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Cheap Eats Near Palmer House

My teenage son and I will be staying four nights at the Palmer House in a couple weeks. We are on a budget. We'd like some real Chicago chow within walking distance (or a short cab or bus ride). We don't need no fine dining. Hot dogs, pizza, cheap Italian, Greek, etc., would be great. The other posts on eats near the Palmer House are too upscale for us. Where can we get some good Chicago grub?

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  1. Greektown is due west of the Palmer House, just west of the Dan Ryan expressway, about 1-1/2 miles away. There are plenty of good choices; search the board for "Greek Town" if you want some opinions on the best. I typically go to Greek Islands but there are posters who recommend Parthenon or Santorini, for example.

    For pizza, Giordano's is one of Chicago's leading chains for Chicago-style pizza. The closest is at 223 W. Jackson, about 5 blocks west of the Palmer House, close to the Sears Tower. Another choice, Pizannos, is at 61 E. Madison, even closer to the Palmer House.

    Another good choice is Wishbone, which is in the Market District, at Morgan & Washington, about 2 miles from the Palmer House. Wishbone features southern style and Cajun comfort food. For about $12 you can get an entree with 2 sides and corn muffins. Take a cab or the green line El (entrance just outside the Palmer House on the Wabash side), to the Clinton stop, and be within about 5 blocks, of Wishbone.

    If you like Chinese food, there are plenty of good, economical choices in Chinatown, which is about 3 miles south of the Palmer House. Again, search the board for "Chinatown" to get comparative views. You can get there on the Red Line el.

    1 Reply
    1. re: masha

      ^^^ Those are very good recommendations from Masha. The topic that lists the addresses and websites for all the Greek restaurants in Greek Town is at www.chowhound.com/topics/119233 At the pizza places mentioned, phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes for it to bake; you can see the menus on their websites at www.pizanoschicago.com for Pizano's, www.giordanos.com for Giordano's.

      One more suggestion is Heaven on Seven, which has Cajun/creole food for breakfast and lunch and is not expensive. The Wabash location is only a couple of blocks from the Palmer House. Check out their menu (including prices) on their website at www.heavenonseven.com

      The Palmer House is in the middle of the Loop, Chicago's commercial downtown, with lots of office buildings and workers so there is a big demand for inexpensive lunches. If you walk around and keep your eyes open, you will find lots of inexpensive places that specialize in sandwiches and other light fare at lunchtime - not just the fast food places (although they are all over too) but also local specialties. You will also notice that there are lots of restaurants with cheap breakfast specials (look for signs on the outside).

      Another thing to realize is that places that are expensive for dinner often serve lunch at relatively inexpensive prices. So you might want to consider going to a somewhat-nice place for lunch, and then doing pizza or hot dogs for dinner, if that works for you.

    2. For "good Chicago grub" (cerca 1960) you need go no farther than next door at:


      3 Replies
      1. re: jbw

        I second the choice of Miller's Pub. Really will give you a good feel for the City. Pretty decent ribs, too. The pix of all the sports figures, faded starlets and B-movie actors from 40-50 years ago are a hoot. For deep-dish Chicago pizza w/in walking distance, I would definitely try Pizanno's, just around the corner. Owner split off from founder of Lou Malnati's pizza and their effort is top notch.Cool comic book/action figure store for your son right down Madison from there towards Michigan Avenue. Finally, you should also try Heaven on Seven for downtown's best New Orleans food. Jimmy and George Bannos converted their Greek coffee shop into a shrine to the crescent city ages ago, trained under Paul Prudhomme and hosted a lunch decades ago for a little known NO chef named Emeril Lagasse. Nuff said. It's cash only and get there early for the daily specials to and beat the lines. Ask for Ground Zero or The Bomb from behind the counter if you want to blow your head off with insane hot sauce. And if you have room (which you won't) the chocolate bourbon pecan pie is outstanding.

        1. re: zgwarnki

          >> I would definitely try Pizanno's, just around the corner.
          >> Owner split off from founder of Lou Malnati's pizza

          Not exactly. Pizano's was founded in 1991 by Rudy Malnati Jr. His brother, Lou Malnati, opened his namesake pizzeria in 1971. Both are sons of Rudy Malnati Sr. who, with Ike Sewell, opened Pizzeria Uno in 1943 and worked there for many, many years.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            So, maybe the brothers aren't talking? . . . then I'd be right! ;-)

            Not to wish any troubles on one of the great pizza families of Chicago . . .

      2. 1. The Printers Row neighborhood has some lower-priced options. To get there, go out the State St side of the hotel, walk 1 block west to Dearborn, then 4 blocks south. Printers Row is Dearborn and the parallel streets from Congress south to Polk (where you'll see an old train station). Standing Room Only has quality fast food (chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, Italian beef; also good falafel) in a sports-obsessed atmosphere. Another pizza option, Eduardo's, can be found in this neighborhood, too. Further south, Hackney's has burgers, buffalo burgers, some more-or-less Irish dishes, and -- for you, not your son -- a good selection of beers on tap (e.g. Jever, Delirium Tremens).

