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Jan 21, 2008 11:02 PM

Best cheap and delicious eats in the loop?

My boyfriend and I will be staying at Adams and Clark this Fri.-Sat. We'd like to know where we can get some good cheap food in that area. We've got a good handle on the nicer places, but as we're on a very tight budget this month most of our meals won't be at them. However, we don't want to end up at chains like Chipotle if we can avoid it. Are there any good local or hole-in-the-wall type places we can try instead? We love all types of food, and I am a vegetarian. We'll need to cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner on both days.

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  1. Cheap vegetarian is not a loop specialty -- lots more meat eaters downtown. That said, there are places that are not expensive and do have one or two non-meat items. especially for lunch. Dinner is going to be rough, as a lot of these places close at 2-3PM. For breakfast your best bet may be a cafeteria or a "Breakfast Bow".

    Ever have an eggplant parm sandwich? Lukes has a fine example. For a giant salad-in-a-flatbread Pockets is the place to go. There are a few "Mediterranean" places that offer humus, tabbouleh, other non-meat staples. Whole Foods is barely walkable. Of course most Chicago pizza places will gladly assemble a cheese and/or veggie only pizza for you.

    BTW The Club Quarters Hotel you'll be staying at is the most inconspicuous /invisible hotel I've ever walked past. Easy to mistake for just another office building.

    Oasis Cafe
    21 N Wabash Ave Ste 11, Chicago, IL 60602

    223 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60606

    Luke's Italian Beef
    215 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60606

    329 S Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60606

    Haifa Cafe
    318 W Adams St, Chicago, IL

    Whole Foods Market
    1101 S Canal St, Chicago, IL

    1. Three places that fit the bill:

      Oasis Cafe at 17 South Wabash: Don't be fooled by the somewhat dingy food court thsi is in; its excellent middle eastern food with great daily specials.

      Heaven on Seven at 111 South Wabash: This is the original location of a cajun restaurant that now has 3 or 4 local locations. This is on the 7th Floor of an office building, and I think it serves the best food of the bunch. It is packed a lunch, so expect a wait.

      Pizano's on East Madison: If you want Chicago style pizza, this is proably the best place in the loop.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jjo

        I love Heaven-on Seven -- especially in the Garland Bldg, but it ain't really cheap -- I've blown $15 on breakfast there, and meat is king...

        1. re: jjo

          Definitely go to Oasis. The food court it is in is ugly and dingy, but the food is great. Their baba ganoush is the best I've had.

        2. My tip:

          avoid Heaven on Seven. If you have ever had real cajun food in New Orleans or elsewhere, Heaven on Seven will dissapoint. Some of the worst alleged cajun food I have had. Truly a disservice to out of town visitors when it is reccomended.

          Greek Town is a good rec., We like Pegasus.

          enjoy your visit.

          4 Replies
          1. re: swsidejim

            Gotta disagree with you about Hon7 here; well, in part, and with the following provisos:

            1. I would not recommend Hon7 to anyone who was very familiar with NOLA and nostalgic for the cuisine of such.
            2. I would not recommend any Hon7 site except for the original in the Garland Bldng.

            That being said it is one of the more interesting places in the area for breakfast or lunch and does have a few good nonmeat items (french toast banana foster, cheese grits). Just as long as you're not looking for fresh oysters for breakfast. (I believe it doesn''t open until 10:00 for breakfast on Saturday, by the way).

            1. re: jbw

              Note to our out-of-town friends - the Heaven on Seven location in the Garland Building is the one noted as "Wabash" on their website at

              They are only open for dinner the third Friday of each month, and they are closed Sundays.

              1. re: jbw

                I just don't get it. Yeesh, Hon7 is terrible!!! Dixie Kitchen (not in the vicinity of the loop) isn't anything spectacular but it's far better than Hon7.

                1. re: jbw

                  its allright to disagree JBW,

                  discussion and different opinions make the world go around. I will agree the HO7 @ the Garland building is the best of the bunch. As for breakfast, I almost never eat it, so maybe they pull that off.

