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Jan 30, 2009 07:34 AM

Chicago Cheap Eats Comfort Food

I've been creating Google Satellite Maps of above average cheap eats comfort food places for cities across America on my website.

Chicago born and raised but its been a long time since lived in the area. Been to some of these, but need a current view from the Chicago chow thread. If you have any please post here. If any of the ones listed are not cutting the mustard let me know. Profile explains what I'm about. Hope they'll be useful to you. Thanks. Danny

These are the ones I have on the Chicago maps so far

Pizza Map
Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Co.
Gino's East
Home Run
Lou Malnati's
Pizzeria Uno
Pizzeria Due
Vito and Nick's

Hot Dogs Map
Skyway Dog House
Jim's Original
Portillo's Hot Dogs
Hot Doug's
Byron's Hot Dog Ha
Gene and Jude's Red Hot Stand
Jimmy's Red Hots
Fat Johnnie's Famous Red Hots

General Map
Al's No. 1 Italian Beef
Ann Sather's
Garrett Popcorn Shops
Kevin's Hamburger Heaven
Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli
Max's Italian Beef
Mr Beef On Orleans
Smoque BBQ
Valois Restaurant

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  1. Korean Restaurant is basically a 24 hour Korean diner
    Ringos serves fresh, cheap sushi and sashimi, BYO
    Billy Goat under the bridge for kitsch value and great burgers
    Ann Sather's--the worst service I've ever had in my life, during the daytime, while the place was empty (I nearly walked over to the waiter's stand to pick up my omelet which had been sitting there for awhile while the 2 waiters chatted; no coffee or water refills either); free sticky buns haven't convinced me to ever return
    McCormick & Schmick's happy hour--late afternoon and late night, particularly for the burgers and fries

    Ringo Resaurant
    2507 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

    Korean Restaurant
    2659 W Lawrence, Chicago, IL

    Billy Goat Tavern
    430 N Michigan Ave Lowr 1, Chicago, IL 60611

    McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant
    41 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, IL 60611

    4 Replies
    1. re: Caralien

      ok I'll start on these and sounds like ann's should be off..thks


      1. re: FrugalDanny

        A lot of people continue to love Ann Sather. If you remove it, someone is likely to ask you why you omitted it.


        1. re: FrugalDanny

          Nah, gotta disagree there -- Ann Sather's still makes great breakfasts (I like the Swedish pancakes with a side of ham and eggs and *lots* of lingonberry preserves), and who doesn't LOVE those cinnamon rolls, especially when they come out warm from the oven?? I could live on those cinnamon rolls, but my butt and waist couldn't take it. Still, they're a worthwhile indulgence every once in a while ...

          1. re: lindygal

            Try the cinnamon swirl rolls in the bakery department at Fox & Obel. They're not as cinnamony as Ann's but they're extremely rich and yummy, easily the best I've ever had! If the bakery counter is out, they also often have them in the cafe.

      2. We have a lot of categories of "cheap eats" and many of them are not even represented in the list above. But first, let's take a look at that list...

        On the "Pizza Map", the list is heavy on deep-dish "pizza in the pan", and that's a good thing! However, it omits local chains featuring deep-dish "stuffed pizza", including Giordano's (with 40 locations in the Chicago area), Edwardo's, and Bacino's. It also omits thin crust and especially single-location specialty pizza places like Spacca Napoli and Coal Fire.

        The "Hot Dog Map" looks okay.

        The "General Map" is really quite a hodge-podge of different kinds of food, with many cases where a single restaurant has been chosen to represent an entire genre. For example, Smoque is a good place for barbecue - like some of the other choices, it's not exactly "cheap eats" but it's a good representation. But there are so many more local places where you can get barbecue in the same price range: Honey 1, Carson's, Uncle John's, etc. I would think you would want to be as inclusive with barbecue as with the hot dog category, no? Similarly, Manny's is the only deli represented, but there are many others locally, both old and new; not that Manny's is a bad choice, only that it's odd to pick only one and leave all the others out, when that's not true of other categories. Same thing with hamburgers - ten places for hot dogs, but only one for burgers???

        As for categories that aren't represented at all, there are a lot of types of ethnic food that comprise many of our leading contenders for "cheap eats", including Greek (and the concentration in Greek Town in the West Loop), Indian/Pakistani (and the concentration on Devon Avenue), Vietnamese (and the concentration on Argyle), Chinese (and the concentration in Chinatown), Thai (TAC Quick, Spoon Thai, Thai Sookdee, and many others), Mexican (including conventional Mexican, creative/provincial Mexican, and taco stands), Italian (with popularly-priced bistro type places all over the city), French (more bistros), etc. Ethnic foods are America's new "comfort foods", with virtually every small town in the country featuring Chinese, Mexican, Thai, etc. And some non-ethnic categories are missing, too. What about diners and coffee shops (e.g. Eleven City Diner, Tempo Cafe, White Palace Grill)? You could also write a book about places that feature breakfast, including those that simply specialize in egg and pancake dishes as well as those that serve other foods but do a good brunch on weekends - comfort food indeed! You could do an entire "map" of each of these categories. And that still leaves lots more ethnicities and other types of food. The restaurant listings on Metromix at let you search by type of cuisine, and they break it down into 98 different categories!

