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A falafel sandwich.
Chicagoans won’t break the bank on Middle Eastern fare at Sultan’s Market.
Sultan’s Market [Official Photo]

20 Essential Restaurants for Affordable Dining in Chicago

Enjoy good eats on a budget

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Chicagoans won’t break the bank on Middle Eastern fare at Sultan’s Market.
| Sultan’s Market [Official Photo]

Chicago's high-end restaurants get a lot of the buzz, and rightfully so, but it’s the depth of the city’s culinary scene that’s most impressive. Instead of splurging on one big decadent meal, diners can get the most out of their money by visiting some of the best spots for cheap eats. These places deliver delicious and quality fare at budget-friendly costs.

Thanks to a diverse population, there are many different options and price points. Several of Chicago’s iconic foods are found on the list below, from the Polish sausage to barbecue rib tips. New additions to the list include sandwich makers Nhu Lan and Mr. D’s Shish-Kabobs, and Mexican specialist Tamales lo Mejor de Guerrero.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Tamales lo Mejor de Guerrero

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7024 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626
(773) 338-6450

Found on street corners all across Chicago, tamales are the ultimate cheap bites. Grab a bunch of plump, airy ones stuffed with chicken, pork, cheese, beans, or fruits from this unassuming storefront in Rogers Park. The kitchen also makes large Oaxacan-style tamales consisting of masa, chicken, and mole wrapped in banana leaf.

2. Ghareeb Nawaz

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2032 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 761-5300
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Located on Devon Avenue and over by UIC, Ghareeb Nawaz serves tasty Indian food at low, low prices. Most dishes are less than six dollars and they include biryani, curries, kebabs, and grilled specialties like frontier chicken. Portions are sizable so even if folks have a big appetite, they should leave satisfied.

3. Taste of Lebanon

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1509 W Foster Ave
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 334-1600

A few bucks are all diners need to shell out to enjoy Lebanese cooking at this Andersonville storefront. The menu is brief but filled with Middle Eastern staples like hummus, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, shawarma, and kebabs. The lentil soup is also ideal on a cold day.

4. Nhu Lan

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2612 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 878-9898
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The city’s preeminent banh mi expert is a delicious and affordable option. The classic house specialty contains paté, headcheese, ham, and pork roll alongside a medley of veggies, but customers can also order their sandwiches with ingredients like meatballs, lemongrass chicken, shrimp. What sets Nhu Lan apart from its competitors is the bread, which is baked in house. A second outpost is located in Uptown.

A pork belly banh mi.
Nhu Lan sells a number of different banh mi sandwiches.
Jeffy Mai/Eater Chicago

5. Lawrence Fish Market

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3920 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 267-6838

Sushi doesn’t always have to be expensive. At Lawrence Fish Market, the selection of sashimi, nigiri, and maki rolls are sold at surprisingly low prices. Seating is limited but it’s a small sacrifice for such a good bargain.

A platter of sushi.
Lawrence Fish Market offers some of the cheapest sushi in town.
Jeffy Mai/Eater Chicago

6. Redhot Ranch

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3057 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 661-9377
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Open until 4 a.m. (or 5 a.m. on the weekends), this no-frills joint is where many folks favor for some late-night grease. The simple menu offers fried shrimp, Depression Dogs, and smashed burgers inspired by In-N-Out. They’re delicious at any hour of the day but even better after last call, especially when the prices are factored in. There’s also the original location in Bucktown that will be relocating over the summer.

7. Mr D's Shish-Kabobs

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6656 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60707
(773) 637-0042
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Northwest Side residents love this low-key Montclare spot for its sandwiches. Mr. D’s namesake, the shish kabob, is marinated in a special sauce, nicely charred on the grill, and served with onions and tomatoes on a roll. The similarly superb steak sandwich features thinly sliced beef and gravy. All orders come with perfectly crispy fries that are a paragon of the form.

8. Sultan's Market

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2057 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 235-3072
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Sultan’s Market is a Wicker Park essential offering Middle Eastern cuisine at dirt-cheap prices. Have a light snack of hummus and baba ghanoush or devour hearty sandwiches loaded with falafel, shawarma, and more. There's also bountiful salad and hot bar, and guests are welcome to bring their own alcohol. A second location is over in Lincoln Park.

A meat combination plate with rice and salad.
Sultan’s Market’s offerings are both affordable and vegetarian-friendly.
Sultan’s Market [Official Photo]

9. BIG & little's

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860 N Orleans St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 943-0000
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Look no further than BIG & little’s for seafood tacos. Fillings range from fried whitefish to shrimp and soft shell crab. Don't miss the poke taco, featuring sashimi-grade fish, or the deep fried grilled cheese sandwich. There are additional locations in Lakeview, Wicker Park, and Logan Square.

