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Downtown Chicago & River North 5 Days Good Eats on Budget

Will be in Chicago for 5 days with family of 4(2 teen boys) . I am looking for ideas for unique food places in Chicago that we can get on the go and sit down for a family by the Museums, Willis tower, Pier, Mag Mile, River North areas. Will be doing public transportation so can not wander to far nor will the Kids wait hour in line for a hotdog. I have Ginos and Lou Malnatis on the to do list but need some help filling in cool unique to Chicago establishments the rest of the days. Family loves to try new and different. Just not looking on spending $20 for each of us for every meal every day. Any Help appreciated.

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  1. It can tough to eat cheap, but there are lots of options. First unless you're really a into it, two Chicago deep-dish pizzas may be overkill. Preface, I am not a native Chicagoan and my home-town pizza is Little Ceasers and Dominos, but over my 12 years in Chicago, I have learned to really like Lou Malnati's -- get "The Lou".

    Something that's unique now in the Loop (by Sears tower) is Roti -- fast food mediteranean / lebanese. Its about to go national franchise as the Chipotle for middle eastern food. Its great and cheap.

    To get the Chicago Hot Dog / Italian Beef you can try Portilos. Its in River North and while some say not their favorite, Dogs & Beef are totally subjective just like a NYers favorite slice.

    If you want gourmet sausages and hot dogs without the Hot Doug's wait. Go to Franks n Dawgs on N Clybourn. It's in a (becoming very commercial) shopping spot. I like the encased meats as much as anything I've tried at Doug's and I like the fries better. This is a couple miles northwest of River North/Mag Mile, a cab would be $10 or there are busses.

    A nice family meal -- something my family alwasy does -- can be had in Little Italy on Taylor Street. I like Davanti Enoteca (though now it too has "mini-chained" itself). For old-school red sauce (and maybe bodies buried in the basement) try the Original Rosebud or Francesca's.

    Great diner/breakfast is Little Goat on Randolph street and my favorite (still for two years) is Au Cheval for the best cheeseburger and pork chop you could have.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jbontario

      I really want to echo the suggestion of Franks 'n Dawgs. My own love of Hot Doug's notwithstanding, FnD seems like it would be a great stop for you and your family. They're also BYO (so it can be fun for the adults, too!) and there's a colossal wine/beer/spirits store nearby called Binny's. Also, I would actually suggest taking the Red line to North/Clybourn rather than a bus.

      1. re: danimalarkey

        Me, three.

        I just ate at Franks 'n Dawgs on Saturday for the first time in maybe a year and a half.

        The encased meats were MUCH better than I had remembered, maybe even better than Hot Doug's (I don't so much like the cheeses HD puts on its sausages), but I still vastly prefer the environment (wait and all) at HD. I had a Poor Boy with a shrimp sausage that was as light as a mousse and topped with fried green tomatoes.

        Truly amazing. I kicked myself for not also ordering the truffle fries.

    2. Based on your criteria I think you would enjoy walking around the French Market in the train station at 131 N. Clinton. Some interesting options there.
      There is also a small food court on the 7th floor of Macy's on State with pretty good choices.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Polski

        Second the French Market rec ... some low cost options and a lot of variety in the food court so each family member can do something different if they want.

        1. re: Polski

          Ditto French Market; it offers some "Taste of Chicago" experiences, Little Goat, Saigon Sisters and lots more.

          Near the museums (not too near, but not far), try Bongo Room or Meli Cafe for breakfast, Cafecito for lunch.

        2. Take a look at Heaven on Seven in River North or the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants like Big Bowl, Bub City, Ba Ba Reeba, HUB 51 or RJ Grunts. Also, check out Cafe Iberico (the tapas come in large portions). Some of these may meet your needs without feeling like fast food or breaking the budget.

          1. Great Suggestions !! Thanks Much. I really like the idea of French Market since it is close to the hotel we are staying. I also will check out Macy's food court suggestion that allows one to pick, sample and share. We really enjoyed some unique diversity of upscale vendor stalls San fran Westfield Food Court, food is 4 star at 2 star prices. Are there any other notable or advisable markets/stalls/courts in Chicago proper that are not to be missed? POLSKI- Dziękuję Panie

            1 Reply
            1. re: sy_base

              Prosze bardzo.
              Good stuff from the Old Country can be had at Podhalanka, a short trip on the blue line train from downtown. (close by is fantastic carne asada at La Pasadita)
              Stop by our new Ecco Eataly mid-afternoon when the crowds are not quite so bad.
              Another great but busy place to hit during off hours is Purple Pig.

            2. If you're going to be around on Sunday morning, you might want to give Maxwell Street Market a try. Lots of good options for south-of-the-border street food (Rubi's is my fav), and then you could always head back down Roosevelt Road for a brisk walk to Museum Campus