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The Best Cheap Eats in Chicago

From Italian Beef sandwiches to Polish-and-Korean-inspired street food, here's where to eat well on a dime
The Best Cheap Eats in Chicago
Photo: Aloha Pokē Co.

Between the vibrant nightlife, easy office building-to-beachfront commute, booming arts and culture scene, and epic skyline, Chicago's got it all. Still, there's no denying the fact that big-city living comes with a hefty price tag. Luckily, the city is also full of excellent cheap eats, from pizza and poke to chicken and cheeseburgers, all for $10 or under. So we've rounded up the best to make sure your biggest decision this summer is which condiments to reach for—not which credit card.

① Fried Chicken at Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Budget-friendly price points are the name of the game at this Avondale corner fixture, where guests can order 10 chicken wings on Wing Wednesdays, or two fried chicken tacos and a can of Tecate on Taco Tuesdays for just $10. If you're looking to visit during weekend hours, fear not: Almost everything on offer is priced to please, from the pimento mac 'n' cheese with Wisconsin cheddar and bread crumbs for $4 to the signature chicken sandwich with fried chicken strips, candied jalapeño mayo and crunchy slaw for $8.50.

Fried chicken tacos | Photo: Tim Musho

② Garlic Shrimp Tacos at Antique Taco

Photos from any of the three locations of this taco gem look great in just about every Instagram filter, thanks to rustic wood furnishings, chalkboard menus and thoughtful details like striped paper straws, mason jars and chewing-gum freebies. Then, of course, there's the Midwest Mexican fare, from chili cheese curds ($9) with tortillas and cilantro to garlic shrimp tacos ($9) with fried kale, elote-style cauliflower and avocado salsa.

③ Italian Beef at Portillo's

This Chicago icon may have started as a hot dog cart in 1963, but since then, it's established a national cult following, thanks to favorites like Polish sausage, Chicago-style dogs and a notorious chocolate cake. Just don't miss the Italian beef ($6), thinly sliced and marinated in a gravy of Italian herbs and seasoning, and sandwiched between two pieces of fluffy French bread.

Italian beef hero | Photo: Portillo's

④ Poke at Aloha Poke Co.

Poke is making some serious waves in Chicago, and much of it started with this seafood-centric company that has opened four locations in just one year. Credit that success to crazy fresh fish, affordable price points and as many toppings as you can fit into the "little" or "big" bowls, priced at just $7.50 and $9.50, respectively.

Ahi tuna poke bowl | Photo: Aloha Pokē Co.

⑤ Polish Korean Eats at Kimski

This Bridgeport hangout gathers neighborhood crowds on the nightly for Polish-and-Korean-inspired street food, a clever hybrid that takes the form of Dressed Fries ($6), gussied up with rayu chile oil, tamari sour cream, nori and scallions, or the Maria's Standard ($9), a sausage dressed in soju mustard and kimchi sauerkraut.

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⑥ Char Dogs at Fatso's Last Stand

There's no shortage of options at this Ukrainian Village hot dog hut, where after-hours crowds huddle in for everything from burgers and mac 'n' cheese to fried shrimp and milkshakes. But it's the char dogs and sausages (starting at $4.50) the team is best known for, thanks to an "always charred and never steamed" approach topped off in true Chicago-style fashion.

⑦ The Burger at Small Cheval

For faster, no-fuss access to the burger that's garnered the approval of food critics, celebrities and chefs nationwide, check out this Bucktown joint—the smaller, chiller version of the West Loop's beloved Au Cheval. Expect everything topping your plate to ring true on these: two griddled patties, sharp American cheese and a medley of pickles, onions and Dijonnaise on a buttery brioche bun, all for $10.

Signature burger | Photo: Hogsalt

⑧ Pizza at Pequod's

In-the-know pizza lovers have been flocking to this red-sauce haven for the past 25 years for deep dish that doesn't disappoint. For a real steal, head in for lunch Monday through Friday, when $5 lands you with a soda and your very own seven-inch pie.

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