some add “BYOB” to their searches, and that’s especially common in Chicago. More than 1 in 200 searches in the restaurant and nightlife category include it in Chicago, second among the 100 cities with the most Yelp searches in those categories. Only Philadelphia, where state liquor laws have sparked a proliferation of BYOB offerings, surpasses Chicago.

Top four:
Jersey City

Among Chicago neighborhoods, Lake View and West Town are especially popular for BYOB seekers, with a far greater share of restaurant and nightlife searches including the phrase than in the City of Brotherly Love.

Top ten:
Roscoe Village
Jefferson Park
Noble Square
Ukrainian Village
North Center
West Town
Lake View

Are you looking to BYOB? These are the highest-rated BYOB restaurants and nightlife businesses in Chicago, based on the number of reviews that include the phrase “BYOB” and their average ratings.

The Crab Pad, Logan Square

T & B Grill, Albany Park

Schwa, West Town

Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill, West Town

The Bento Box, Bucktown


And here are the top five BYOB spots in the country:

Morio’s Sushi Bistro, Honolulu, HI

Café Italia, Grapevine, TX

Opal Thai Food, Haleiwa, HI

Eli’s BBQ, Cincinnati

Chef Vola’s, Atlantic City


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