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RPM’s steak frites
Jeff Marini

How to Eat Cheap(er) at Chicago’s Finest Restaurants

These deals are too good to be true

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RPM’s steak frites
| Jeff Marini

Chicago is rife with excellent dining, but oftentimes those expert plates come at high prices. But luckily, there are hacks to be found. From lunch specials to bar menus to prix fixe deals, many of the city’s most esteemed dining engagements offer more affordable options, even those with Michelin cred. Below, Chicago’s most budget-friendly dining deals from some of the city’s top players.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Entente

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3056 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(872) 206-8553
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Looking for Michelin-level cuisine but don’t feel like enduring a lengthy tasting menu? Then one-star Entente is a good option. The new American eatery isn’t cheap, but it offers solid value for what it’s serving. For example, before booze, sign up for a two-course meal that involves Aussi black truffles and lobster (the priciest dish on the menu) for just over $50. Of course tax and tip are still needed, but considering prices at some of the city’s other top fine dining haunts, this is indeed a deal. Also note, dish portions are pretty large and could be shared between two.

Entente [Official Photo]

2. Fat Rice

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2957 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-9170
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Chef Abe Conlon just nabbed a James Beard award for his inspired Chinese-Portuguese cookery at Fat Rice. If seats can’t be snagged, or there’s desire to spend a bit less yet still see what all the fuss is about, head over to his adjacent bakery. Yes, the focus here is on sweets and drinks, but there are a number of savory preps, too. Think barbecued pork buns, mushroom bao, and the above pictured Chicago-style hot dog pastry.

Fat Rice Bakery’s hot dog bun.
Fat Rice [Official Photo]

3. Nico Osteria

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1015 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 994-7100
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Celebrated for its contemporary seasonal Italian cookery, Nico Osteria offers a value-driven lunch prix fixe. For $24, sample a three-course lunch, beginning with a soup or salad, followed by dishes like a burger or Brussels sprout bruschetta, and finally dessert.

4. RPM Steak

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66 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 284-4990
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As its name suggests, RPM Steak focuses on beef. And it’s no secret that beef, especially types of wagyu, can cost a pretty penny, and even here plates can quickly surpass $100. But those who’d like beef for dinner (or lunch) at a more affordable rate should try the house steak frites. The dish costs $43 and guests land an 8-ounce wood-grilled cap (the most prized part of the ribeye), served with fries and Béarnaise sauce.

RPM’s steak frites
Jeff Marini

5. Roister Restaurant

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951 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

Southern-inflected Roister is The Alinea Group’s most casual engagement, and anyone can sign up for chef Andrew Brochu’s deft cookery at a lower rate. His four-course half-chicken dinner is a stellar deal, offered in the restaurant’s lower-level prep kitchen, for $49 to $59 per person. Expect to try his famed fried chicken along with buttermilk biscuits, chicken liver toast, a wedge salad, chicken noodle soup, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, collard greens, plus milk and cookies for dessert.

Posted by Roister on Saturday, January 6, 2018

6. The Aviary

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955 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0868
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While many around the world are keen to dine at chef Grant Achatz’s three Michelin-starred Alinea—one of the world’s best restaurants—there could be a couple reasons preventing many from doing so. One, Alinea can be challenging to book, and two, dinner for one can cost nearly $400 before booze. To bypass this, sign up for a five-course cocktail and food pairing at Achatz’s progressive cocktail bar The Aviary, which mimics Alinea’s avant-garde cookery in cocktail form. That cost: $135.

7. Momotaro

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820 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-4818
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Japanese cuisine isn’t always easy on the wallet, but one way to lower the bill at Fulton Market fixture Momotaro is to hit up its subterranean izakaya from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday nights. For $25 snag a three-course happy hour deal with dishes like spicy crab cucumber salad, king crab ramen, and a malted miso ice cream sandwich. To wash it down, a daily-changing cocktail or a beer and shot combo.

