38 Tasty Places to Eat for Cheap in Chicago

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CHEAP EATS IN CHICAGO

The Windy City has a well-deserved reputation as one of the top foodie-friendly cities in America. From Chicago's patented hot dogs and pizza to authentic international cuisine, there's a wide spectrum of flavors to uncover. Those who know where to go can sample some of the city's best gustatory offerings on the cheap.

BRANKO'S SUBMARINES


1118 W. Fullerton Ave.

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Phone: (773) 472-4873

Web: brankossandwichshop.com

This "mom-and-pop sandwich shop" offers a variety of hot dogs, hamburgers, and sandwiches made with fresh ingredients. The cash-only establishment has been known to feed DePaul University students with empty wallets and let them pay later.

IRAZU


1865 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Neighborhood: Bucktown

Phone: (773) 252-5687

Web: irazuchicago.com

For Central American specialties, including the greasy and delicious pepito sandwich, head to this Costa Rican spot. Try a steak or chicken taco for $2, and don't miss a side of sweet plantains for $3.

PIECE


1927 W. North Ave.

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Phone: (773) 772-4422

Web: piecechicago.com

Visit this pizzeria to consume thin-crust pies and a variety of microbrews, catch a game, or grab the mic for Saturday-night live-band karaoke. Personal pizzas start at $6.95 daily at lunch and large, tempting sandwiches such as the meatball sub go for $7.95.

JOY'S NOODLES AND RICE


3257 N. Broadway

Neighborhood: Lakeview

Phone: (773) 327-8330

Web: joysnoodlesandrice.com

This is the spot for good Thai food at bargain prices in Boystown. Monday through Friday, customers can order a $6.75 lunch special that includes an entree (such as pad Thai or drunken noodles) and a choice of spring rolls, baby egg rolls, cucumber salad, or crab Rangoon.

RACINE PLUMBING BAR AND GRILL


2642 N. Lincoln Ave.

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Phone: (773) 871-1600

Web: racineplumbingchicago.com

This neighborhood sports bar serves up classic American fare for humble prices. Enjoy one of the many half-pound burgers for less than $10 any day of the week. Tasty classics such as mac and cheese for $5 round out the menu.

ALOHA EATS


2534 N. Clark St.

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Phone: (773) 935-6828

Web: alohaeats.com

Try authentic and uniquely Hawaiian fare such as Spam musubi -- hand-rolled rice, Japanese seaweed, and teriyaki sauce -- for about $5. Combination plates that come with meat, rice, and macaroni salad start at less than $10.

UNCLE SAMMY'S


1231 W. Fullerton Ave.

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Phone: (773) 525-4800

Web: unclesammysdelivers.com

This shop serves a variety of big $6.69 sandwiches made on freshly baked bread, which comes out of the oven every 20 to 30 minutes. Try a bowl of soup for $3.50 and add sides such as chips for $1.50.

P.S. BANGKOK 2


2521 N. Halsted St.

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Phone: (773) 348-0072

Web: psbangkok2.com

This restaurant offers a variety of traditional dishes such as curries. The low prices include a sampling of dumplings for less than $5, soups starting at $3, and pad Thai for $6.95.

FLUB A DUB CHUB'S


3021 N. Broadway

Neighborhood: Lakeview

Phone: (773) 857-6500

Web: flubadubchub.com

People love this place for oversize sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs that come with a side of fries. Highlights include the Esposito, which combines Italian sausage with marinara on French bread for about $8, and the Coney, a house-made chili dog for $6.

PENNY'S NOODLE SHOP


950 W. Diversey Pkwy

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Phone: (773) 281-8448

Web: pennysnoodleshop.com

Large bowls of noodles, vegetables, and soup are available for $5 to $9, and the pad Thai should not be missed. The variety of inexpensive Thai food on offer is delicious, fast, and filling. Two other locations serve Wicker Park/Bucktown and Oak Park.

CAPT'N NEMO'S SUBS


3650 N. Ashland Ave.

Neighborhood: Lakeview

Phone: (773) 929-7687

Web: capnemos.com

This shop boasts that its sub sandwiches contain more meat than bread, and toppings include the Captain's Secret Sauce. Half sandwiches cost $5.19, and a cup of fresh soup of the day goes for $1.99.

THE WIENER CIRCLE


2622 N. Clark St.

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Phone: (773) 477-7444

Web: wienercircle.net

Known for late-night grub and banter between employees and patrons, this fast-food spot specializes in Chicago-style hot dogs and some of the best cheese fries in town. The dogs start at $3.10 and sides at $2.15.

PEQUOD'S PIZZA


2207 N. Clybourn Ave.

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Phone: (773) 327-1512

Web: pequodspizza.com

Pizza lovers can enjoy a $4.95 lunch special: a 7-inch cheese pizza and a fountain drink. Half-orders of pasta provide a money-saving option for light eaters. Other cheap menu items include garlic bread for $3.15 and soup of the day for $3.75.