10. J. P. Graziano Grocery Co.

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901 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 666-4587
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Get some grocery shopping done while noshing on one of J.P. Graziano’s outstanding Italian subs. Each one boasts fresh, quality meats and cheeses on D’Amato’s Bakery or Publican Quality bread. Featured sandwiches include the porchetta and the house specialty, “Mr. G” (hot sopresatta, prosciutto, genoa salami).

11. Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken

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5611 W Madison St
Chicago, IL 60644
(773) 261-7311
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Quality fried chicken is an immeasurable pleasure and this local mini-chain is among Chicago’s finest. Uncle Remus has been in business for more than 50 years on the West Side and earned a following for its signature bird. The meat’s crunchy, peppery crust is slathered in a sweet and tangy sauce that makes it highly addictive. Mild sauce allegedly originated here.

A plate of saucy fried chicken with sides.
Uncle Remus is revered for its special sauce.
Uncle Remus [Official Photo]

12. Jim's Original Hot Dog

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1250 S Union Ave
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-7820
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A pioneer of Chicago's historic Maxwell Street Market, Jim's claims to be the originator of the Polish sausage sandwich. It’s been around for more than 70 years and diners can get a juicy and delicious Polish, pork chop sandwich, hot dog, and more at any hour of the day — plus they’re accompanied by free fries.

13. Chi Cafe

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2160 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 842-9993
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In the heart of Chinatown Square sits Chi Cafe, an affordable, late-night spot for reliable Chinese food. On the menu are classics such as lo mein, fried rice, noodle soups, and a wide selection of beef, chicken, pork, and seafood entrees. The sizzling beef tenderloin is always a good choice, as are the happy hour specials offered during the day.

A plate of beef noodles.
Chi Cafe is open until 4 a.m. on most nights.
Chi Cafe [Official Photo]

14. La Chaparrita

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4138, 2500 S Whipple St
Chicago, IL 60623
(773) 254-0975

One of Chicago’s best taquerias resides inside a small grocery store in Little Village. La Chaparrita focuses on tacos de fritangas, or “fried tacos” that are popular in Mexico City and cooked in a metal pan called a charola. Options include offal cuts like lengua, cabeza, and tripa — crispy pieces of cow intestines.

Crispy tripe and carne asada tacos.
Offal tacos are the star at La Chaparrita.
Jeffy Mai/Eater Chicago

15. Maxwell Street Depot

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411 W 31st St
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 326-3514

When the late-night munchies hit, visit this 24-hour South Side institution. The signature item is a juicy bone-in pork chop sandwich, dressed with mustard and grilled onions. Other greasy delights like hot dogs, burgers, and Polish sausages round out the affordable menu.

16. Birrieria Zaragoza

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4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 523-3700
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Mouthwatering goat is practically the only thing on the menu at Birrieria Zaragoza but diners don’t need much more. The Zaragoza family cooks up a regional variant of barbacoa that hails from Jalisco, Mexico, and the results are tender bites of goat bathing in flavorful consommé. Order a small or large plate and make tacos with the corn tortillas.

A person ladling consommé onto a plate of birria.
The Mexican goat stew at Birrieria Zaragoza is one of Chicago’s best dishes.
Birrieria Zaragoza [Official Photo]

17. Surf's Up South Shore

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2236 E 71st St
Chicago, IL 60649
(773) 891-5544
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This successful chain has locations on the South Shore, Bronzeville, and Oak Park. The Hennessey wings are well known, but there are several special combos, from catfish nuggets to perch, which are affordable. 

18. Lem's Bar-B-Q

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311 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 994-2428
Visit Website

Lem’s has been smoking exceptional rib tips in Chicago for over six decades. The tender pieces of meat are cooked in a customized aquarium smoker and smothered in a tangy, vinegar-based barbecue sauce. Roll up those sleeves and prepare to get messy in the best way, but expect to wait first as lines out the door are common.

19. Tropic Island Jerk Chicken

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553 E 79th St
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 224-7766
Visit Website

Jamaican cuisine flies under the radar but follow the aromatic smells in Chatham to this carryout spot for fantastic jerk chicken. It’s rubbed in a variety of spices and seasonings, smoked, and served with sides like candied yams and caribbean-style corn.

