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Mar 13, 2013 08:53 AM

New Yorker looking for quintessential Chicago cheap eats

I'm going to be in Chicago for a couple of days - are there any signature or must-have cheap eats that I should have while I'm there (under 20 dollars a person) both including restaurants and other food stands or carts or anything? Any location within the city is fine, though I'll be limited to public transportation on this trip.

Happy to be referred to any quintessential cheap eats threads Chicago hounds may know that I may have missed as well. Thanks.

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  1. See this thread:

    Also search the board for

    "pizza" for recommended locations of Chicago's signature deep dish pizza (Lou Malnattis, Giordanos, Pizano, and others);

    "Italian beef," some locations noted in the thread above, based on that poster's request for suggestions near his hotel, but there are many others;

    "hot dogs"

    Also, Chicago is chockful of Mexican food, including inexpensive taquerias.

    1. Italian beef from Al's on Taylor
      Italian sub from J. P. Graziano's
      Hot dog from Hot Doug's
      Thin crust pizza at Coalfire
      Tacos at La Chaparrita
      Tortas at Xoco
      Banh mi at Nhu Lan
      Burger at Au Cheval

      1 Reply
      1. re: camusman

        So first of all, you can get a really decent Italian beef sandwich or a Chicago dog at any of the Portillos locations. If you are in the central city area where most tourists are congregated, there is one on Ontario and Clark.

        It is not worth the trek and the wait out to Hot Dougs for a hot dog. You can get a decent Chicago dog almost anywhere in the city. However, it is worth the trek and the wait out to Hot Doug's for one of their stellar encased meat sandwiches (like the Foie Gras And Sauternes Duck Sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse and fleur de sel or the Cognac lamb and pork sausage with mint mustard cream and double creme brie cheese).

        Ditto on the tortas as Xoco, but don't miss the churros - better than any I have had in Mexico.

        Pizza at Coalfire is very good, but it very small and doesn't take reservations. It is also not specific to Chicago. I would second Masha's recommendations to try Chicago deep dish pizza. It was invented here. It is nothing like the "Chicago-style" pizza served in other places. Best bets: Unos, Due, Lou Malnoti or Pizanos.

        Also very good, very authentic Thai at Spoon or Sticky Rice (northern Thai).

      2. Re: food trucks

        Until very recently, food trucks in Chicago were not allowed to actually cook their food on board. Also trucks in Chicago have to follow a very specific set of rules governing where they can park their vehicle--no food truck can park within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and that includes convenience stores and gas stations!

        There are also some city-sanctioned food truck stands but mobile food vendors can only stay at those spots for two hours max.