        Here are some links to other discussion topics that may be a good source for additional suggestions:


        French bistrot:






        Hot dogs:

        Quintessential Chicago:

        Brunch and Breakfast:




        1 Reply
        1. re: nsxtasy

          thks lists are the initial take to get the maps up...i fully expect these maps to get much bigger...multiple joints for the same category - no problem...since working with the other threads I have on chow I soon threw away my preconceived notion of what comfort food is in america...on the portland thread I even started thinking of a separate PHO map...i try to stay away from really large chains but will pick a standout to represent...

          .appreciate you providing these links I'll start with them they should be a good "beginning" (:-D)

        2. Your mustard is only about 3/4 cut so far. how do you even THINK about a Chicago cheap eats comfort food list map and exclude Indian/Pakistani food?
          A few of my fave joints:
          Ghareeb Nawaz
          2032 W Devon Ave
          Chicago, IL 60659

          Khan B.B.Q
          2401 W Devon
          Chicago, IL 60645

          Also, I agree you might wanna think about a Chicago Q joint. Smoque is great, but it ain't Chicago q.

          Honey 1
          2241 N Western Ave
          Chicago, IL 60647
          (773) 227-5130

          Uncle John's BBQ (my favorite of these two)
          337 E 69th Street
          Chicago, IL 60619

          6 Replies
          1. re: gordeaux

            just so happens that last night certain q joints were added....i didn't know chicago had it's own q identity seems to range from carsons to uncle's...which one is chicago q...and now Khan's...

            have texas (east south central western) carolina georgia memphis kansas city st. louis que pages on my website hadn't even thought about giving chicago its own ....

            1. re: FrugalDanny

              well, you're gonna start a riot over the "Which is Chicago Q" inquiry.
              The answer is BOTH. My preference, however, by FAR, would be Uncle John's.
              Chicago can be known for two types of Q - fall off the bone baby back ribs, or smoked, toothy spares and tips. Hot links are another prevalent offering in Chicago Q joints. I don't think the great Q debate flood waters need to be opened, but it's possible that they might be.

              On the N side of Chicago, along Devon avenue is the highest concentration of Indian/Pakistani shops/restaurants on this continent outside of some city in Canada whose name escapes me at the moment. Yes, the Indo/Pak joints are FANTASTIC here - especially for cheap eats. When I go out of town for chunks of time, my usual homecoming dirt cheap comfort foods are Mexican, Thai, and Pakistani. Those are the foods I miss the most when I'm out of town in a place that does not have the diverse culture we have here.

              1. re: gordeaux


                i promise to devote some time to the pakistani phenomena in chicago..

                will do my part to suppress q disorder....

                right now on my chow portland thread PHO is of great interest..also showing up for philly la and i've been eating here in mn.

                1. re: FrugalDanny

                  Gerard St in Toronto is the only place outside of India with a higher concentration of India population than Chicago.

                  Bhabi's Kitchen should make the list.

                2. re: gordeaux

                  I promise I will remain silent on the religion of BBQ this time!

                  1. re: gordeaux

                    I'm for smoked baby back ribs as the ultimate Chicago style, but I'll eat smoked spares, too -- and I have three favorites since Carson's diminished in stature:

                    Fat Willy's east of Logan Square, across from the City North movie theaters (they make a dynamite mac and cheese side dish, too);

                    Chuck's Southern Comforts Cafe and BBQ, on 95th Street at Central Ave., for excellent, fully smoked ribs, brisket, and really fine pulled pork plus Chuck's own Chicago wings (ask for the honey BBQ sauce with the wings!); and

                    The Patio, on Harlem near 92nd Street in Bridgeview -- really good ribs, either eat in or takeout, but ask for the sauce on the side to fully appreciate the fine taste of the meat; they also have a location on 159th in Orland Park, but I like the Harlem location better.

                    But I still miss the ribs and the GREAT scalloped potatoes from the original Carson's in Skokie ...

              2. If Al's, Max's, and Mr. Beef are on the list then Johnnie's is a MUST:

                Johnnie's Beef
                7500 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park
                Tel: (708) 452-6000
                11AM - Midnight M-Sat, Noon-Midnight Sundays

                1 Reply
                1. re: Original Kman

                  agree's already on my Greater Chicago map..

                2. Any list like this is incomplete without Sun Wah. Outstanding Chinese BBQ (and other stuff) at absurdly low prices. The Beijing Duck dinner in one of (if not) the best deals in the city. They bring out a whole duck and carve off some meat to fold into pancakes. The carcass is then taken back into the kitchen and is turned into a giant bowl of soup and a huge plate of fried rice. You also get sorbet for dessert. Total price? $30. Not per One dinner easily serves 4 people.

                  Sun Wah
                  1132-34 W. Argyle St.
                  (773) 769-1254

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: jesteinf

                    i'm reluctant to add it because of chicago health inspectors closing it in Nov.

                    1. re: FrugalDanny

                      I'm sorry, but that's absurd. I don't think anyone who has been to Sun Wah would be concerned regarding the safety of the food there. Again, leaving off Sun Wah from your list would be a pretty significant omission.

                      1. re: FrugalDanny

                        Sun Wah is great for their roast duck or chicken. It really is that good.

                        Sun Wah Bar-B-Que
                        1134 W Argyle St, Chicago, IL 60640

                        1. re: Caralien

                          gosh i'm starting to feel some pressure...i'm going to put it back as well as weiner circle..but if there's another favorite mex place in hayward, ca back in the 80's kept getting closed and i remained loyal and kept coming back until the last time when they were closed for recycling food left on plates...there's a fine balance in keeping prices low and serving good cheap eats... (:-D)