        2. The best thing about the Palmer House, in my opinion, is that it's very easy to get away from it. You are near all of the "L"/subway lines. The Red Line is right on the State Street side of your hotel; the Blue Line is a block west on Dearborn; the elevated tracks on the Wabash side carry the Brown, Orange, Pink, and Green Lines (closest station is at Wabash and Adams, a block south). Get a visitors pass for the CTA at the airport station when you arrive (info about passes can be found on the CTA website). Then take the Red Line south a couple stops to Chinatown (e.g. to Lao Sze Chuan; there are many, many other choices nearby), or north a couple stops to the Grand stop, near Quartino, one of the least expensive options in touristy River North. A short trip on the Blue Line northwest to the Division stop puts you right by two budget-friendly choices: Podhalanka for Polish food and La Pasadita, a hole-in-the-wall spot with outstanding carne asada tacos and burritos. (By the way, "real Chicago chow" nowadays definitely includes great authentic Mexican food.) There are many more low-priced options accessible by "L" train if you want to hear about them.

        If you have a CTA pass you can also use it on buses, of course, which would be a good way to get to Greektown and back from the Palmer House. The CTA online trip planner can give you the details.

        I hope this helps, and I hope you and your son enjoy your visit.

        La Pasadita
        1132 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

        Standing Room Only Chicago
        610 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60605

        Lao Sze Chuan
        2172 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

        626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

        1549 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60642

        521 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60605

        Hackney's Printers' Row
        733 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60605

        5 Replies
        1. re: Amata

          Thank you, Amata, for this incredibly helpful post! Like the OP, I'll be visiting in a few weeks and will be roaming far and wide, by train and bus, for good food. I was going to start a new thread asking how to get to Podhalanka by public transportation, but you've already answered my question. Thanks!

          So I don't hijack this thread, I'll start a new one to ask about all the great places close to an "L" stop.


          1. re: AnneInMpls

            The trip planner is located at transitchicago.com.

            1. re: jlawrence01

              The trip planner works reasonably well when the address you enter is recognized, but often it has trouble recognizing the address. I find that it's often easier to use the system maps to find the best way to get to a destination.

              There are three transit agencies in the Chicago area, and all show maps and schedules on their websites:

              CTA (subways and buses in the city and a few nearby suburbs) - www.transitchicago.com
              Metra (suburban commuter trains) - www.metrarail.com
              Pace (suburban buses) - www.pacebus.com

              The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is the umbrella organization which funds all of the above. The RTA has a map overlaying all of these transit services for the entire Chicago area, which you can view on its website at www.rtachicago.com

              There are many, many restaurants located close to el stops, far too many to list. Some of the el stops are located along a particular concentration of ethnic restaurants, areas where you can walk down the street and take your pick. These include:

              Cermak-Chinatown stop (Red Line) - Chinese restaurants
              18th Street stop (Pink Line) - Mexican restaurants
              Argyle stop (Red Line) - Vietnamese restaurants

              To get to the Indian restaurants along Devon Avenue (6400N) between Western (2400W) and Sacramento (3000W), take the Red Line to the Loyola stop and transfer to the #155 Devon Avenue bus.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I forget that Chicago is a city with a real transportation system - Minneapolis is so far away from your league. (Yeah, we have some buses, and one tiny light-rail line, but...)

                Thanks so much for the info - I'll be exploring the Red and Pink line's treasures. Hooray for the 3-day visitor pass - I'm definitely getting me one of these!


            2. re: AnneInMpls

              Anne, you're very welcome. I hope you (and amecameca + son) enjoy Podhalanka. You should note that their hours don't go late: they are open 9am to 8pm daily. The potato pancakes are very good there, also the soups, such as zurek (white borscht). The "meat" pierogi are a little dry, in my opinion, but the cabbage piergoi and "russian" pierogi (with cheese and potato) are excellent.

              There's no alcohol on the menu but I think you can BYOB. Or order their kompot, which is a fruit drink they make themselves (a combination of fresh fruit in season, from dried fruit otherwise).

              Here's a link to some pictures of the food at Podhalanka:

              Have a great trip!

          2. I work right across the street from there so I know the area pretty well.

            Hot Dogs
            America's Dog (big selection)
            at Randolph and State

            Max's on Adams (hole in the wall with good, cheap chicago style hot dogs
            )at Wabash and Adams

            For pizza
            Giordano's (deep dish, stuffed
            )at Jackson and Wells

            Pizano's (deep dish, butter crust
            )at Madison and Wabash

            For salads and sandwiches
            Sopraffina (I wouldn't call this place authentic Chicago, but it's good
            )at Deerborn and Madison

            You might like Chicken Planet, good and cheap
            at Jackson and State

            And finally, you might want to hit up Garrett's for some popcorn
            at Jackson and State, or Madison and State

            For Chinese I'd recommend going to Chinatown, for Greek food Greektown. Both are a short trip away. Have fun!

