Chicago is home to some of the most highly regarded restaurants in the world, but our local food scene’s breadth is undoubtedly more amazing. Even while treating yourself to a sumptuous lunch is always pleasant, you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat well. There are lots of places in the city that serve delectable snacks at reasonable prices, and we’re here to help you sort through all the choices by showcasing our favorites. The best restaurants in town are represented, as are plenty of pizzas, tacos, and sandwiches.
Double cheeseburger and fries at Red Hot Ranch
It’s nearly impossible to find an excellent burger and fries for less than $10 in Chicago, but it’s all in a day’s work at Red Hot Ranch. The late-night haunt, which accepts only cash, serves crispy-edged griddle patties that are topped with LTO, special sauce, a slice or two of American cheese, and other garnishes. It contains nothing you don’t want in a burger and everything you want. Not to be overlooked are the thick-cut fries, which serve as the ideal vessel for the drippings from one of Chicago’s top burgers.
Lengua taco at La Chaparrita Grocery
Lengua, or beef tongue, is a delectable dish that you must try if you’ve made it this far without doing so. Try it at this well-known corner shop in Little Village, which also sells some of the top tacos, huaraches, and Aguas Frescas in the area. Keep it simple with a sprinkling of diced raw onion and cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a spoonful of salsa because the incredibly supple, amazingly soft flesh is a flavor conduit. You might as well try the al pastor, crispy tripe, and Cabeza (head and cheek) while you’re here.
BBQ pork bun at Chiu Quon
We haven’t yet discovered a more exquisite savory pastry in Chicago. Fortunately for us, Chiu Quon, one of Chinatown’s oldest bakers, always has mouth watering buns in stock. Each golden orb is filled with shredded pork that has been marinated in sugar, salt, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil to make it tender and melt in your mouth. With two hands, you can easily rip the light, slightly sweet dough that surrounds the savory center (or your teeth). Order a few extras for the road to spare yourself the pain.
Empanadas at El Mercado Food Market
This Lakeview market offers a variety of Argentinian empanadas in addition to providing meat to restaurants like Tango Sur and Folklore. These flaky pastries are stuffed with everything from beef and chicken to corn and eggplant, and they can be baked or fried. Most people only need two, but we suggest purchasing a few extra to reheat at home whenever you feel like a snack.
Price: $2.79 (fried), $3.29 (baked)
The recent rise in inflation rates has affected eateries, like pretty much everyone else, and many have resulted in pricing increases. Prices may therefore be greater than those shown here. Some of our selections are also approaching or crossing the $10 threshold, especially when tax and tip are taken into account. However, you can be confident that your final bill will be less than $15.