8. The Loyalist

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177 N Ada St #001
Chicago, IL 60607
(773) 913-3774
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Smyth is one of Chicago’s most exciting fine dining experiences. And while it is in no way a Japanese restaurant, chef John Shields cooks with a ton of inspiration from the country, in terms of seasonality, simplicity, and fermentation-driven techniques. Two-Michelin star Smyth is tasting menu only, and options run between $95 and $225. To get a taste of Shields cooking for a bit less, head to The Loyalist, his American bistro right below, which offers a few similar dishes with the same Smyth finesse.

9. Blackbird Restaurant

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619 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 715-0708
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Chicago fine dining institution Blackbird plates one of the best dining deals in town. Typically diners can expect to drop approximately $20 for an entree during lunch, but if they opt in for the lunch special, they'll nab three courses for just $5 more. A sample meal could be: warm shrimp salad with horseradish, lime, and peanuts; followed by hanger steak with ratatouille; and finally cardamom chiffon cheesecake with peach, blackberry, and brown butter crumb.

10. Everest

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425 S Financial Pl 40th floor
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 663-8920
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While sky-high French boîte Everest serves a $165 tasting menu, the hack is to come Tuesday to Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays between 5 and 5:30 p.m. for the three-course pre-theatre $59 special. That menu changes daily, and if diners drove, complimentary valet parking is also included.

Marble of Duck, Pheasant and Quail, Apple Carrot Aigre Doux, Truffle Vinaigrette
Lettuce Entertain You [Official Photo]

11. Acadia

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1639 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 360-9500
Visit Website

In place of two-Michelin starred Acadia’s $155 eight-course new American tasting menu, hit up the bar for several similar plates at a lower price, a la carte. For example, Aleutian Islands King Crab with yuzu, parsley root, and a mint-nasturtium water becomes Peekytoe crab toast with scallion, garlic, butter, and arugula at the bar. Meanwhile, there’s also Stonington lobster with pickled mustard seed, celery, and caviar, which, at the bar becomes the Stonington, ME lobster roll.

Acadia [Official Photo]

12. Dusek's Board & Beer

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1227 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 526-3851
Visit Website

One Michelin star gastropub Dusek’s offers two ways to cut costs. There’s the Tuesday three-course prix fixe for $29 in which guests can pick a small plate, an entrée, and a dessert off the menu; and then there’s the “The Ordinary,” a plate and beer pairing that changes regularly. Right now for $39 diners score jerked half lobster beside #5 Dovetail Lager.

Prix Fixe Tuesdays! Build your own meal beginning with a small plate, then choose an entrée and end on a sweet note with a dessert. 3 courses for only $29. Cheers!

Posted by Dusek's on Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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1. Entente

3056 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
Entente [Official Photo]

Looking for Michelin-level cuisine but don’t feel like enduring a lengthy tasting menu? Then one-star Entente is a good option. The new American eatery isn’t cheap, but it offers solid value for what it’s serving. For example, before booze, sign up for a two-course meal that involves Aussi black truffles and lobster (the priciest dish on the menu) for just over $50. Of course tax and tip are still needed, but considering prices at some of the city’s other top fine dining haunts, this is indeed a deal. Also note, dish portions are pretty large and could be shared between two.

3056 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60657

2. Fat Rice

2957 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Fat Rice Bakery’s hot dog bun.
Fat Rice [Official Photo]

Chef Abe Conlon just nabbed a James Beard award for his inspired Chinese-Portuguese cookery at Fat Rice. If seats can’t be snagged, or there’s desire to spend a bit less yet still see what all the fuss is about, head over to his adjacent bakery. Yes, the focus here is on sweets and drinks, but there are a number of savory preps, too. Think barbecued pork buns, mushroom bao, and the above pictured Chicago-style hot dog pastry.

2957 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

3. Nico Osteria

1015 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

Celebrated for its contemporary seasonal Italian cookery, Nico Osteria offers a value-driven lunch prix fixe. For $24, sample a three-course lunch, beginning with a soup or salad, followed by dishes like a burger or Brussels sprout bruschetta, and finally dessert.

1015 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611

4. RPM Steak

66 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654
RPM’s steak frites
Jeff Marini

As its name suggests, RPM Steak focuses on beef. And it’s no secret that beef, especially types of wagyu, can cost a pretty penny, and even here plates can quickly surpass $100. But those who’d like beef for dinner (or lunch) at a more affordable rate should try the house steak frites. The dish costs $43 and guests land an 8-ounce wood-grilled cap (the most prized part of the ribeye), served with fries and Béarnaise sauce.

