39 best cheap things to eat in Chicago right now

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 06:11:51 AM. Here are the top 39 cheap eats in Chicago. Along with hot dogs and Italian beefs, the list celebrates the incredible diversity of cuisines available in the city.

Just about every week day, I grab a Tribune pool car and set out alone into the flat expanse of Chicagoland in search of something delicious to eat. More often than not, I encounter the kind of solid fare that any neighborhood would be proud to call its own. But nothing excites me more than when I stumble across a place that serves food that even the fanciest restaurant in Chicago would be lucky to have on its menu. Yet, instead of requiring a small loan to experience, it's a dish that anyone with a little extra time and an adventurous palate can try.

Consider this list the flip side to , Tribune dining critic Phil Vettel's ranking of his favorite restaurants in Chicago. In contrast to that celebration of our city's globally renowned fine dining scene, this one shines a light on the everyday places that give Chicago its soul.

As you'd expect, these places come from all across the city — North, South and West Side, plus the suburbs. And yes, you'll find plenty of hot dogs and Italian beefs on the list, but the picks also come from an astonishing number of different cuisines, including Mexican, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. One has been open for more than 75 years, while another just celebrated its one-year anniversary. A few definitely contain no seats.

Obviously, ranking such a wide range of cuisines is highly subjective, but I heroically attempted to focus solely on the dishes I thought tasted the best. I expect dissent, but I’m ready to answer it.

What qualifies as cheap? Ten dollars sounded like a good upper limit, which meant I had to make the hard decision to leave off some places that are good deals but would require more than a Hamilton in your wallet. (This explains the complete absence of pizza.) But I also made sure the food met the spirit of the project. Some appetizers at glitzy River North restaurant's might cost less than $10, but those often function as a snack before much more expensive fare. Cheap eats should fill you up without pretension.

Even though I've been hunting around the city more or less continuously for nine years, I realize that I couldn't try every single restaurant in Chicago. I have preferences (Mexican cuisine, particularly) that might explain many of the picks, and blind spots (too many to name) that I need to get to eventually. I have no doubt you'll let me know what I missed.

Enough talk, let's get to the good stuff. Here are the 39 best cheap eats in Chicago, ranked in descending order from first place.

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