            1. There are some excellent suggestions and some glaring omissions on this thread.

              On Wabash heading south five blocks to the Chicago Hilton (the Palmer House's sister hotel), are three pretty good inexpensive restaurants,

              First is the Exchecquer which serves decent pizza but excellent food similar to Miller's Pub but slightly cheaper. I think that the food there is great and that is where we take our guests when they are conventioning at the Palmer House (2-3x per year).

              Second, is Thai Spoons which serves very acceptable Thai food and is a favorite of the local DePaul and Roosevelt University students. While I will be the first to admit that there are better Thai restaurants in Chicago, I would say "not at that price."

              Third is Harold's Chicken which serves great fried chicken in a place with no atmosphere. I would carry out personally.

              If you would like "fine dining" at a reasonable price, three blocks north from the hotel on Wabash is the Backstage Bistro, the student-run restaurant of the culinary program at the Art Institute of Illinois. The food is generally excellent at about half the normal price of white tablecloth restaurants. The service is at times inconsistent which is offset by the enthusiasm of the students.

              1. You're a couple blocks away from Macy's on State Street which has Frontera Fresco - the fast food version of Frontera Grill - on the seventh floor. I just ate their a few days ago and the food was solid.

                1. Wow, you Chicago hounds are awesome! These are more than enough recommendations to keep my son and me well fed. We will definitely make it to Greektown and Chinatown and I am determined to get to Podalanka. Thanks so much for all the great advice.

                  1. Really reasonable? You can't miss it, Beef and Brandy--it is just about right next door on Wabash, I think. It is right next door. It is so reasonable, American faire-everything from omelettes to steaks and excellent drinks, tropical as well. It is classic, elegant, and friendly. You can sit for a couple hours, you never feel rushed.

                    1. OK Chicago Hounds. Here's where my son and I ate. We had great Chicago hot dogs at Max's and at America's Hot Dogs. We had thin crust pizza at Pizanos. We loved Miller's Pub! We ate there twice, once for lunch on Easter Sunday (pork loin, apples and sauerkraut dinner for only $8.95) and one more time for lunch just before catching the blue line back to O'Hare. I couldn't resist the sign out front: "Smelt Are In." Had to check it out, and the smelt special was delicious ($8.95 with sides of french fries and spanikopita, of all things -- Miller must be Greek). We also had a great Easter dinner meal at Greek Islands. The place was packed but George (the owner?) promised us a seat in 10-20 minutes and then delivered on the promise. We couldn't bring ourselves to kiss him on the cheek on the way out like others were doing, but I did shake his hand and thank him for a great meal. The highlight of the trip was Podhalanka. We tried to go there on Easter but it was closed. We went back the next day for dinner. It was great. We made a meal of the white borscht, a "mixed" plate of pierogies, potato pancakes, beet salad and cucumber salad. Oh and the "kompote" drink. It tasted just like the hibiscus water you get at tacquerias ("jamaica"). The waitress was really friendly -- wanted to know where we were from, where my son wanted to go to college, etc. We felt right at home. Yes, the food is a little on the bland side, but the atmosphere is something special.

                      Thanks again to all the Chicago Chowhounds for your great recommendations.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Amecameca

                        Thanks for the great report -- it's always a pleasure to hear how things worked out. It sounds like you had a good sampling of Chicago food. Come back and eat some more soon!

                        1. re: Amecameca

                          sounds like a great food weekend, glad you had fun!

                          1. re: Amecameca

                            According to the history on Miller's Pub's website (millerspub.com), when the Gallios brothers bought Miller's Pub in 1950, they did not have enough money to buy a new sign and just kept the name. Note that the original was around the corner on Adams Street. That building was demolished for a larger parking garage. They had a restaurant on Wabash named Vannie's (the first name of one of the Gallios brothers) and renamed it as Miller's Pub. The same people also run Exchequer Pub a bit farther south on Wabash. Millers is a piece of Chicago history and was one the the few places open in late evening during the 1970s, a time when the Loop was dead at night.

                            1. re: Eldon Kreider

                              The Loop wasn't at all dead at night in the 1970s! In fact, the Loop was the center of Chicago dining; River North was not a dining destination, and it was shocking when Gordon Sinclair opened Gordon on Clark Street at that time. Most of today's nice hotels around Michigan Avenue had yet to be built, although Le Perroquet was the best restaurant in the city and the Cape Cod Room at the Drake was *the* place for seafood.

                              Lots of nice restaurants in the Loop around at that time are gone now, places like Don Roth's Blackhawk on Wabash, Le Bordeaux a few steps down from the sidewalk on Madison (owned by Kiki who now has Kiki's Bistro in River North), Binyon's (another German restaurant) on Plymouth Court, etc. Some other places were around then and are still there, like Berghoff's and Italian Village; Nick's Fishmarket opened in the 1970s and is still there.

                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                The Lobster Thermador at Nicks was freaking incredible.