There is no truer food-lover’s city than Chicago. Though the Windy City boasts some of the best gourmet restaurants in the country, you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy Chicago’s food scene. In fact, many of the cheapest places to eat in Chicago are also considered to offer some of the city’s most iconic food experiences. If you want to eat well, but don’t want to totally empty your bank account, check out some of these great cheap eats in Chicago.
There’s no question that Lou Malnati’s is one of Chicago’s favorite pizza places. It’s also a great place for a cheap pie, with pizzas starting from $7.95. Its original Lincolnwood location opened in 1971 and the company has expanded to 56 locations around Chicago. Owner Marc Malnati has ensured that they’ve stuck to the original and beloved Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza recipe – and the Malnati Chicago Classic is one of the city’s most iconic pizzas. There aren’t many good and cheap restaurants downtown, but Malnati’s has a location on North Wells St.
Address: 6649 North Lincoln Ave, Lincolnwood, IL, 60712
Lawrence Fish Market
Chicago might not spring immediately to mind for cheap sushi, but at Lawrence Fish Market in Albany Park, maki rolls start at $1 and nothing is more than $6. This is very much a no-frills option. The sushi is primarily offered as a takeaway and it’s cash only, but the fish is incredibly fresh and excellent value for money. The selection is a pretty standard sushi set of nigiri, sashimi and maki rolls. Tuna, octopus, scallop and unagi (eel) sashimi are all $1-$1.50. And you can even try out the notoriously expensive sea urchin for very little.
Address: 3920 W. Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL, 60625
Gene & Jude’s
Along with pizza, the venerable hot dog is one of Chicago’s best cheap eats – and one of its most iconic local foods. Keeping to its “No Seats No Ketchup No Pretense No Nonsense” motto since it opened in 1946, Gene & Jude’s is a hot dog institution. Its staple offering is a Depression Dog, a uniquely Chicagoan hot dog snack made popular during the Great Depression. The minimalist dog is topped with yellow mustard and onions, hot sport peppers and sometimes relish. Oh, and it’s served with a side of skin-on fries for less than $3.
Address: 2720 N. River Rd, River Grove, IL, 60171
J.P. Graziano Grocery Co
J.P. Graziano’s is a grocery store that’s been in business since 1937. Yes, you can come here to grab some groceries, but you can also order an Italian-style sub sandwich at its deli counter – and these subs are considered to be some of the best in Chicago. They’ve got the classic Italian sub with a variety of salamis and provolone, as well as vegetarian options that include a roast veggie sub and one with artichokes and fresh mozzarella.
Address: 901 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL, 60607
One of the best and most quintessentially cheap Chicago restaurants is Johnnie’s Beef, purveyor of the classic Italian beef sandwich. Think thinly sliced roast beef loaded onto an Italian bread roll – with or without hot or sweet peppers, and dipped or not into a gravy of its own juices. It is a messy, greasy act of Chicago cooking perfection. And, best of all, a regular Italian beef will set you back less than $5. Add fries or an Italian ice for a couple bucks more.
Website: No official website
Address: 7500 W North Ave, Elmwood Park, IL, 60707
Chicago really is a food-lover’s town – you could spend months just exploring the city’s diverse culinary scene. If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy the dining scene, here are some foodie activities to get your mouth watering:
- Explore the intriguing history of some of Chicago’s most notorious criminals and fill up on deep-dish during a Pizza & Crime Lunchtime Walking Tour. Along the way, you’ll learn why Chicago was a hotbed of crime in the 19th and early 20th century, and hear stories about Al Capone and H.H. Holmes.
- Chicago has one of the most vibrant Chinatowns in the US. Sign up for the Chinatown Food & Culture Walking Tour for plenty of dumplings and noodles and a deeper understanding of Chicago’s Chinese community.
- Who doesn’t love a donut? Sample every possible donut option on the Underground Donut Tour, which takes you to four lesser-known donut shops downtown.
- Architecture lovers and anyone wanting to get off their feet for a while should take the Odyssey Chicago River Architectural Brunch Cruise. During the two-hour cruise, you enjoy a buffet brunch while sailing up the Chicago River, learning about the city’s incredible architectural history. There’s also a full-service bar on board.