Best value food in chicago
I'm trying to compile of list of the BEST VALUE FOOD in chicago. Good value food can be any kind of food and can fall into any price category so long as we believe we are getting something very good for the amount of money we're spending. Think about it this way: quality (or even quantity) expectations exceeded at the given price.
At the low-cost end, I think Paradise Pup in Des Plaines delivers an incredible value. Their $3-ish burgers are every bit as good as the $10-$14 burgers at fancy Chicago restaurants. People line up out the door no matter how bad the weather is.
At the other extreme, Le Francais in Wheeling is a real bragain when it comes to 4-star dining. An appetizer, entree and dessert goes for $61. The entrees are also quite large compared to other similar venues. Three courses leaves me stuffed at Le Francais; but I've still been hunngry after six or even 10 courses elsewhere. Another high-end value is lunch at Topolobampo. Entrees are much less expensive than at dinner and it is much easier to get a reservation for lunch. Entrees are in the mid- to high-teens--not cheap--but given the superb quality of the ingredients (lots of artisinal/organic stuff) it is a good value.
Back to burgers, the $12 cheeseburger and fries (lunch only) at otherwise-pricey Naha is a great deal. That's only $1 more than what you'd pay for one of their small (but delicious) desserts. Angus beef, high-end cheese choices, Red Hen Bakery bun (I think) and killer fries.
Quartino on State and Ontario downtown is the best value italian "small plates." Small plate apps are quite large from $2-$4 and "entres" run between $6-$12. Their wine list is accommodating as well. When the bill comes you'll feel like it can't possibly be right for the amount you ordered. It's a great place where you can order as much as you feel like...go crazy...and not stress about the bill.
I'm a big fan of the Pepper Canister around 500 N. Wells. Its a bar, so it can get smoky and busy on weekends, but they have a very unique selection of very well made bar food, a strong Irish slant as you might imagine, but also great burgers, and some unexpected options like spicy claimari and lemon chicken. Just about everything is $10 or less. Plus, excellent beer on tap and good service.
I'm not too familiar with them, but I have heard that there are some great cheap Thai places in town, mostly outside of the city center. In fact, other ethnic neighborhoods like Devon St., China Town, or Greek Town might be interesting options. Lots of threads on those.
Big Buns and Pita in Rogers Park serves incredibly tasty Assyrian food in a totally downscale (but very clean) environment. 4 people can get stuffed for $30 with food left over. They have a great Lunch special for $3.99 that includes lentil soup, salad, rice and choice of Shwarima or Chicken or Kefta kebab. Vegetarians should check out the Medames plate for $4.50 (Fava beans, grilled onions and tomatoes with a tahini sauce, including rice and salad). They also make some of the best falafels I have ever had. The most expensive items on the menu are two different Lamb Shank dinners for $9.95 including soup, salad, rice and pickled vegetables. Plus, they usually throw in a free order of hummus. Besides, how can you resist that name? (they deliver too)
Big Buns and Pita
6649 N. Clark St.
The Red Apple (3123 N Milwaukee and 6474 N Milwaukee) offers an all-you-can-eat buffet of homestyle Polish cooking; price depends on weekday, weekend, noon, or night but is never more than $8. Vast variety of freshly cooked food, constantly replaced by nice Polish kitchen ladies. Arguably the best meal value in Chicago.