Great Chicago Cheap Eats You Simply Must Try


by Anne Thompson

Like any big city Chicago has a wealth of different cuisines to choose from and a huge number of restaurants, cafes and other eateries serving them up.

And while eating out in Chicago can be rather pricey there are also plenty of places where enjoying a great meal does not have to entail cleaning out your wallet to do so.

SEE ALSO: The 5 Best Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago

Here's a look at some of our favorite 'cheap eats' in Chicago.

(in no particular order)

Butcher & the Burger

Located at 1021 W Armitage Ave


Part traditional butcher's shop, part hip restaurant getting a burger at this bright and friendly Lincoln Park eatery is a true DIY affair.

Customers are invited to choose their meat, their bun, their toppings and even their spice rub if they want one and then their choices are crafted into a delicious burger right in front of their eyes.

With all of this being so cool you might expect that the prices would be a little on the high side.

Not so. Burgers range from $7 for the house blend beef up to $12 for the freshly caught shrimp and salmon - which make delicious burgers by the way - so you really won't be paying too much more than you might at a fast food chain and the quality is so much better.

Sultan’s Market

Located at Hoyne Ave West Town, Wicker Park. Also, there's a second Sultan's Market location on Clark by Deming.

Sultan’s Market

Sultan’s Market is what some locals say one the very best middle-eastern cheap eats you can find, at least in Chicago.

Great falafel's and a deliciously looking salad bar to choose from makes this a "must go to spot". Oh, did we say their portions are huge.

And while you are there try the spinach pie or the lentil soup as it comes highly recommended by regulars.

Nando's Peri-Peri

Located at 953 W Randolph Street


Nando's, a South African restaurant chain, is HUGE in Europe, but it is catching on far more slowly here in the US.

In fact, despite the fact that the chain dominates in other parts of the world, it is only present in four states here; Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC and, most recently, Illinois.

The West Loop Nando's is, however, always busy, as its signature grilled chicken with peri peri sauce - peri peri being a South African pepper that imparts piquant heat before quickly fading - really is delicious.

The less adventurous may not want to dive right into the spiciest options - there's a convenient heat scale on the menu - but that's OK, as the milder options like mango-lime or lemon-herb are just as good.

Best of all? A 1/4 chicken with breast and wing and a choice of side (we recommend the macho peas or the red skinned mash) is just $7.95.

Hot "G" Dog

Located at 5009 N Clark St


Hot Doug's was the iconic Chicago 'hot-doggery' but in 2014 its founder, Doug Sohn, abruptly decided to shut up shop to spend more time with his family.

Hot 'G' Dog is owned by two of his former chefs - Octavio and Juan Garcia - and they have, in essence, recreated the original while still add some new touches and flourishes of their own.

And they do a pretty good job.

The duck fat fries that Hot Doug's was famous for still make an appearance on the weekends (and so do the big lines) and there is still a wide variety of hot dogs the likes of which out of towners at least won't have tasted before.

All of the old favorites are here and some may have even been improved upon, especially the decadent duck sausage dog.


A family owned place located at Wabash and Congress, South Loop. Also, there's a second Cafecito location on Wells, between Madison and Washington.


Sandwiches can be messy to eat and you might need to carry your toothbrush with you, just in case. Still, at Cafecito its all worth it, their tasty sandwiches is simply to die for. Their regulars just keep coming back making the line long at lunch time.

What do they serve, well the menu is mainly cuban sandwiches, served on delicious sandwich bread. Try the innovative Ropa Vieja sandwich or the Chivito to play safe.


Located at 925 W Randolph St


The West Loop is a notoriously expensive dining spot but there are a couple of handfuls of good, cheap places mixed in among all of the fancy stuff, and Nonna's is certainly one of them.

This small Italian joint specializes in creating traditional sandwiches with great ingredients and no fuss.

The highlight of the menu for many is the $8 meatball sub; crispy bread oozing with perfectly seasoned meatballs, gooey mozzarella and lashings of rich tomato sauce that is as 'down home' as it gets.

Its chicken parm opposite number is just as delicious and fans of vegetable dishes won't want to miss the wood fired zucchini sticks, they're truly amazing.

Xoco Bistro

Located at 1471 N Milwaukee Ave


Xoco Bistro is actually a Rick Bayless joint, a casual offshoot of the larger - and pricier of course - Xoco. Here they specialize in serving up tortas, caldos and other classic Mexican comfort foods in a laid back space that is rather easy going.

As good as the food is at any time of day it's the breakfast dishes that folks rave about (breakfast is served until 2pm though, so breakfast for lunch is an option) Our favorite? The breakfast tortas, which boast a crispy exterior and are filled with eggs, cheese peppers, veggies and chorizo. Oh, and every time also gets a complimentary seasonal fundido as an added bonus.

Honorable Mention

Ghareeb Nawaz

Located at 2032 W. Devon Ave. between Seeley Ave & Hoyne Ave.


Ghareeb Nawaz is becoming a popular go to for delicious, cheap and yes, cheap, Indian and Pakistani food. This is a truly popular place for locals in the know and could be packed with a diverse crowd.

You can come at almost any time, as they are open until late night. And, they keep their entire menu no matter what time it is.

The chili chicken, lamb khorma, and naan are popular among regulars and should be ordered if you want to play it safe.

This is a place you will go back to!