66 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654

5. Roister Restaurant

951 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607

Southern-inflected Roister is The Alinea Group’s most casual engagement, and anyone can sign up for chef Andrew Brochu’s deft cookery at a lower rate. His four-course half-chicken dinner is a stellar deal, offered in the restaurant’s lower-level prep kitchen, for $49 to $59 per person. Expect to try his famed fried chicken along with buttermilk biscuits, chicken liver toast, a wedge salad, chicken noodle soup, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, collard greens, plus milk and cookies for dessert.

951 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

6. The Aviary

955 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607

While many around the world are keen to dine at chef Grant Achatz’s three Michelin-starred Alinea—one of the world’s best restaurants—there could be a couple reasons preventing many from doing so. One, Alinea can be challenging to book, and two, dinner for one can cost nearly $400 before booze. To bypass this, sign up for a five-course cocktail and food pairing at Achatz’s progressive cocktail bar The Aviary, which mimics Alinea’s avant-garde cookery in cocktail form. That cost: $135.

955 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

7. Momotaro

820 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607

Japanese cuisine isn’t always easy on the wallet, but one way to lower the bill at Fulton Market fixture Momotaro is to hit up its subterranean izakaya from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday nights. For $25 snag a three-course happy hour deal with dishes like spicy crab cucumber salad, king crab ramen, and a malted miso ice cream sandwich. To wash it down, a daily-changing cocktail or a beer and shot combo.

820 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607

8. The Loyalist

177 N Ada St #001, Chicago, IL 60607

Smyth is one of Chicago’s most exciting fine dining experiences. And while it is in no way a Japanese restaurant, chef John Shields cooks with a ton of inspiration from the country, in terms of seasonality, simplicity, and fermentation-driven techniques. Two-Michelin star Smyth is tasting menu only, and options run between $95 and $225. To get a taste of Shields cooking for a bit less, head to The Loyalist, his American bistro right below, which offers a few similar dishes with the same Smyth finesse.

177 N Ada St #001
Chicago, IL 60607

9. Blackbird Restaurant

619 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661

Chicago fine dining institution Blackbird plates one of the best dining deals in town. Typically diners can expect to drop approximately $20 for an entree during lunch, but if they opt in for the lunch special, they'll nab three courses for just $5 more. A sample meal could be: warm shrimp salad with horseradish, lime, and peanuts; followed by hanger steak with ratatouille; and finally cardamom chiffon cheesecake with peach, blackberry, and brown butter crumb.

619 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661

10. Everest

425 S Financial Pl 40th floor, Chicago, IL 60605
Marble of Duck, Pheasant and Quail, Apple Carrot Aigre Doux, Truffle Vinaigrette
Lettuce Entertain You [Official Photo]

While sky-high French boîte Everest serves a $165 tasting menu, the hack is to come Tuesday to Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays between 5 and 5:30 p.m. for the three-course pre-theatre $59 special. That menu changes daily, and if diners drove, complimentary valet parking is also included.

425 S Financial Pl 40th floor
Chicago, IL 60605

11. Acadia

1639 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
Acadia [Official Photo]

In place of two-Michelin starred Acadia’s $155 eight-course new American tasting menu, hit up the bar for several similar plates at a lower price, a la carte. For example, Aleutian Islands King Crab with yuzu, parsley root, and a mint-nasturtium water becomes Peekytoe crab toast with scallion, garlic, butter, and arugula at the bar. Meanwhile, there’s also Stonington lobster with pickled mustard seed, celery, and caviar, which, at the bar becomes the Stonington, ME lobster roll.

1639 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

12. Dusek's Board & Beer

1227 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

One Michelin star gastropub Dusek’s offers two ways to cut costs. There’s the Tuesday three-course prix fixe for $29 in which guests can pick a small plate, an entrée, and a dessert off the menu; and then there’s the “The Ordinary,” a plate and beer pairing that changes regularly. Right now for $39 diners score jerked half lobster beside #5 Dovetail Lager.

1227 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608

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