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Chicago’s Ten Best New Budget Restaurants

Reno, Oiistar, En Hakkore, and seven more tasty new places to eat on the cheap.


Cheese and Charcuterie at Local Root. Three meats, three cheeses, bread, jam, pickles, a random leaf: Just $20!

Best Budget Thai

Andy’s Thai Kitchen

946 W. Wellington Ave., 773-549-7821, Lake View
This tiny place is often packed to the gills, but if you can score a table at an off-peak time, you’re in for a treat. Thai standards shine, but the real news is such seldom-encountered fare as crispy on choy, with its happy heap of tempuraed Chinese water spinach ($12), and slithery noodles of yum woon sen talay ($9), generously topped with seafood.


Best Budget Tacos

Antique Taco

1360 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-687-8697, Wicker Park
You know a place is onto something when the young and tattooed are willing to eat, drink, and talk there instead of laptopping. The guac and chips ($6) at this airy corner storefront stand with the best in the city and tacos (pork carnitas, $7 for two; grilled ribeye, $8 for two) burst with bright tastes. Beer comes in cans, rosemary margaritas in glass milk bottles.


Best Budget Empanadas

Cafe Tola

3612 N. Southport Ave., 773-966-8917, Lake View
Like a stationary food truck selling Mexican street snacks and coffee, this wee, jolly enterprise is, for all practical purposes, takeout-only. If, however, you can’t wait to eat an empanada ($3) stuffed with chicken and salsa verde or with black beans, goat cheese, and plantain, no one will kick you out as you stand, gobbling. Finish with a concha ($1) and a latte (12 oz., $3.25).


Best Budget Bibimbap

En Hakkore

1840 N. Damen Ave., 773-772-9880, Bucktown
Bountiful bowlfuls of bibimbap ($8–$12) embellished, if you choose, with meat, four kinds of fish eggs, or five kinds of sashimi are the stars of the show at this Korean counter-service spot, but sushi rolls ($4 for classic maki, $9 for supersized) are also pretty compelling. This might be the only place in town to get a paratha panini stuffed with kimchi and spicy pork belly ($7.50), just sayin’.


Best Budget Northern Chinese

Homestyle Taste

3205 S. Halsted St., 773-949-9328, Bridgeport
Massive portions of well-prepared Northern Chinese food, rock-bottom prices—irresistible. You’ll wish you’d grown up in a home where these tastes were in style: boiled cabbage and pork dumplings (12 for $6.95); stir-fried lamb and vegetables abuzz with cumin and chili peppers ($12.95); garlicky deep-fried sautéed string beans ($7.95); and, at meal’s end, an upbeat fortune cookie.


Best Budget Locally-Sourced Food

Local Root

601 N. McClurg Ct., 312-643-1145, Streeterville
In-house baking and a focus on freshness, generally, create an oasis of coziness in this hotel-rich nabe. Soups ($2.49 for a cup), sandwiches with salad or frites ($11-$12.50), and a great big cookie ($1.99) make a nice lunch; in the evening, get mellow with three-cheese flatbread ($8) and a glass of wine, maybe followed by bleu-cheese-and-berry crepes ($6.49).


Best Budget Ramen


1385 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-360-8791, Wicker Park
Elegantly minimalist decor and hip-hop on the sound system form the backdrop for a cross-cultural menu of steamed buns ($8-$9 for two), ramens ($13–$15), and appetizers. The buns are filled with duck breast, pork belly, or portobello mushrooms; noodles are housemade; and apps include everything from French kimchee soup ($7) to tuna carpaccio ($10). Accompany with sangria or an oiimoji (mojito).


Best Budget Chicken

Pecking Order

4416 N. Clark St., 773-907-9900, Uptown
All chicken, all the time—grilled, roasted, or fried—keeps people coming back. The flavors of the Philippines make meals special; homey presentations and a picnicky vibe put diners at ease. A half chicken with off-the-husk grilled sweet corn and Mom’s Pickles ($12.95) satisfies big appetites. Sandwiches like the Country Bird ($9) are another way to go. Don’t miss boozy Lean Back punch.


Best Budget Barbecue


410 Circle Ave., 708-669-9744, Forest Park
Yee hah! Dry-rub barbecue, smoked or wood-fired, is the draw, with pork, chicken, and beef brisket available in sandwiches ($9-$9.50), tacos ($3), and on large plates with fries and slaw ($11 for a half chicken, $22 for a full slab of baby back ribs). Deviled eggs, beer, fried green tomatoes, and pie for dessert—plus sports on TVs over the bar—add to the all-American vibe.


Best Budget Bagels


2607 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-697-4234, Logan Square
Wood-fired bagels ($2.25) get you in the door, but go-for-broke sandwiches ($7.50), pizza ($9–$14 for a 14-incher), pasta ($8–$14), desserts ($4–$6), and a glass of wine will make you want to linger longer. Every bite seems engineered for maximum pleasure, from sweet-tart pickled apricot jam offered with bagels to sage and Gruyère on the butternut squash pizza.


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