Eat well on a budget at these Chicago restaurants

Words like frugal, value, and deal mean different things to different people. So at 10Best, we picked a few of our favorite places where you can eat a yummy meal without spending tons of cash. A few of our favorites include Superdawg Drive-In and Al's #1, which are low in cost and serve some of Chicago famous hot dogs and beef sandwiches. While places like this get high marks for personality, they also are high in calories. That's why we also included some healthier options on our best value list. After all, you can only eat so much deep-dish pizza, hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches before you crave something that doesn't come with a side order of fries.

Some of the best values in town – and some of the best food in town – is found at Chicago's many ethnic restaurants. Here, you can order delicious, authentic and inexpensive dishes loaded with flavorful noodles, rice and meats. The unique spices of country's cuisine lets you try adventurous new dishes without coughing up a lot of money. Chicago also has some wallet-friendly Cajun restuarants that serve food which tastes like it was made in Louisiana. In Chicago, a cheap meal doesn't have to be a low-quality one.

Opart Thai
Photo courtesy of Official Website


Lincoln Square's local Thai community is thriving. Among popular restaurants sporting authentic menus, Opart Thai House maintains a long list of regulars after two decades. Couples and friends enjoy Opart's welcoming BYOB policy while sharing...  Read More

Heaven on Seven


Open for breakfast and lunch only, people who love spicy Cajun and Creole dishes take a shopping break to feast on some of the zestiest gumbo this side of the Mason-Dixon. Or, try red beans and rice, jambalaya, or a catfish po' boy. All the...  Read More



This budget-friendly and delicious Middle Eastern spot specializes in falafel sandwiches on warm pita bread. But you can't go wrong with any of their Middle Eastern offerings, including homemade masada chicken soup or the lamb or chicken...  Read More

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria - Gold Coast
Photo courtesy of Official Facebook


This old-school pizza shop knows a thing or two about pies, and locals swear by the place's deep-dish crust, which showcases all manner of toppings. Try the "Lou," named for the restaurant's founder. It includes fresh spinach, mushrooms, sliced...  Read More

Penny's Noodle Shop – Lincoln Park


As you would expect, Penny's specialty is noodles! And she sells a lot of them to the hip crowd that packs her Sheffield Avenue location every night. Though the fare is admittedly, "Thai for the American palette," regulars swear the soups and...  Read More



Family-owned since 1948, this hot dog drive-in (or eat-in) is a local institution, not only for its great menu but for its enormous, roof-top wiener mascots. Don't call them hot dogs, though. They're Superdawgs. Served in a box with the...  Read More

Little Italy
Al's #1


Spots to sample a Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich abound, but no place holds a candle to the Little Italy original, which has been around since the late 30s. Steak spiced with garlic and oregano, grilled onions and peppers and a soggy loaf...  Read More

Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Portillo's


When people move away from Chicago, Portillo's is the first place they want to go to when they come home. This chain, which has dozens of locations around the Chicago area, specializes in hot dogs, Polish sausage and Italian beef sandwiches -...  Read More

Luella's Southern Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Photo by Jamie Bartosch


Phenomenal Southern, Cajun and soul food dishes - like Shrimp and Grits, BBQ brisket macaroni and cheese, fried chicken and waffles, and catfish tacos - are what pack people in to this small restaurant along busy Lincoln Avenue. The restaurant...  Read More

Furious Spoon
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Furious Spoon


The ramen noodle craze is sweeping Chicago, and a trendy place for some of the best ramen dishes is Furious Spoon. This ain't your college dorm ramen noodles. Here, they use homemade noodles, flavored broths, and fresh vegetables and meats. The...  Read More


Meet Jamie Bartosch

Jamie Bartosch is a lifelong Chicagoan who thinks her hometown is the greatest city in the world. She is an award-winning newspaper reporter, a freelance travel writer, and the mother of two great kids.