Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Jun 15, 2009 10:14 AM

Chicago eats on the cheap

My family will be vacationing in Chicago the week of July 4th. Can someone tell me a little about Taste of Chicago? Also I'd love to know about good but affordable restaurants that locals eat at, not tourists. Last but not least I am a hot dog afficianado. I hear the dogs are great in Chicago but I want to know where I can get the best one.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Google "Taste of Chicago" and you'll learn more than you want to know. There are good food offerings there in all price categories. It's an excellent event. Though, this year, there will be fewer vendors and that may be a good thing.

    Regarding your question about "affordable" means in places "locals" eat at. As compared to where? What's your frame of reference and what type of meals are you speaking of. Get away from N. Michigan Avenue and other areas of "Downtown" and you're in "local" territory.

    About the hot dogs: you'll find no definitive answer to the question. One man's best is the next man's worst. Same goes for pizza, Italian Beef standwiches, etc. Hot dogs come in all sizes, shapes and with varied toppings. If you'll be staying on the Near North side of the city, or Downtown, then a dog from Portillo's or Gold Coast Dog will present popular Chicago styles.

    1. The Taste
      I responded to someone else's inquiry about Taste of Chicago yesterday and I'll pretty much repeat it here. Taste is crowded, hot, and sweaty with nowhere to sit if you do want to eat something. It is mostly tourists, suburbanites (not that there's anything wrong with that), kids and people who are trying to drink too much beer. How much pizza and fried stuff can you eat? There may be some decent offerings, but they're hard to find because the Tast\e covers a lot of real estate. That being said, I know there are members of this board who enjoy it. So this is just one opinion.

      Regarding good, affordable restaurants that locals eat at, the choices are many. Please provide some additional pieces of information:
      Where will you be staying?
      Will you have access to a car or will you be using public transportation?
      What kinds of food do you like?

      Hot dogs
      Like the conversation about pizza or steak or almost anything, "the best one" is a matter of opinion and there are many of those. You can get a good example of a Chicago-style hot dog at Portillos, which is a local chain and has a location of Ontario St. which is right in a downtowny part of the city. There are other places in the the neighborhods, but Portillos is a pretty good place to start. You can also get a decent Italian beef sandwich (another Chicagocentric food) there. Get it with sweet and hot peppers and "juice." I happen to like a combo which is Italian beef with Italian sausage.

      Now that being said, you may want to wander over to Hot Dougs on California and Roscoe for one of the most amazing exotic sausage sandwiches ever. Check out their website for specials. Fridays and Saturdays the fries are cooked in duck fat and it gets really busy, but plan on waiting in a line outside for at least a half-hour no matter when you go.

      Hot Doug's
      3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

      100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60654

      1. I second the Hot Doug's recommendation. Go on a weekday and not during typical lunch hour. There will be a line out the door when you go, but stay in the line!

        'Affordable' - not sure what you mean, but here is a very reasonable Italian recommendation: Coco Pazzo Cafe on St. Clair in Streeterville. They allow you to order half portions which I think is a great asset to travelers who don't take leftovers home.