Don’t waste your time searching for the best budget restaurants in Chicago.
Just follow this list and save both time and money!
Unlike many “best budget restaurants” lists, we aren’t ranking these in order of best to worst or vice versa. Each restaurant on this list offers a unique, quality affordable product.
Next to each restaurant name is the price for a meal that we’ve put together for you based on current menus.
Beneath each restaurant is its location on Google Maps.
5411 Empanadas – $10.25
5411 is an amazing budget spot that serves up authentic Argentine empanadas daily from multiple locations around the city. They have all the classic flavors: ham and cheese, spicy beef, vegetarian options and more! For about $10, you can fill your belly with three empanadas and a drink.
They have several locations throughout the city:
Au Cheval – $14.95
Au Cheval is a modern twist on a classic diner. This budget restaurant always uses fresh ingredients in their carefully prepared comfort food. They’ve also got root beer on tap and classic cocktails at the bar. It’s a bit pricier than some of the other restos on this list, but it’s worth it. They’ve also got vegan and gluten-free options. It’s $14.95 for a tasty burger and a root beer.
Portillo’s Hot Dogs – $8.92
Portillo’s is one of several budget restaurants on our list that are considered classic Chicago institutions. They’ve got everything from hot dogs to Italian beef. A Jumbo Chili Cheese Dog, a large fries or onion rings and a iced tea costs just $8.92. They also got combo meals and family meals that can bring your meal cost down.
They have several locations around the city:
Johnnie’s Beef – $7.30
Speaking of Italian beef, the next two Chicago budget restaurants on our list are also considered Chicago institutions. A Italian beef sandwich, Italian ice and fries at this classic beef joint costs about $7.30, plus you kill two birds with one stone by visiting this iconic tourist destination. And did I mention they’ve got Italian Ice?!
Al’s Italian Beef – $11.28
Another classic beef joint in Chicago, Al’s hooks you up with its famous beef on the cheap. One Italian beef sandwich, a fountain soda and fries sets you back just $11.28. Once you have chowed down at both Al’s and Johnnie’s, you are ready to join the Italian beef wars! Which one do you prefer?
BIG & little’s Restaurant – $9.99
BIG & little’s Restaurant is relatively new to the budget restaurant scene in Chicago compared institutions like Al’s and Johnnie’s. However, in the past 10 or more years they have curated a strong following in the Windy City. The cost of a taco Cajun fries and a drink is $9.99. However, the immense variety of tasty bites on their menu, from Po’Boys to fish plates can easily jack up your bill if you’re not careful.
Opart Thai – $11.74
Opart Thai brings the true flavors of Thailand to Chicago and has been doing so for 30 years or so now. From their Tom Yum Pla to their various satay appetizers, they’ve got everything a Thai food lover could want. For a Pad Kra Praow (sauteed basil and hot peppers with choice of meat) and a tasty Thai Iced Tea costs only $11.74.
Salam Restaurant – $7.49
If you’ve never had kabab before (also known as kabob), then Salam Restaurant (salam literally means “peace” in Arabic and is also used as a greeting) is our top recommendation for budget restaurants in Chicago. Kabab, simply put, is meat, specifically grilled meat. Try the Shish Kabob Sandwich Combo for $7.49 as a first taste (grilled beef sandwich, fries and a drink). This amazing also got burgers, vegetarian options and more.
Indie Cafe – $9.00
Thai-Japanese restaurant Indie Cafe is a bit on the pricey side for our budget restaurants in Chicago list, but without a good sushi place, no list is complete. And they don’t only have sushi. They’ve got a full range of flavors from fried rice to green curry. At first, the menu looks expensive, but they have affordable options as well.
Check out their amazing Spicy Tuna Maki rolls for $6.50 or their Chicken Teriyaki for $13.75. Add a drink for around $2.50.
Before you head off to one or all of these amazing and affordable budget restaurants in Chicago, make sure you’re prepared. Most of these places have their menus online, so you can plan your order in advance. You’ll want to do this, trust me. These places are not only affordable, they’re popular. Avoid the wait and plan ahead.
Here, we’ll get you started with this video from the Chicago Tribune: