A restaurant need not brandish Michelin stars or a three-figure tasting menu to stand out. In fact, some of the best bites in the city come at bargain prices, much to the delight of our wallets. In no particular order, here are eight of our favorite spots for cheap eats in Chicago.
① Hot Doug's in Avondale
Even before owner Doug Sohn announced its imminent closing, this self-proclaimed "sausage superstore and encased meat emporium" has had lines out the door and around the block. Go for a specialty creation, like the veal saltimbocca sausage with sage mustard, Jarlsberg cheese and fried prosciutto ($9) and a side of Sohn's famous duck fat fries ($4).
② Fontano's Subs in the Loop
Fontano's is one of the city's most enduring local sub shops, and for good reason: it packs Italian flair and fresh, high-quality ingredients in every single one of its hot and cold sammies. Try a six-inch, fully-loaded Blockbuster with ham, salami, capicola, provolone and Swiss cheese for $6.25.
③ Pleasant House Bakery in Bridgeport
Pleasant House specializes in single-portion, savory "Royal Pies" made with a flaky, buttery pastry crust and a variety of fillings baked inside. Try the Steak and Ale Pie ($7.95) with tender hunks of beef, carrots and herbs, and pair it with traditional thick-cut British chips ($1.99).
④ Saigon Sisters in West Loop
When it comes to modern Vietnamese cuisine, this award-winning Lake St. eatery trumps all. Lunch fare, like the classic banh mi ($7), caramelized chicken banh bao (open-faced steamed buns, three for $8.50) and beef, chicken or veggie pho ($8.50) can all be had for less than a newly minted Hamilton.
⑤ Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Avondale
HBFC's attention to detail and commitment to sustainability are only part of why it earns a spot on our list. The real reason? A two-piece order of gorgeously golden fried chicken, a side of honey butter and two corn muffins shaped like honeycombs ($8).
⑥ Scofflaw in Logan Square
Where else can you get your fill of craft cocktails, confit pork belly and gourmet s'mores for $8 each? This handsome bar offers some of the most creative late-night eats in town, as well as an eye-popping (40+ bottles) collection of gin. Bonus: fresh-baked cookies gratis every night at midnight.
⑦ Edzo's Burger Shop in Lincoln Park
This no-frills fast food shop turns out juicy griddled burgers ($6.49 for a double) made with beef that's butchered and ground in-house daily. Since burgers demand a side of fries, snag some smothered in cheese, bacon, scallions and sour cream ($5.19) and a creamy maple milkshake ($4.50) for your sweet tooth.
⑧ 90 Miles Cuban Café in Roscoe Village
Embrace authentic Cuban cuisine at this casual spinoff of the popular family-owned Logan Square operation. The Cubano sandwich ($6.95) comes with Cuban ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and tangy mustard, and pairs perfectly with a side of sweet fried plantains ($3).