20. Calumet Fisheries

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3259 E 95th St
Chicago, IL 60617
(773) 933-9855
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Head to South Deering on the far South Side to experience this classic Eater 38 establishment. The James-Beard-honored roadside shack smokes its seafood on-site. Salmon, sable, sturgeon, and trout are just a few of the fish options, while other popular items include fried oysters and fried shrimp battered in a secret family recipe. Bring cash and be prepared to eat on the curb or in the car. It’s a must-visit for all locals.

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1. Tamales lo Mejor de Guerrero

7024 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60626

Found on street corners all across Chicago, tamales are the ultimate cheap bites. Grab a bunch of plump, airy ones stuffed with chicken, pork, cheese, beans, or fruits from this unassuming storefront in Rogers Park. The kitchen also makes large Oaxacan-style tamales consisting of masa, chicken, and mole wrapped in banana leaf.

7024 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626

2. Ghareeb Nawaz

2032 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659

Located on Devon Avenue and over by UIC, Ghareeb Nawaz serves tasty Indian food at low, low prices. Most dishes are less than six dollars and they include biryani, curries, kebabs, and grilled specialties like frontier chicken. Portions are sizable so even if folks have a big appetite, they should leave satisfied.

2032 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60659

3. Taste of Lebanon

1509 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

A few bucks are all diners need to shell out to enjoy Lebanese cooking at this Andersonville storefront. The menu is brief but filled with Middle Eastern staples like hummus, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, shawarma, and kebabs. The lentil soup is also ideal on a cold day.

1509 W Foster Ave
Chicago, IL 60640

4. Nhu Lan

2612 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
A pork belly banh mi.
Nhu Lan sells a number of different banh mi sandwiches.
Jeffy Mai/Eater Chicago

The city’s preeminent banh mi expert is a delicious and affordable option. The classic house specialty contains paté, headcheese, ham, and pork roll alongside a medley of veggies, but customers can also order their sandwiches with ingredients like meatballs, lemongrass chicken, shrimp. What sets Nhu Lan apart from its competitors is the bread, which is baked in house. A second outpost is located in Uptown.

2612 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

5. Lawrence Fish Market

3920 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
A platter of sushi.
Lawrence Fish Market offers some of the cheapest sushi in town.
Jeffy Mai/Eater Chicago

Sushi doesn’t always have to be expensive. At Lawrence Fish Market, the selection of sashimi, nigiri, and maki rolls are sold at surprisingly low prices. Seating is limited but it’s a small sacrifice for such a good bargain.

3920 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

6. Redhot Ranch

3057 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

Open until 4 a.m. (or 5 a.m. on the weekends), this no-frills joint is where many folks favor for some late-night grease. The simple menu offers fried shrimp, Depression Dogs, and smashed burgers inspired by In-N-Out. They’re delicious at any hour of the day but even better after last call, especially when the prices are factored in. There’s also the original location in Bucktown that will be relocating over the summer.

3057 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60657

7. Mr D's Shish-Kabobs

6656 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60707

Northwest Side residents love this low-key Montclare spot for its sandwiches. Mr. D’s namesake, the shish kabob, is marinated in a special sauce, nicely charred on the grill, and served with onions and tomatoes on a roll. The similarly superb steak sandwich features thinly sliced beef and gravy. All orders come with perfectly crispy fries that are a paragon of the form.

6656 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60707

8. Sultan's Market

2057 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
A meat combination plate with rice and salad.
Sultan’s Market’s offerings are both affordable and vegetarian-friendly.
Sultan’s Market [Official Photo]

Sultan’s Market is a Wicker Park essential offering Middle Eastern cuisine at dirt-cheap prices. Have a light snack of hummus and baba ghanoush or devour hearty sandwiches loaded with falafel, shawarma, and more. There's also bountiful salad and hot bar, and guests are welcome to bring their own alcohol. A second location is over in Lincoln Park.

2057 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

9. BIG & little's

860 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60610

Look no further than BIG & little’s for seafood tacos. Fillings range from fried whitefish to shrimp and soft shell crab. Don't miss the poke taco, featuring sashimi-grade fish, or the deep fried grilled cheese sandwich. There are additional locations in Lakeview, Wicker Park, and Logan Square.

860 N Orleans St
Chicago, IL 60610

10. J. P. Graziano Grocery Co.

901 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

Get some grocery shopping done while noshing on one of J.P. Graziano’s outstanding Italian subs. Each one boasts fresh, quality meats and cheeses on D’Amato’s Bakery or Publican Quality bread. Featured sandwiches include the porchetta and the house specialty, “Mr. G” (hot sopresatta, prosciutto, genoa salami).

