There's an almost infinite amount of good food in Chicago: pizza, hot dogs, sausages...the list goes on forever. But no matter what kind of food is around, especially I love finding the the cheap, the local, and the quick. The windy city doesn't disappoint; check out all the great cheap food for your next trip to Chi-town. Be warned, I intentionally strayed from including pizza...that's enough for an entirely separate post.
Above, you'll see Edna, owner of Edna's Restaurant...where you can find great soul food (and cake!) for a price that won't break the bank.
Farmers markets are usually a great place to find good, local, and inexpensive food. If you're in town on a Sunday, you've got to head over to the Maxwell St. Market (7am-3pm)...which oddly enough is no longer on Maxwell St. You can get great cheap tacos (and other Mexican food) as well as fruits, veggies, etc.
Food On The Street:
Finding street food in Chicago can be downright difficult at times, thanks to the city's backwards food regulations, but don't let that deter you from enjoying some good Mexican food. Be sure to find some elotes (grilled corn on the cob) and raspas (Mexican shaved ice), perhaps along 26th Ave, in parks, or anywhere with people, really.
Near Grant Park? Get some great African food out of the back of a truck, from the aptly named African Truck.
(Don't want African? Stay in the same area and hit up Chutney Joe's, which is a healthier, but still cheap & fast Indian joint.)
Want to be a little more technically savvy when it comes to finding nighttime cheap eats? There's a twitter service that you can sign up for, Spotd, that helps you keep track of where the tamale vendors are serving over the night.
When In Doubt, Go Asian:
I've found that hitting up the asian section of town is a great way to eat well, and cheap. All you need to do in Chicago is take the Red Line north to Argyle, get off, and explore the multitude of small restaurants, groceries, and bakeries. There are too many to list, but I've included a few below to help you get started (and to whet your appetite.)
Sun Wah Bar-B-Que (try the duck)
La Patisserie P (French and asian baked goods!)
While it's a little further out from the center of the city, Hot Doug's is a place to behold. Not simply a great hot dog joint, they're purveyors of almost any kind of "encased meat" possible. As if the daily specials weren't enough (the day I was investigating, Jamaican Jerk Pork Sausage with Spicy Mango-Passion Fruit Mayonnaise and Roasted Plantains, Apple Pork Sausage with Sriracha Mustard and Cumin Smoked Gouda Cheese, and Blueberry-Infused Venison Sausage with Raspberry Mustard and St. Paulin Cheese were just a few of the curiousity-inducing options). If you're the curious type, set aside some time on a Friday or Saturday and try their Duck Fat Fries...while probably bad as heck for you, sounds marvelous.
A little something else:
In the mood for Moroccan food? You'll have to head a little north of the city, but it'll be worth it to go to Hashalom. Be sure to bring cash, because they don't take cards.
For More Ideas:
For more great cheap eats in the Windy City, check out Chicago Reader's roundup; it's 2 years old or so, but there are too many stellar recommendations to pass up.
Chicago is a huge city, so I've invariably missed some places. Got any (non-pizza)recommendations? Let us all know in the comments below.