PIZZA CAPRI


1501 E. 53rd St.

Neighborhood: Hyde Park

Phone: (773) 324-7777

Web: pizzacapri.com

From hearty sandwiches to thin-crust pizza made with fresh ingredients, this spot offers a slew of reasonably priced dishes. Value-driven favorites include homemade hummus for $5.95, sandwiches that come with chips for $7.50, and house-made soups for $3.95. There's also a Lincoln Park location at 1733 N. Halsted.

WOODLAWN TAP


1172 E. 55th St.

Neighborhood: Hyde Park

Phone: (773) 643-5516

Web: josephsittler.org/jimmys

Known to regulars as Jimmy's, this cozy local pub has been around since the 1950s. The menu offers inexpensive grub including hamburgers for $3, cheeseburgers for $3.50, and classic, loaded, all-beef Chicago dogs for $4.

VALOIS


1518 E. 53rd St.

Neighborhood: South Side

Phone: (773) 667-0647

Web: valoisrestaurant.com

This long-standing restaurant has been serving quick, cheap eats for decades. There is often a long line, which says something about the quality and value of the food. Try the patty melt for $3.75 or grab a chef salad for $3.95.

MORRY'S DELI


5500 S. Cornell Ave.

Neighborhood: Hyde Park

Phone: (773) 363-3800

Web: morrysdeli.com

Morry's is known locally as a hidden gem with better prices than other delis around. (The owner's daughter is personal finance expert Suze Orman.) The sandwich shop serves staples such as pastrami and corned beef, as well as a breakfast sandwich for $4.50.

LAWRENCE'S FISH AND SHRIMP


2120 S. Canal St.

Neighborhood: South Side

Phone: (312) 225-2113

Web: lawrencesfisheries.net

This crowded seafood joint is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to satisfy 3 a.m. fried-shrimp cravings. A half-order of fish chips goes for $4.45 and the food is prepared fresh daily.

KEN KEE RESTAURANT


2129 S. China Place

Neighborhood: Chinatown

Phone: (312) 326-2088

Web: kenkee.com

This Chinese restaurant is known for reasonably priced, authentic dishes including a variety of congee (rice porridges) for $4.95. Grab a snack such as an egg roll for $1.95 or some fried dough fritters for $1.75.

CAFE TRINIDAD


700 E. 47th St.

Neighborhood: South Side

Phone: (773) 624-0715

Web: cafetrinidad.com

Specials at this Caribbean dining spot include curry crab, dumplings, and callaloo. All of the reasonably priced entrees, starting at $9.50, come with rice and peas, plantains, and a choice of side. Daily lunch specials such as jerk chicken wings start at $7.90.

NATHAN'S CHICAGO STYLE AND TASTE OF JAMAICA


1372 E. 53rd St.

Neighborhood: Hyde Park

Phone: (773) 288-5353

Web: nathanschicago.net

In addition to the items expected at a hot dog stand, customers will find Jamaican specialties including beef patties for $2.59. Authentic fried plantains are $2.89, providing a perfect complement to almost anything else on the menu.

PIZZERIA BRANDI


67 E. Cermak Road

Neighborhood: Near South Side

Phone: (312) 794-5900

Web: brandipizza.com

Customers have a choice of stuffed, deep-dish or cheaper thin-crust pizza starting at $8 for a 10-inch small. The restaurant also offers a variety of sandwiches for $5 to $8. An $8.99 pasta dinner offers a choice of pasta and sauce and includes bread and butter.

JUBILEE JUICE


140 N. Halsted St.

Neighborhood: West Side

Phone: (312) 491-8500

Web: jubileejuice.com

Indulge in a healthy alternative to fast food with natural smoothies, charbroiled dishes, and grilled food. Some of the best deals on offer include sandwiches for $6.50 and entree salads such as the BBQ Baja for $7.50.

PHILLY'S BEST


907 W. Belmont Ave.

Neighborhood: Lakeview

Phone: (773) 525-7900

Web: phillysbest.com

Philadelphia transplants started this restaurant, which has expanded to three other locations and serves an acclaimed Philly cheesesteak sandwich. The 8-inch goes for $7.99. Or, try an oven-baked grinder with ingredients such as chicken, cheese, and bacon heated along with the bread.

MORGAN STREET CAFE


111 S. Morgan St.

Neighborhood: West Loop

Phone: (312) 850-0234

Web: morganstreetcafe.com

Employees call customers by name at this small coffee/sandwich shop. A wide range of made-to-order sandwiches, including a Rueben and Mediterranean veggie, cost less than $8.

MOON'S SANDWICH SHOP


16 S. Western Ave.

Neighborhood: West Side

Phone: (312) 226-5094

Web: moonssandwichshopchicago.com

Moon's offers tasty and reasonably priced food for breakfast and lunch. The diner is known for its corned beef dinner platter, which includes corn, potatoes, salad, and bread for just under $12. Notable breakfast deals include French toast for $3.75 and a two-egg breakfast with choice of side and toast for $4.60.

