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Healthy and cheap in Chicago

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I'm new to Chicago and I would love some restaurant ideas, preferably those that have healthful menus and are budget-friendly. I'm interested in places in the downtown and Wicker Park/Bucktown areas, but I'm open to other neighborhoods. I appreciate all your suggestions.

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  1. What do you mean by "healthy"? A lot of people would define it differently. Do you mean vegetarian or vegan? Would seafood qualify? Do you mean organic? Do you mean low-fat and/or low carbs?

    4 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      To be more specific, I am looking for more vegetarian options, but I like seafood too. Low-fat options are a plus. Thank you.

      1. re: ces1180

        Green Zebra comes first to mind. As does Spring. Both are headed up by chef Sean McLean. GZ is his vegetarian restaurant and Spring focuses on fish. Both are pretty well thought of. I am personally somewhat underwhelmed by his restaurants. IMHO, they're a bit overrated and overpriced, but maybe that's just me.

        Michael Altenberg's Crust -- flatbread pizza -- is all organic with plenty of vegetarian options.

        Then there's Lula's in nearby Wicker Park that's been discussed quite a bit on this board with it's fans and detractors. I think it's charming, the food interesting and much of it vegetarian, if not low fat.

        1. re: chicgail

          Greektown for a cold appetizer plate (tzatziki, taramosalata, melitzanasalata, cukes, tomato wedges, olives) and a Greek salad (with free sesame-on-the-crust Greek bread) always feels healthy to me and should run no more than $20 at Greek Islands, Roditys, Pegasus, or Athena. I'm leaving the Parthenon out of the list because the cold appetizer plate I had there recently was tired.

          Good luck.

        2. re: ces1180

          A place that doesn't get mentioned much on chowhound is the "cafeteria" line at WholeFoods (Huron between State & Dearborn). Lots of selections---including many vegetarian---then they weigh your plate. You can eat there or carry out. Also the refrigerator cases have small portions of things that could be part of a meal, like tabbouleh and hummos.

      2. Nordstrom Cafe has awesome salads (among many other great offerings).

        1 Reply
        1. re: SuzMiCo

          Alice and Friends just north of Hollywood on Broadway is actually really good. It's a vegan place,and I am a serious carnivore, so that's a glowing endorsement.

          Kopi Cafe is decent (on Clark street north of Foster), but service is horrendous. Yet I somehow return there. I don't know why. I think I like the idea of it. And the food isn't bad. Just have a lot of time on your hands when you go.

          Also, get a good bottle of vinegar, buy a loaf of bread at the Green City Market on Saturday or Wednesday, soak it with said vinegar, pile it with sprouts/tomatoes/lettuce/other veg from GCM and sit on the lakeshore. Best low-cal meal ever. Welcome to Chicago, and good luck!

        2. For Wicker Park/Bucktown eats, I'd definitely head over to Sultan's Market on North Ave., just a couple of blocks west of Damen. Best falafel in the city, incredible lentil soup and a full middle eastern salad bar, AND it's all easy on the pocketbook. If you travel a little further west on North you'll find The Handlebar, which is a great place for vegetarian dishes and good drinks - definitely hang out in the beer garden before summer closes out. And while we're continuing with this North Ave. theme, you should walk just a LITTLE further west and have a bite at Thai Lagoon - very veggie/vegan friendly with some tasty dishes worth stopping in for. Hope that helps, and that's just a small snippet of what's out there for budget-minded flavor questing in the area.