As a newcomer to life in Chicago’s Loop, one of the most striking things for me was how expensive everything was. Eating out was a luxury where I used to live in Minnesota, but now it’s absolutely lavish, reserved only for special occasions like when critiques have gone well or I’m too loaded with work to cook.
Having said that, I don’t think it should be a luxury. Everyone deserves access to good food. Food that they don’t have to cook for themselves. With that ready-for-anything-but-a-brown-bag-lunch sentimentality in mind, here’s a list of 5 pocket-friendly eats in the Loop where you don’t have to spend much for a fulfilling—and, most importantly, tasty — meal.
- Saucy Porka
Located in the South Loop, with an additional Hyde Park branch, Saucy Porka is a Latin American and Asian fusion restaurant that opens from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 pm on weekdays. They serve Baco (Bao buns) starting at $3.85 a bun. They also serve Mexi Pho, a broth with Chinese noodles, cilantro, jalapeños, bean sprouts, and scallions. It’s $7.75 for a small bowl. Coffee lovers must stop by for the $2.75 Vietnamese Coffee, and breakfast lovers should try their Bánh Mì Breakfast sandwiches for $7.00. Saucy Porka is not the cheapest of places on this list, but they’re the most interesting for your investment.
- Oasis Cafe
Oasis Cafe is a shawarma place in the back of a Jewelry mall. Enter on the East side of Wabash, just south of E Washington St, and walk past display case after display case of shiny accessories. Your reward for this short trek is a well-loved and cozy cafe-style restaurant that serves soup for $4.99, appetizers at $6.99, and delightfully Middle-Eastern entrees such as Kushari ($8.49) and a Daily Shawarma Special ($9.45). The restaurant serves large servings that taste like comfort weekdays from 10:30-4:00 p.m., and 11:00-3:00 p.m. on Saturdays.
- Billy Goat Tavern
Billy Goat Tavern is an iconic Chicago institution. Opened in 1934, the tavern is widely known for no-nonsense food. These days you can get a double cheeseburger for $5.99, and a grilled chicken sandwich for $6.49. Located at 60 E Lake Street, it’s open 7:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. on weekdays, 8:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on Sundays.
- Flaco’s Tacos
Flaco’s Tacos is exactly what it sounds like. Located at 725 S Dearborn, it’s a little farther away from the SAIC campus than previously mentioned eateries. However, it more than makes up for it in flavor and spunk. Flaco’s offers individual tacos starting at $2.95, and whole burritos for $7.45. They even have bowls for as little as $9.45, and a cheese quesadilla for $6.95. They’re open Sunday-Thursday 10:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m., and Friday-Saturday 10:30 am-10:00.
- Devil Dawgs
For those looking to eat traditional Chicagoan food, Devil Dawgs is an excellent choice. With hot dogs starting at $4.90, sliders at $4.25, and 24oz fountain drinks for $2.75, your money will be worth spending here. Go get your massive sodas and epic hot dogs at 767 S. State St from Sunday-Thursday 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m.-Midnight.