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Oct 26, 2011 03:23 AM

Top cheap eats in Chicago

I'm going to be in Chicago for the weekend. Any recommendatins for some top cheP eats while I'm there or some recommendations for some must have tastes. I have a couple nice restaurants in mind but I don't want to miss out on any hidden or low-end gems.

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  1. Maybe you could say more about where in Chicago or the suburbs you will be. This is a very big geographic area.

    Also, tell us what "nice restaurants" you have in mind so we know what you're already doing and what appeals to you.

    Will you have a car or will you be using public transportation?

    Are there particular types of food you especially like or want to avoid? Chicago has exceptional regional Mexican, authentic Thai, Vietnamese, Indian/Pakistani food in neighborhoods. Deep dish and stuffed pizzas were invented and perfected here. As were Italian beef and Chicago-style hot dogs. We also have some really special gastropubs with high end food many with wide range of beers, ales, ciders and wines. And that just scratches the surface.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chicgail

      Agreed....what area are you staying in and what are you looking for. There are lots of gems in Chicago....however, every neighborhood has LOTS! Downtown, loop, lincoln park, west loop, university village, etc...where are you going to be?

      1. re: sleopold

        Your location is very important. Since you'll only be here for the weekend, you probably won't want to spend an hour each way traveling to a distant neighborhood, especially when there may be comparable bargains (even on similar food) near where you'll be spending time.

        Also let us know what you mean by "cheap eats". For example, there are some restaurants where a person can order 2-3 courses of food for $25-35 (excluding beverages and tax/tip); some people would consider this to be "cheap eats", while others are looking to spend less than that.

        And indicate which meals you're asking about - breakfast, lunch (which can be anything from a sandwich to a 3-course meal), or dinner. And whether you normally have wine/alcohol with your meal, which can result in savings at BYOB restaurants.

        This discussion might help; it's 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? -

        One of the best pieces of advice there is to go to nicer places for lunch (lunch is rarely expensive, almost anywhere) and "cheaper" places for dinner. It also mentions some of the ethnic foods available in neighborhoods throughout the city.

    2. Earlier this year we spent a weekend in Chicago and enjoyed Jibek Jolu on N. Lincoln Ave. The cuisine is Central Asian about which I knew nothing before going there. We enjoyed trying something unique and the price tag was quite reasonable. The food was really good, too. No wine, but you can bring your own. There is a Walgreens just up the street or a liquor store down the street where you can pick up a bottle. We took the L there from our Loop hotel.

      1. "Cheap" has become a relative term, but let me try, assuming you mean downtown. 1) In the Loop on Wabash behind Macy's look for a jewelry mall at 21 N Wabash---there will be a sign out in front saying "Oasis Cafe". Walk through the jewelry to the back of the mall. Open only for lunch, Oasis offers very tasty Middle Eastern food with daily specials around $7, generous portions, big selection of usual ME entrees, salads, appetizers. 2) In the Gold Coast high-rent district about your best bet that isn't fast food will be Big Bowl (Cedar just east of State) where very good stir-fries can be as low as $10. BTW Big Bowl also has a branch on Ohio just west of Rush, a block from Eddie Bauer on Michigan. 3) General survival: Potbelly's all over town, where custom-made sandwiches and malted milks are 'way less than at most places. HOWEVER if you are driving or are willing to use subway or bus you can find lower prices once you get away from downtown. For example, Devon Avenue (Indian/Pakistani neighborhood 6400 North at about 2400 West) must have fifty restaurants offering all-you-can-eat buffet lunch for $7 or $8.

        Big Bowl
        60 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611

        1. Might be a bit late here since you mentioned "this weekend", but anyway, here's my suggestions:

          Aloha Grill (Listed as Aloha Eats on some websites) is one of my favorites for cheap eating. It's Hawaiian BBQ, odd for the area, but very very good. The mini-plate lunches (available at dinner too), are not really mini, they consist of whatever meat you choose (the chicken usually has 2-3 pounded out pieces of chicken that were larger than my hand each, more than enough), 1 large scoop of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad, and coleslaw, for $6-7. The regular plate lunches are a dollar or two more and you get more of the same thing. It's in Lincoln Park at 2534 N Clark St. if you're staying downtown you could take the Clark St bus. Aftewards you can go next door to Molly's Cupcakes, which are the best cupcakes I've ever had, for dessert :)

          Also I'd say Big Star in Wicker Park is a must try for cheaper eating. It's right off the blue line Damen stop so if you're staying downtown it's pretty easy/convenient to get to.

          Molly's Cupcakes
          2536 N Clark St, Chicago, IL

          Aloha Grill
          2534 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

          Big Star
          1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

          1 Reply
          1. re: juliejulez

            Big Star is awesome!

            Big Star
            1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622