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great budget dining experiences

  • j
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to follow up on the cheapest meals post, the following generally budget dining options offer some of the best food and dining experiences in the city, combined with unusual atmosphere, imho--some of my categories are weak, though, and I'd love to hear some more suggestions...

Ribs: Lem's (enough said, there are so many posts on Lem's on this board already)

Vietnamese: Pho 777

Mexican: tacos at Maxwell street market; also la kermese in little village

japanese: sunshine cafe on clark and catalpa (prices have gone up a little but still a great familyish noodle place with sukiyaki to die for); also matsuya

middle eastern baked goods: ME bakery; pies, cabbage rolls, and lots of great smells

Swedish/Norwegian: Tre Kronor (not super cheap but very very good value); honorable mention--Svea

Belizean: flowers pot; great kingfish in curry and other delights--not super cheap but also a great value

ethiopian: ethiopian diamond on n. broadway, other new restaurants just south of this one, best in wrigleyville: ethio cafe

soul: gladys luncheonette has fantastic catfish

chinese: kim yen (chinese-vietnamese in chinatown with a really unusual chef's menu; things like chives in blood and all sorts of other unique dishes); honorable mention: mei shung (broadway/berwyn) and happy chef dim sum house for cheap dim sum

tapas: iberico is definitely the best value option, although tapas may be higher quality at other places

chili: Lindy's on archer and 37th

cuban food with great music and fun feeling: Rancho luna, peterson and kimball (food is maybe not so cheap but it's a lot of fun with music and dancing on the weekends)

pizza: chicago pizza and oven grinder on clark... not so budget but good

south indian: udupi palace

north indian: pakistani cab driver restaurants (zaiqa et al) and hema's kitchen (off devon)

filipino: fish pond

some worthwhile splurges (not cheap but worth a little extra):

le bouchon
katsu
pasteur
finestra

i'd love feedback on these and some suggestions for other categories like polish, korean, thai, cajun/creole, italian, deli, ....

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  1. See post below re: Pickled Garlic, ME bakery had their license suspended.

    1. I'd like to add Nha Trang to the Vietnamese category. (It's on Argyle just a couple of doors east of Pho 777. Absolutely bare bones storefront. Wife does all the cooking, husband and sometimes college aged son handle the front. Utterly sweet, eager to please people turning out flavorful unbelievably inexpensive Viet. food.

      Sometimes the lady is all alone there and handles tables as well as the cooking. I think she's still insecure about her english so pointing at the menu item can be very helpful.

      The original Fiesta Mexicana at Lawrence and Broadway offers very good value for well made typical Chicago/Mexican food. They also do a very nice job with the pricier dishes like whole roasted snapper and grilled shrimp. And a very rich, authentic sopa de pollo. (No soup base there, just simmered chicken.)

      More bare bones but quite good is Taco Burrito House #2.

      Moody's still delivers great value for basic pub food.

      I believe the Sherman St. Cafe (or possibly "Grill") is still operating in Evanston doing the basic Greek-owned luncheonette thing just as it ought to be done.

      And a moment of silence for some of the places no longer with us:
      The Sheridan Beach Cafe (up on Sheridan near Jarvis): a counter and three booths. The best weekend breakfast you could hope to eat. Skillet potatoes brown and crisp, magnificent pancakes and banana/choc. chip muffins. (Also known as Bobby and Karen's to the regulars.)

      Manny's Pancake House, off Roscoe. Real ham sliced off the bone along with respectable regular breakfast things for almost no money at all. Lots of large families mixed in with theatre folk back when the Organic Theatre was still operating a block or so away.

      1. Great post--I agree with most that I've been to, and look forward to trying those that I haven't.

        And it makes me glad to live where I do. It seems most of these places are within a 1 or 2 mile radius from where I live. No wonder I've been so content with Andersonville for the past five years!

        I also want to add El Ranchito on Damen, just north of Lawrence as a good cheap Mexican spot, with great tamales in a nice mole. Don't let the neon or the new
        "American Menu" in the window put you off, this place serves soem good stuff. Don't be confused by the gross place (Peralvillo?) directly on the corner. That's a scary, scary place.