              2. Greek Islands at Adams and Halsted for excellent food for reasonable prices.
                Greek Islands Restaurant - Chicago
                200 South Halsted Street
                Chicago, IL 60661
                312-782-9855 phone

                Theres a cool cozy Greek bakery / cafe about a block south too;
                Artopolis Bakery Cafe
                306 S. Halsted

                Ginza Fish House
                19 E Ohio St
                Chicago, IL 60611-2707
                Phone: (312) 222-0600
                Cheap Cheap authentic Japanese sushi house

                Sultans Market
                2057 W. North Avenue
                Wicker Park / Chicago
                Take the el to the damen, north, & milwaukee stop

                Iberico Cafe & Bar
                737 N La Salle Dr
                Chicago, IL 60610
                (312) 573-1510
                Great reasonably priced authentic Spanish Tapas in a vibrant atmosphere

                1. My suggestion to meet your budget is that if you plan to eat at any of the more expensive places, do so at lunch, when prices are less; then for dinner you can have the cheaper foods (e.g. pizza). With this strategy, you might even be able to afford one of the nice places for lunch. For example, two of our best contemporary American restaurants are Blackbird and Custom House. Both are walking distance from your hotel (to the northwest and southeast, respectively). Both are open for lunch, with mains in the low to mid teens; prices are shown with their lunch menu on their websites at and

                  I recommend Giordano's for deep-dish pizza. They serve a double-crust, "stuffed" pizza, just a symphony of crust, cheese, sauce, and added ingredients (we don't call them "toppings" because they're below the top crust), with the outside edge having a nice "crunch" to it and the rest of it with the buttery taste characteristic of Chicago deep-dish (imparted in part by the seasoned deep-dish pans used). They have a location just a block from your hotel, at 223 W. Jackson Blvd. If you want to avoid waiting 30-40 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake, you can check out the menu on their website at and phone ahead with your pizza order (which you can do at any Chicago deep-dish pizza place). For single-crust "pan" pizza, the previous recommendation of Pizano's is a good one (about four blocks east).

                  For breakfast, I have several suggestions. Lou Mitchell's is a few blocks west, near Union Station, and has been there for generations. Orange on Harrison is a few blocks south and has interesting egg and pancake specialties. My favorite breakfast place near the Loop is slightly further, a mile to the south - Bongo Room, at Wabash and Roosevelt Road.

                  One other possibility is Atwood Cafe, which serves contemporary American comfort food and has some interesting vegetarian items on the menu. Not inexpensive, but not ridiculous either. The menu on their website shows prices.

                  The previous suggestion of Heaven on Seven on Wabash is a good one, if you like good Cajun food. Only open for breakfast and lunch (I think they do one dinner a month). Greek places in Greek Town are a good idea too, a short walk from your hotel; if you'd like to see a more extensive discussion (some people like other places more than Greek Islands), see

                  If you don't mind getting a cab or an el (subway), Chinatown is less than three miles away. I recommend Lao Sze Chuan.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    I like the suggestions above (except for Hon7) but I don't think that they will fit within the posters, "tight budget" for breakfast & lunch.

                    Don't forget to try WISHBONE on Wasington in Greektown for fantastic Cajun/Southern/Mexican spiced breakfast and lunch.

                    1. re: amoncada

                      Eight of the eleven suggestions above are affordably priced, with the other three exceptions already noted - and the latter may be perfectly suitable for lunch, which is why I included the lunch prices for two of them in my post. Furthermore, two of the three breakfast recommendations are priced similarly to Wishbone, and Lou Mitchell's is lower in price.

                      1. re: amoncada

                        Wishbone on Washington is an excellent suggestion and it's open for dinner too. It has a number of vegetarian dishes, and most meals are served with 2 sides, plus corn muffins. So it is really reasonable.

                        And, you might want to consider Chinatown for dinner, as well as brunch. There are plenty of inexpensive restaurants there, with many veggie options. The Red Line El will take you right there.