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Jun 13, 2011 06:09 PM

Cheap Casual Dinner?

We're celebrating some birthdays within our group of friends but most of us are broke recently graduated college students :(. We're really trying to keep the price down but we still want quality food. I'm looking for a nice cheap ($10-20 per person) casual place to eat dinner in Chicago this Saturday. The plan is to eat dinner and then go bar hopping, so it would be nice if there are bars near the restaurant (within walking distance). Right now we're thinking around Belmont ave, near north side, or the Loop.

Food we can't/won't eat for various reasons

Here are some places we're considering
Gilt Bar
Hub 51
Icosium Kafe
90 miles Cuban cafe
Café Ba Ba Reeba
Sidebar grille
Nacional 27

(anyone know what the prices are for the following places? I couldn't find it on their website)
tango sur
cafe iberico

We've never gone bar hopping in Chicago so any suggestions are welcome!

Nacional 27
325 W. Huron, Chicago, IL 60610

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  1. >> (anyone know what the prices are for the following places? I couldn't find it on their website)

    tango sur -
    cafe iberico -

    You probably won't hit $10-20 per person at most of the places you've listed, unless you limit yourself (e.g. to burgers instead of entrees). Even at the tapas places like Cafe Iberico and Ba-Ba-Reeba, they serve small plates, so you're going to get more than one dish per person and will probably come out over that figure there too. So you will need to either raise your price target, or consider going elsewhere.

    Ethnic food generally offers the best bargains around, but it seems you want to rule that out, which is unfortunate - you've eliminated many of the best value-priced restaurants around. Pizza is a good bargain that you haven't mentioned. You might want to consider places like Rockit Bar & Grill, or maybe Kuma's Corner or Twisted Spoke or Hopleaf, places that are lively but not expensive.

    You also might want to take a look at this discussion, which is an overview listing some of our best in various food categories, as well as advice for getting the best value for your dining dollar:

    Where are the best Chicago dinner *values* - the hidden gems? -

    1. I don't know all those places, but some of them
      are going to be hard to do for $10-$20/ person.

      90 Miles is fun, especially if the weather is nice. Also consider Belly Shack. It's hip. It's cheap. It's fun. It's Latin/Asian fusion and BYO, right under the Western Avenue El stop on the Blue line (not far from 90 miles).

      5 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        >> It's Latin/Asian fusion

        That's one example (of many) that seems to be ruled out by this:

        >> Food we can't/won't eat for various reasons
        >> Asian
        >> Mexican

        (I know, Latin includes more than just Mexican, but...)

        1. re: nsxtasy

          I obviously misread the OP, probably because Nationale 27, 90 Miles and Babareba are all Latin.

          1. re: chicgail

            Or maybe it's just a confusing request - between ruling out ethnic foods that are included in the listed choices, and stating a price target that the listed choices exceed...

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Sorry guys,
              I guess this was a pretty confusing request. The reason I ruled out Asian and Mexican is because we're a pretty diverse group of friends and eating the food that we eat at home in restaurants is usually hit or miss. We wanted something different (fusion would be fine) and we have someone allergic to seafood. I listed those restaurants because based on their menus they offered choices that were different from what we've eaten.

              I've never eaten at any of these restaurants so I wasn't sure what to expect portion wise. I'll definitely be ruling out cafe iberico and Ba ba reeba.

              Thanks for all your suggestions, this has been helpful :)!

              1. re: melid

                Belly Shack also has the advantage of being located near many, many great bars (Green Eye, Revolution, Cole's, The Whistler to the Northwest) or... well, any number of places in Wicker Park to the Southeast (Big Star comes to mind). Food is very good, but something about the space sometimes leaves me cold. It seems... I don't know, just cold. Maybe it reminds me a little of Chipotle? Hardly a deal-breaker, just a random aside.

                It's Latin, but I'll suggest it anyway if only because they're BYO and would be completely in your price range (so 2/3 of what you want!) -- Irazu. Very well done Costa Rican, staffed by really nice, friendly people. Plenty of outdoor seating, too, which is always nice this time of year. Note, though, they don't accept reservations.

      2. Not in one of your locations but we've had great group dinners at La Bocca Della Verita in Lincoln Square ... Not sure of bar hopping tho I think there are options near there as well.

        In River North, La Madia might work as well - good prices and good food (their Risottos are often delicious) and there are tons of bars nearby. While they describe themselves as a pizzeria, the food and atmosphere feel more polished than that implies.

        La Madia - A Contemporary Pizzeria
        59 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60610

        1. You should be able to eat for $20 a person at Iberico with ease. And even get some sangria in the bargain. Dishes are around $4.50 to $9, apart from paella, which is around $12 or so, depending on type. While it IS tapas, the servings are actually pretty generous and about two dishes, perhaps three, per person will fill you up. I live nearby and go there quite often, and in my experience, dinner for 3 with a pitcher of sangria is about $50 before tip. The pulpa a la plancha (grilled octopus with potato) is a must. The specials menu is a bit more expensive than the regular menu, but almost always worth it in terms of both quantity and quality.

          On weekends, go early. The place gets slammed by 7 or so.

          The Clark St. Ale House is right around the corner, too. Great beer and a nice back garden. If you're young and can handle the crowds, the Division St. strip of bars is about four blocks north and a couple of blocks east.

          Iberico Cafe & Bar
          737 N La Salle Dr, Chicago, IL 60654

          1 Reply
          1. re: Pete Oldtown

            I agree, and I was thinking this myself. I wouldn't rule out Cafe Iberico based on price, although I probably wouldn't go there on a weekend evening at prime times because you'll wait forever to be seated, as Pete also notes. It's not an expensive place, but like many other places mentioned here you'll end up paying way more than $20; that $50 plus tip per person, which makes it $60, sounds about right. If this is for a weekend, you won't pay all that much more at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, either, and they accept reservations so the wait isn't a concern. I just wanted to make clear that those $5-9 dishes aren't entree sized, so you didn't get the wrong impression.

            Cafe Iberico
            737 N Lasalle Drive, Chicago, IL 60654

            Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba
            2024 North Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60614

          2. You can see the menu of Tango Sur (and 3000 other Chicago restaurants) by going to "chicago restaurant menus". Know offerings and prices before showing up. Absolutely one of the most interesting and useful websites if you eat out in Chicago. Each restaurant listing also gives location, phone number, hours, credit card and access information, and customer reviews.

            Tango Sur
            3763 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60613