901 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607

11. Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken

5611 W Madison St, Chicago, IL 60644
A plate of saucy fried chicken with sides.
Uncle Remus is revered for its special sauce.
Uncle Remus [Official Photo]

Quality fried chicken is an immeasurable pleasure and this local mini-chain is among Chicago’s finest. Uncle Remus has been in business for more than 50 years on the West Side and earned a following for its signature bird. The meat’s crunchy, peppery crust is slathered in a sweet and tangy sauce that makes it highly addictive. Mild sauce allegedly originated here.

5611 W Madison St
Chicago, IL 60644

12. Jim's Original Hot Dog

1250 S Union Ave, Chicago, IL 60607

A pioneer of Chicago's historic Maxwell Street Market, Jim's claims to be the originator of the Polish sausage sandwich. It’s been around for more than 70 years and diners can get a juicy and delicious Polish, pork chop sandwich, hot dog, and more at any hour of the day — plus they’re accompanied by free fries.

1250 S Union Ave
Chicago, IL 60607

13. Chi Cafe

2160 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
A plate of beef noodles.
Chi Cafe is open until 4 a.m. on most nights.
Chi Cafe [Official Photo]

In the heart of Chinatown Square sits Chi Cafe, an affordable, late-night spot for reliable Chinese food. On the menu are classics such as lo mein, fried rice, noodle soups, and a wide selection of beef, chicken, pork, and seafood entrees. The sizzling beef tenderloin is always a good choice, as are the happy hour specials offered during the day.

2160 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

14. La Chaparrita

4138, 2500 S Whipple St, Chicago, IL 60623
Crispy tripe and carne asada tacos.
Offal tacos are the star at La Chaparrita.
Jeffy Mai/Eater Chicago

One of Chicago’s best taquerias resides inside a small grocery store in Little Village. La Chaparrita focuses on tacos de fritangas, or “fried tacos” that are popular in Mexico City and cooked in a metal pan called a charola. Options include offal cuts like lengua, cabeza, and tripa — crispy pieces of cow intestines.

4138, 2500 S Whipple St
Chicago, IL 60623

15. Maxwell Street Depot

411 W 31st St, Chicago, IL 60616

When the late-night munchies hit, visit this 24-hour South Side institution. The signature item is a juicy bone-in pork chop sandwich, dressed with mustard and grilled onions. Other greasy delights like hot dogs, burgers, and Polish sausages round out the affordable menu.

411 W 31st St
Chicago, IL 60616

Related Maps

16. Birrieria Zaragoza

4852 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60632
A person ladling consommé onto a plate of birria.
The Mexican goat stew at Birrieria Zaragoza is one of Chicago’s best dishes.
Birrieria Zaragoza [Official Photo]

Mouthwatering goat is practically the only thing on the menu at Birrieria Zaragoza but diners don’t need much more. The Zaragoza family cooks up a regional variant of barbacoa that hails from Jalisco, Mexico, and the results are tender bites of goat bathing in flavorful consommé. Order a small or large plate and make tacos with the corn tortillas.

4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632

17. Surf's Up South Shore

2236 E 71st St, Chicago, IL 60649

This successful chain has locations on the South Shore, Bronzeville, and Oak Park. The Hennessey wings are well known, but there are several special combos, from catfish nuggets to perch, which are affordable. 

2236 E 71st St
Chicago, IL 60649

18. Lem's Bar-B-Q

311 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619

Lem’s has been smoking exceptional rib tips in Chicago for over six decades. The tender pieces of meat are cooked in a customized aquarium smoker and smothered in a tangy, vinegar-based barbecue sauce. Roll up those sleeves and prepare to get messy in the best way, but expect to wait first as lines out the door are common.

311 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619

19. Tropic Island Jerk Chicken

553 E 79th St, Chicago, IL 60619

Jamaican cuisine flies under the radar but follow the aromatic smells in Chatham to this carryout spot for fantastic jerk chicken. It’s rubbed in a variety of spices and seasonings, smoked, and served with sides like candied yams and caribbean-style corn.

553 E 79th St
Chicago, IL 60619

20. Calumet Fisheries

3259 E 95th St, Chicago, IL 60617

Head to South Deering on the far South Side to experience this classic Eater 38 establishment. The James-Beard-honored roadside shack smokes its seafood on-site. Salmon, sable, sturgeon, and trout are just a few of the fish options, while other popular items include fried oysters and fried shrimp battered in a secret family recipe. Bring cash and be prepared to eat on the curb or in the car. It’s a must-visit for all locals.

3259 E 95th St
Chicago, IL 60617

Related Maps