On the Cheap: Top Eats in Chicago

On the Cheap: Top Eats in Chicago

Although Chicago tends to be an expensive city for tourists and residents alike, there are tons of budget dining options for students. Whether you're craving a famous Chicago deep-dish pizza or something completely different, we've compiled a list that will help you find the top places to eat in Chicago without breaking the bank.

Our Recommendations

1. Giordano's Pizza

Giordano's Pizza was chosen "Best Pizza in America" by NBC. The company started in 1974 after its owners, brothers Efren and Joseph Boglio, were discouraged at the lack of authentic pizza available in the Chicago area. The company's slogan is "Chicago's World Famous Stuffed Pizza".

2. Hot Dougs

The self-proclaimed "Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium", Hot Doug's won a 2006 Good Eating award from the Chicago Tribune which noted the restaurant's "cult status" among hot dog aficionados. Hot Doug's specializes in hot dogs and other encased meats and is located in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood.

3. Portillo's Hot Dogs

This suburban favorite for hot dogs also serves ribs, hamburgers and chili. It also features a variety of salads for non-meat eaters.

4. Piece

The menu is chocked full of appetizers, salads and desserts, but the "pièce de résistance" is the pizza. Oblong and in three offerings (red, plain and white), the thin, hand-padded pies (as opposed to tossed) are made the New Haven way. Toppings are used sparingly, with emphasis placed on the sauce and crust.

5. Sarkis Grill

This tiny-but-beloved Evanston breakfast favorite is where former owner Sarkis Tashjian's personality and his "disasters" draw regulars. Since 1965, Sarkis Grill has been a mainstay on the North Shore for its rapid-fire service, signature dishes such as the "Disaster Sandwich" and the "Loretta". The restaurant continues to thrive under current owner Scott Jaffe and has since opened a new location in Lincoln Park (Sarks in the Park).

6. Superdawg Drive-In

Opened in May of 1948 to help its owner work his way through school, this family owned and operated drive in established at the corner of Milwaukee, Devon and Nagle has grown into one of the area's most popular hot dog stands.

7. Bongo Room

This wildy popular spot, with locations in Wicker Park and the South Loop, features the same breakfast and lunch fare as the original. Favorites include the breakfast burrito (cilantro-jalapeno tortilla filled with guacamole and scrambled eggs) and the Oreo cookie flapjacks.

How to Find Your Own Cheap Eats in Chicago!

Step 1

Purchase a budget guidebook or two in advance of your trip or surf the web before you arrive; many guides include restaurant listings in a variety of price ranges.

Step 2

Find out about the best places to get local specialties. The manager or concierge at your hotel should be able to provide you with a list of suggestions.

Step 3

Try a Chicago-style hot dog for a quick, cheap and tasty meal. Chicago-style hot dogs are usually served with celery salt, tomato slices and yellow peppercinis, all on a poppy-seed hot dog bun.

Step 4

Buy a local newspaper or magazine as soon as you arrive ' check out the "Chicago Tribune," "Chicago Sun-Times," "Chicago Magazine" or other local publications for restaurant listings and reviews.

Step 5

Consider some of the many ethnic options around town if you want something other than standard American fare. European-style cuisine tends to be more expensive than Asian food (unless you want sushi), but you can check out the prices on posted menus or ask to look at a menu before you sit down.

Visiting another city? Check out our restaurant listings for Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle

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