Chicago is the culinary capital of the Midwest, with a range of restaurants designed to tempt your taste buds. There are the steakhouses the city built its reputation on, along with a variety of inventive eateries that will expand your mind and palate. Its high-end restaurants get a lot of attention, but you don’t need to spend the big bucks to enjoy a great meal in the Windy City. Discover nine of the most satisfying cheap eats in Chicago.

Crisp | American Auto

Crisp: 2940 North Broadway

Wings are the ultimate budget-friendly dish. American diners do them well, but Korean restaurants like Crisp take them to the next level. In fact, Urban Matters says Crisp’s Korean-style wings are the best in the city. They’re much larger than the wings most bars serve, so they’re extra succulent and satisfying. Have them plain or up the taste with buffalo, crisp BBQ, or Seoul Sassy sauce. All the meals are affordable and rich in Korean flavors, such as Buddha bowls, specialty sandwiches, and Korean burritos.

Ghareeb Nawaz: 2032 West Devon Avenue

Students strapped for cash love Ghareeb Nawaz, an Indian restaurant near the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. This family-owned and -operated restaurant serves Indian dishes passed down through the generations. Portions are hearty, as you might expect if you visited the owners’ own home. Nothing costs more than $10, and plenty of dishes are less than $5 such as the paratha sandwiches, vegetable curries, and tandoori chicken tikka. If you’re short on time, try the Ghareeb Nawaz Express on West Roosevelt Road. There’s also another new Ghareeb Nawaz in nearby Lombard.

Lawrence Fish Market: 3920 West Lawrence Avenue

Sushi doesn’t have to be off the menu for frugal diners; Lawrence Fish Market serves delicious sushi rolls at bargain prices. The market supplies seafood to almost all Chicago’s leading sushi restaurants, so you can count on its quality. Nearly all the individual sashimi, nigiri, and maki rolls cost less than $10, and several options are just a couple of bucks. The party trays are a great value when you’re dining with friends. These tasty rolls make fighting for the limited tables worthwhile. Lawrence Fish Market only accepts cash, so remember to bring some spare change with you.

Birrieria Zaragoza

Image via Flickr by stu_spivack

Birrieria Zaragoza: 4852 South Pulaski Road

If you’ve never tried goat before, Birrieria Zaragoza is the place to do it. There’s nothing else on the menu, but when chefs know how to cook something this well they don’t need variety. Get a small bowl or plate of the succulent meat bathed in flavorful consommé or share a large serving with friends. The meat is delicious on its own, but the barbacoa dish also comes with corn tortillas for your own goat tacos.

La Chaparrita: 2500 South Whipple Street

If you’re not looking for it, you might not realize La Chaparrita is a restaurant. Step inside the grocery store and you’ll find this humble eatery. What it lacks in flash, it makes up for in flavor. Eater calls La Chaparrita one of the city’s best taquerias. It serves tacos de fritangas, a type of fried taco cooked in a metal charola. You could choose marinated beef or pork sausage, but fans know the offal cuts are some of the tastiest. Tongue, tripe, and crispy pieces of cow intestine are all on the menu in this authentic Mexican eatery.

Pierogi Heaven: 169 North Wells Street

If you love Polish food, you’ll be in raptures at Pierogi Heaven. Start with the red borscht before diving into the main attraction. As the restaurant’s name suggests, the pierogi are delightful. There are more than 10 flavors, including many savory varieties served with onion, bacon, and sour cream. Alternatively, try the traditional Polish sausages served with sauerkraut, fried onion, and mash. Pierogi Heaven is a small restaurant, but that just adds to the intimacy. Make sure you book ahead, though, as its limited tables fill quickly.

Redhot Ranch: 3057 North Ashland Avenue and 500 West 35th Street

Redhot Ranch has your late-night cravings sorted with its fast-food favorites. It started out specializing in minimalist Depression dogs, the original Chicago-style hot dog. Later, mouth-watering burgers joined the menu. No matter what you choose, Redhot Ranch’s hand-cut fries are the perfect accompaniment. Make sure you grab some of the fried shrimp Redhot Ranch is famous for too. In addition to the Chicago outlets, Redhot Ranch also has a new Bucktown eatery. The Lakeview and Bucktown eateries are open until midnight daily, while the 35th Street store is open until 8 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weeknights.

Chi Café: 2160 South Archer Avenue

When those late-night cravings turn into early-morning munchies, hit up Chi Café in the heart of Chinatown Square. It serves its noodle soups, fried rice, and impressive flaming mini wok dishes until 2 a.m. every morning. The menu is enormous, so deciding what to do order can be challenging. Will you opt for classics like lo mein, congee, or chicken satay skewers or challenge yourself with adventurous meals like fried pork intestine, boiled beef tripe, or deep-fried pigeon? Everything is so cheap that you can afford to experiment! Happy hour specials make Chi Café even better value.

Maxwell Street Depot: 411 West 31st Street

Maxwell Street Depot never closes, so it’s another great option for those late nights out that turn into early mornings. The sign out the front mentions its famous pork chop sandwiches packed with grilled onions and slathered with mustard. But there’s much more on the menu, including Polish sausages, burgers, and thin-crust pizzas. While the prices are low, the ingredients are always fresh and full of flavor. Maxwell Street Depot has served the local community for more than 40 years and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Great food doesn’t need to cost a lot in Chicago, and neither does your insurance. At American Auto Insurance, we offer quality coverage, including 24/7 roadside assistance for as little as $14. Call us at (800) 483-4868 for your free, no-obligation quote and see how much you could save.


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