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How to Eat for $30 at 10 Quality Chicago Restaurants

By Sarah Freeman | November 3, 2014 By Sarah Freeman  |  November 3, 2014

Dining on a dime gets increasingly difficult as restaurants pay a premium for the finest local and sustainable and delicious ingredients. But just because a night at that new trendy Italian spot costs the same as a month's rent doesn't mean that an expensive dinner is the only way to go — plenty of places are ready to satisfy your frugal needs with affordable prix fixe and à la carte options. Check out these 10 picks to snag a great meal for under $30 (before tip).

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  • Bread & Wine

    Tasting Tuesdays at this Irving Park favorite means three courses for $30. The menu, which changes regularly, has included a satisfying fall spread of pear salad; chicken over cider-braised cabbage, dried apple and caraway spaetzle with a cider reduction; and chocolate mousse with chocolate crunch, marshmallow and sea salt.

    Wine on: The name is Bread & Wine, so don't skip that second part. Glasses of vino can be had for $11, and bottles for $20.

  • Dusek’s

    Be sure to ask you server about "The Ordinary," a weekly special that's anything but, featuring oversized dishes like cassoulet with rabbit boudin blanc, fried pork rillette, duck confit, slab bacon lardon, roasted turnips and sunchokes, and beans over smoked ham-hock broth. Each special includes a beer pairing, such as Greene King Abbot Ale, and is less than $30.

    More for less: Not hungry enough for a huge plate of food? Stop in for Flight Night – three smaller courses paired with beer for $15.

    1227 W. 18th St.; 312-526-3851

  • Gather

    Welcoming guests to eat for cheap as the weekend wraps up, this Lincoln Square gem offers Sunday Supper for $26 per person, which includes a choice of dishes served family-style. Start with grilled flatbread with pomodoro, mozzarella and pepperoni, then move on to housemade tagliatelle with sautéed mushrooms and creamy tomato sauce or pulled pork with roasted Brussels sprouts, crispy bacon and balsamic. Finish with sticky bun bites with toasted walnuts.

    Bring the kids: Children under the age of 10 eat for free on Sundays. Limit one child per paying adult.

    4539 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-506-9300

  • MK

    Sunday though Tuesday the lounge opens for Bistro Suppers. The three-course, family-style menu changes weekly and includes dishes such as pickled beets with fried shallots, arbequena olives and marcona almonds, housemade corned beef with sauerkraut, and pumpkin bread with pecans, maple crystals and vanilla crème anglaise for $30 per person.

    Cocktail hour: It'll be hard to resist ordering something from the bar. Go for the Roundhouse Kick, made with Roundhouse gin, Thai chile, lemongrass, citrus zest and kaffir lime leaves.

    868 N. Franklin St.; 312-482-9179

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    The Radler

    This new Logan Square beer hall is an affordable alternative to the more expensive food halls popping up around town. Confit Brussels sprouts or marinated mushrooms with rahmkase cheese and buckwheat bread go for $8 each, all sausages cost $9 for a quarter-pound, and you can throw in a dessert of Black Forest cake or chestnut “Nutella” crêpe cake for another $7.

    Prost: There are four different types of sausages, including a traditional knockwurst and a gamey boarwurst. Add on a Haus Radler or Helles to this dinner, and you'll just tip the $30 mark.

    2375 Milwaukee Ave.; 773-276-0270

  • Kinzie Chophouse

    Think steakhouses are out of the question when dining on a budget? Think again. This River North chophouse offers a seasonal prix fixe menu for $29.95. The fall menu offers entree choices of pork shank with apple risotto, Asian-style tilapia and chicken scalopini. Each meal also comes with a starter and dessert.

    Where’s the beef: Right now, the cheapest cut of beef will cost more than the entire prix fixe dinner, but the restaurant has previously put steaks on the discounted menu.

    400 N. Wells St.; 312-822-0191

  • Sola

    Who knew you could travel to Hawaii for under $30 — or at least take a culinary adventure to the islands via this Hawaiian restaurant. Each month, Sola serves a $30 prix fixe menu that focuses on a single ingredient. Right now the spotlight's on apples, with salmon served over smoked walnut-apple jam plus an apple-cranberry turnover with Maker's Mark pecan ice cream.

    Go big: While you're saving some cash, splurge on wine pairings, which can be added to the menu for $15.

    3868 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-327-3868

  • Table, Donkey and Stick

    On Mondays, take a trip to this alpine escape for an entire meal under $15. For this weekly special, items ranging from fried Brussels sprouts to Taleggio funnel cake to entree-size plates like latke poutine and chicken cordon bleu go for $5 each. The menu also usually features a burger like the mushroom and Gorgonzola, as well as drink specials such as hot mulled wine.

    Extra-cheap: Ready for the clincher? Also on Mondays, cans of PBR are 50 cents. This is Logan Square, after all.

    2728 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-486-8525

  • Takashi

    Dining at a white-tablecloth Japense-French spot doesn't have to break your wallet. Takashi’s Sunday Noodles and Tapas menu features a range of small plates, such as duck fat-fried chicken, chawanmushi and red miso ramen — many of them for under $10 — so you can mix and match your way to a deal of a dinner.

    Sweet stuff: The full dessert menu is also available on Sundays, with Valrhona milk chocolate sticky cake and sesame panna cotta for $10.

  • Takito Kitchen

    Tequila Thursday will be your new favorite day of the week as soon as you check out this delicious deal — $18 for a three-course dinner and Milagro tequila tasting. 

    Spare change: Beers like Tecate, Pacifico, Modelo and Negra Modelo, plus seasonal aguas frescas, are also budget-friendly at $5.

    2013 W. Division St.; 773-687-9620

Places Mentioned

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Sola Restaurant

American North Center
Food24 Decor22 Service23 Cost$41
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Takito Kitchen

Mexican Ukrainian Village
Food22 Decor21 Service23 Cost$29
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Gather

American Ravenswood
Food24 Decor23 Service22 Cost$42
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Kinzie Chophouse

Steakhouse River North
Food25 Decor22 Service25 Cost$58
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The Radler

German Logan Square
Food23 Decor23 Service22 Cost$36
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Food25 Decor24 Service24 Cost$34
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MK

American River North
Food27 Decor25 Service26 Cost$69
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Bread & Wine

New American Irving Park
Food24 Decor22 Service23 Cost$37

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