MACARTHUR'S


5412 W. Madison St.

Neighborhood: Austin

Phone: (773) 261-2316

Web: macarthursrestaurant.com

This popular spot welcomes diners with a family atmosphere and low prices. The menu changes daily and includes dishes such as meatloaf, pork spare ribs, fried chicken, and other soul food. All dinners come with two sides and most cost $6.99 to $8.99.

BARI


1120 W. Grand Ave.

Neighborhood: Near West Side

Phone: (312) 666-0730

Web: bariitaliansubs.com

This Italian grocery/deli, named for a town in Italy, is known for oversize subs and people lining up hungrily to get them. Nine-inch sandwiches start at $5.25; foot-longs sell for $6.75 and up.

FEED


2803 W. Chicago Ave.

Neighborhood: Humboldt Park

Phone: (773) 489-4600

Web: feedrestaurantchicago.com

For Southern comfort food such as pulled pork and fried catfish, this casual restaurant is a locally loved low-key place. Nightly specials include chicken and sausage gumbo on Mondays and pork chop night on Tuesdays, as well as staples such as a half chicken for $8.49. Sides, including fried okra and collard greens, are $2.19 or three for $5.49.

AL'S BEEF


601 W. Adams St.

Neighborhood: Near West Side

Phone: (312) 559-2333

Web: alsbeef.com

For an authentic and delicious Italian beef sandwich, this place is tough to beat. It has earned many awards over the decades as it's grown from a small beef stand into a multi-state franchise. This location has a bigger, cheaper menu than the original (on Taylor Street in Little Italy). Regular 6-inch beef sandwiches go for $6.35 and a 4-inch Little Al is $4.99.

BABA PITA


2343 W. Taylor St.

Neighborhood: West Side

Phone: (312) 243-3439

Web: babapita.com

This Mediterranean restaurant serves fresh and healthy Lebanese cuisine. Sandwiches start at $6, and the menu includes a range of fresh veggie-forward appetizers such as lentil soup for $3.

CERES CAFE


141 W. Jackson Blvd.

Neighborhood: The Loop

Phone: (312) 427-3443

Web: cerescafechicago.com

This neighborhood favorite is well loved for honest comfort food at low prices. Budget-friendly breakfasts include corned beef hash for $5.45 and eggs with potatoes, toast, or fresh fruit for $5.35. The savings continue into lunch and dinner with daily special platters such as filet of sole and Greek chicken, which include soup and salad or potato for less than $12.

GOODWIN'S


333 W. Wacker Dr.

Neighborhood: The Loop

Phone: (312) 634-1134

Web: surfgoodwins.com

The many unique breakfast sandwiches here cost around $5. Specialties include the Venice, which combines chunky peanut butter with bacon, banana, and honey on Texas toast for $4.79, and the Los Olivos tortilla wrap with chorizo, cilantro, pepper jack cheese, avocado, and pico de gallo for $5.85.

CHICKEN PLANET


177 W. Van Buren St.

Neighborhood: The Loop

Phone: (312) 360-1409

Web: chickenplanetchicago.com

Tasty, cheap lunch options -- most based around chicken -- keep college students and others on tight budgets coming back. A typical meal includes a half chicken with grilled pita bread for $5.88. Add a side salad for less than $2.

WOW BAO RESTAURANT


175 W. Jackson Blvd.

Neighborhood: The Loop

Phone: (312) 334-6395

Web: wowbao.com

For a lunchtime break that doesn't consist of a sandwich, this cheap downtown Chicago restaurant (with five other locations, including a food truck) offers an array of Asian dishes including pot stickers and, of course, bao. They cost $1.89 apiece or $10.99 for six, and pot stickers come in five- or eight-piece portions for less than $1 per dumpling.

PIEROGI HEAVEN


169 N. Wells St.

Neighborhood: The Loop

Phone: (312) 263-9305

Web: pierogiheaven.com

For a substantial portion at an insubstantial price, order a pierogi platter, starting at $5.39 for six pieces. The borscht is another favorite here, available in a cup for $1.99 or a hearty bowl with meat dumplings for $3.99. A special of stuffed cabbage with meat comes with mashed potatoes and mushroom or tomato sauce for $9.99.

CAFECITO


26 E. Congress Pkwy

Neighborhood: South Loop

Phone: (312) 922-2233

Web: cafecitochicago.com

Get authentic Cuban sandwiches for less than $7, with an option to add chips and a 16-ounce drink for $1.79. The menu also boasts a variety of platters, such as ropa vieja and pollo chimichurri, which come with rice, beans, and plantains for less than $10. Another Cafecito is located at 7 N. Wells.

TACO FRESCO


29 N. Upper Wacker Dr.

Neighborhood: The Loop

Phone: (312) 920-0077

Web: tacofresco.com

This casual restaurant serves fresh Mexican food at reasonable prices at six downtown and suburban locations. Order tacos a la carte for $1.95 to $2.75 apiece, depending on the filling, or in a combo, which includes two tacos, beans, rice, and a can of pop for $6.45. Other wallet-friendly menu items: $5.25 burritos, $2.50 tostadas, and $1.95 soups.