Chicago boasts of hosting some of the best celebrity chefs in the country. So rightfully, cheap eateries to dine-in in Chicago are buzzing in and around the city. But that’s not what I was looking for. I was backpacking in the States and Chicago was my next destination.
With skyscrapers filling the skyline, to rollicking festivals, from diving down in a gastronomic delight to experiencing the vibrant nightlife, whatever you are looking for, Chicago has the knack to cure cravings.
Like most backpackers traveling within a budget, I, too, try to avoid getting cash-strapped during my trip to a new place. Before I wade into planning my itinerary, I google for budget-friendly options on transport, food, and accommodation. I did the same before I moved to my next destination, Chicago.
I googled some of the cheap eats, and luckily there are plenty of cheap eateries available that won’t blow through your bank balance. So, loosen your belt because you’ve got a lot to eat here without burning a hole in your pocket.
Being an Indian, I can’t resist the urge to devour some biryani, and Gareeb Nawaz is one such restaurant with a full menu dedicated to Indian and Pakistani cuisines. If you are somewhere nearby Devon St., check these guys out.
This is one of the cheap eateries to dine-in in Chicago, that offer whole-filling food that satisfies your appetite and leaves you to relish the taste forever from breakfast to dinner.
I visited them in the morning to have Aloo ka paratha (flatbread stuffed with mashed potatoes, onion, cilantro, chili, and Indian spices), and Aloo ki curry (Potato curry) and it cost me just 0.99$.
While waiting for my order, I scanned the menu and decided to visit once again to have biryani.
The place has good vibes, great ambiance, and hospitable staff.
Ghareeb Nawaz Express, 807 W Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL- 60608 Gareeb Nawaz, 833 E Roosevelt Road, Lombard, IL- 60148
0.99 USD – 8 USD
Mr D's Shish-Kabob
A few bucks are what you need to shell out to dine-in at Mr. D’s Shish-kabobs. From steaks, sandwiches, fries, burgers, kebabs, and sausages, you can order anything you like, and it won’t cost you a lot. The place has a very humble ambiance, and the staff is very supportive.
Address: 6656 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60707
1 USD – 9.25 USD
When you are in Chicago, Italian beef is something one can not afford to miss. And Johnnie’s Beef at Elmwood Park serves the best beef dishes in town. I didn’t know this before until I tried it.
The place has a very vintage aesthetic. But the crowd is interested in devouring the hot dogs, fries, and of course, their signature beef dishes. This is an affordable and the best place for cheap eats in Chicago. Worth a visit!
7500 W North Ave, Elmwood Park, IL 60707
1 USD – 8 USD
Big & Little's
Featured in ‘Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives’ and approved by America’s famous restaurateur Guy Fieri, Big & Littles was indeed on my bucket list. Despite being so glamorously famous, the guys of the eatery offer some of the best seafood tacos and burritos at a very affordable rate.
Having three branches in the town, they share the same menu. I once visited the Lakeview W Belmont Ave branch and ordered shrimp seafood tacos stuffed with fried shrimp, lettuce, tomato, special B&L sauce, cocktail sauce, lime juice, and cracked pepper.
The second time I was somewhere near N Orleans Street, I accidentally bumped into another branch and tried out their beef hot dog.
Whenever you visit this one of the best cheap eateries to dine-in in Chicago, guys, definitely try out their tacos, sandwiches, and burritos. Burritos are a little expensive, as for one Lamb Gyro you have to pay 13 USD. Check out their menu.
1034 W Belmont Ave, Chicago 1310 N Milwaukee Ave,
Chicago 860 N Orleans Street, Chicago
3 USD – 12 USD
Taste of Lebanon
The menu is filled with middle-eastern foods like Hummus, kebabs, shawarma, falafel, lamb kebab, etc., and it becomes impossible to resist the urge not to try all of them. Thankfully I was accompanied by my friends, and each of us ordered different food, and that’s how I got to try their various dishes.
Among all, I liked the Taste of Lebanon the most, but unfortunately, it was a one-time visit due to a short itinerary.
1509 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
1 USD – 7 USD
Tips to Eat Cheap Eateries
It’s been more than five years since I have been backpacking the world, and that too within a small budget. That doesn’t mean I starve myself by avoiding food or lying down in a public place. No one has to do that. Instead, plan it out properly. Book cheap flights, take local public transport, eat from cheap restaurants or street vendors and accommodate yourself in a hostel or cheap hotels located in a good neighborhood.
Here are some tips how to eat cheap eateries:
- Street Vendors: Street food has become insanely famous among millennials because of low-cost foods and because the taste is terrific.
- Go Local: Go local when you don’t want to be a cash-strapped traveler during your vacation. Use local public transport, prefer cheap eats, stay in hostels or cheap hotels in good neighborhoods.
- Avoid bar/pub/ clubs: Avoiding alcohol is challenging for some. But it is better to drink in a low-cost local bar or buy your alcohol from a local wine shop and grab some cheap snacks from local eateries and drink in your room.
- Eat-in buffets: There are multiple buffet chains available in the US. Visit them during lunch or dinner and scan the price. Most of them offer a filling platter at a very reasonable price.
Chicago is a beautiful destination where you can find ample varieties of cuisines at an affordable prices. The culinary scene of Chicago keeps bringing tourists from all across the world. With the wide variety of cuisines, restaurants and diners get to save the most of their expense by discovering some of the cheap restaurants in Chicago. These restaurants are also popular among the tourists and you will get an unforgettable experience of dining at these restaurants.