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Young, cheap NYC Foodie in Chicago


I've just arrived for two weeks and am staying in downtown Chicago (around W. Hueron and Dearborn). I'm a photo assistant and don't have much money to spend eating out, but I want to try the best of the cheap, dive eateries around. Ethnic is great. Close or far--doesn't matter (although I only would be able to take public transportation).

I was in Chicago a few months ago and ate at Cafe Lula's, Frontera Frill and Avec. All fantastic. But where is that tiny Korean BBQ place that's great? Or your favorite italian place or pho joint? Ukranian? I feel like there must be a ton of little places to enjoy with a big stomach but a small budget.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions. . .

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  1. Las Tablas on Lincoln for Colombian - if you're here on a Saturday, go for their fish soup!! My absolute favorite.
    Tanq Vietnamese on Argyle for Pho
    Babylon on Damen for Middle Eastern
    Spoon Thai on Western for Thai

    1. I recommend Pho 888 on Argyle (across from the Red Line Argyle stop) for pho and banh mit sandwiches. I know others prefer Tank, which is virtually next door, but I like Pho 888 better.

      Cafe Iberico at Chicago and LaSalle (take the 22 or 156 bus to Chicago) has excellent tapas for very reasonable prices. The servings are larger than usual, and prices range from about $4 to about $8, with a handful of entrees in the $10-$12 range.

      Matsuya on Clark, a bit south of Wrigley Field, offers a lotta bang for the buck in Japanese food and sushi. They have combo platters for $10 that include a sushi appetizer, soup, rice, two main courses and dessert. The food is very good, particularly at the price point.

      A bit further south on Clark is Mia Francesca for really good Italian for cheap. It's always packed, so go early or prepare to wait 90 minutes.

      As mentioned, Spoon Thai on Western (Western stop on the Brown Line) is terrific.

      Good Indian at Hema's Kitchen, either at Clark and Fullerton in Lincoln Park or at Devon and Oakley (a real hike).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Pete Oldtown

        You don't need to take the bus to Cafe Iberico, it is a few blocks from where you are staying.

      2. Get some Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. Giordano's on Rush Street, Gino's East on Superior, Lou Malnati's River North location, the original Uno's and Due, etc.

        1. " ......want to try the best of the cheap, dive eateries around. Ethnic is great."

          Do you like Indian food????
          Get to Devon avenue poste haste! Please don't miss Devon ave. If you do like Indo/Pak food, say the word, and I'll throw some specific recs your way.
          Search a thread on Italian Beef sammiches!
          La Pasadita for char grilled steak tacos.
          San Soo Gab San for Korean BBQ
          I also really like Matsuya for no frills Japanese
          Sol de Mexico for higher end Mexican fare a la Frontera, but far less corporate, much more homey, and quite possibly better food.

          Italian food you can do well in NY.

          1 Reply
          1. re: gordeaux

            good rec's.

            Especially the Indian food, Italian Beef Sandwiches, and Korean BBQ

            I also had thought of San Soo Gab San for Korean BBQ, but since I own a vehicle, and never use public transportation I was not sure if this was accessable for the OP. I always enjoy my visits to SSGP.

          2. You'll find lots of recommendations for Chicago's quintessential "cheap eats" in this topic: www.chowhound.com/topics/372986

            1. Go to Spoon Thai (4608 N. Western) for great Thai food. Here's a link to a translated Thai language menu: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?..., where you'll find some great items. The food is inexpensive and the offerings are far different from your standard neighborhood Thai place. Take the Brown Line EL to the Western Avenue stop (10 minutes from Belmont Brown/Red Line stop). TAC Quick, at 3930 N. Sheridan, is steps away from the Red Line Sheridan stop and it's also excellent for Thai Food. Here is a link to their translated Thai language menu: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?....

              I like the recommendations of San Soo Gab San for Korean BBQ, and it's not hard to get to from the Western Ave. Brown Line stop. Just walk 3/4 of a mile north on Western, or take the Western Ave. bus there.

              If you want to visit some of the restaurants on Argyle for Vietnamese food (Tank is very good for Pho) or for some Chinese BBQ (I love Sun Wah . . . Hon Kee also very good), then take the Red Line to Argyle -- the restaurants are all between Broadway and Sheridan. If you have a sweet tooth, try Patisserie P on Argyle for inexpensive, yet amazing pastries.

              If you want Middle Eastern food, take the Brown Line train to Kedzie (only a few minutes past Western Ave. stop). Try Salam, Semiramis or Noon O' Kebab.

              Authentic Neapolitan pizzas - Spacca Napoli (Sunnyside and Ravenswood), just a few minute walk from the Damen Brown Line stop.

              Sunshine Cafe (Japanese, non-sushi) and Pasticceria Natalina (Sicilian bakery) are great choices in Andersonville, both just north of Balmoral (5400 N) on Clark St.

              Devon Ave. (for Indian/Pakistani food) - take Brown Line to Western Ave., take Western bus north 2 miles to Devon. All of the restaurants are within a five or so minute walk from Western & Devon and it's a fun area to walk around.

              Take the Red Line south from downtown to Chinatown. Shui Wah is great for dim sum, Three Happiness (the little one on the south side of Cermak) is good for Cantonese, Double Li and Lao Sze Chuan for Szechuan -- just had a very nice meal at Double Li on Friday.

              You should have a lot of success finding inexpensive eats at all of the above. That being said, Pasticceria Natalina is pricey as far as bakeries go, but the food is outstanding.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BRB

                All good recommendations from BRB - especially Spoon Thai and Lao Szechuan which are among my favorites - although I find that both, expecially Lao Szechuan, are best experienced if you have the chance to go out with a crowd and order lots of dishes to share.

                You can find a lot of other interesting options here: http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewforum....

                1. re: BRB

                  The northern terminus of the Western bus is near San Soo Gab San, which is a fair hike south of Devon. The NORTH Western bus is needed to go from the Western Avenue Brown Line stop to Devon.