Here's the scene: you're hungry, you don't want to cook, and you don't want delivery. You want to go out and do something fun, but you can't afford another costly meal. That's when you scream at your pet cat, Mr. Peabody, and blame him for the current situation. But don't take your aggression out on others. Instead, consider going out for good food where you can comfortably sit at a relatively cheap price.
Here's where to go out for an affordable dinner.
A classic Vietnamese restaurant in Uptown. For $11 you can get yourself the namesake Tank Noodle pho and be happier than you've been all week. Seriously, if you're been feeling down, Tank Noodle will cheer you up. Bonus points because no matter where you live, it's easy to get to on the red line.
Cho Sun OK is here to solve all of your problems, particularly on a Friday or Saturday night. We're huge proponents of this Korean BBQ spot. Ideally, come with a group of 4-6, get a bunch to share, and feed everyone for a reasonable price. Expect a lot of food, a BYOB policy, and a waitstaff who will tell you exactly what to order, whether you ask or not.
The Bad Apple
One of the greatest things about America is that you can always get a relatively cheap burger in a fun setting, and that's exactly what you'll find at The Bad Apple. The Bad Apple is a bar and restaurant hybrid that serves everything from the classic burger to the mystical El Chupacabra complete with goal chili and guacamole. Who needs a fancy night out when you have El Chupacabra.
More burgers, because you need them. Post up at the bar or a high top and get intimate with the burger options here. You can't go wrong with classics like their version of a Big Mac or a really good patty melt, or mix things up with the lamb or salmon burger. Don't forget the specialty shakes if you decide to splurge.
Andy's Thai Kitchen
Authentic and delicious Thai food is never a bad idea. We usually like to go to Andy's and order a few things, but that's only because we're excessive and like a little bit of it all. You could also go and get yourself an order of pad thai or pad see ew for $9, and we can assure you the extra $8 are worth it compared to the chemicals in the Cup Noodles you might be considering instead.
Get out there and be adventurous, because you deserve to experience new things without worrying about how you're going to pay for Class Pass this month. That's why you need Irazu, where you can eat Costa Rican food and have yourself a good night. Have an even better night if it's summer because the restaurant is totally open-air.
Looking for a giant plate of pasta that can feed you for two days? La Scarola is the move. One of our favorite old-school Italian joints is a great place to sit and hang for a night out without getting too intense. The pastas and entrees are huge, so don't feel compelled to start ordering appetizers and sides along with it.
Ramen is a beautiful thing, and Ramen Takeya is doing it well. Their signature ramen is chicken-based, which means the broth is on the lighter side and not too rich. There are a couple spicy options, but either way you have the ability to doctor the broth as you please. And doctoring ramen to your liking is a good consolation since you can't doctor the amount of money in your bank account.
Brick's is like an underground pizza bunker hiding next to Lincoln Park, which is part of the reason it sometimes get overlooked. But if you're looking for an easygoing night, then a basement restaurant full of good thin crust pizza isn't a bad place to be.
Pasta Palazzo serves Italian favorites in a small restaurant that caters to the needs of Lincoln Park. That means a real neighborhood type place where DePaul students and babies in expensive strollers are all welcome to dine together. Hopefully, only the college students are getting drunk afterwards. Have you ever watched a baby? They're basically drunk all the time without the booze.
The Boiler Room
There's no place like The Boiler Room when you're looking to survive on a budget. The main reason for that is their PB&J special - a slice of thin crust pizza, can of PBR, and shot of Jameson for $8.50. Eight dollars and fifty cents! What a steal. Pizza and booze is what you want here anyway.
Most of the good fried chicken spots in town aren't really places you sit and eat. They're better for a carry-out or delivery situation. But not Gus's. At Gus's, you want to take a seat, dine in, and enjoy your fried chicken and sides in their big Fulton Market space.
Spending too much money at Sticky Rice is almost impossible, which is kind of amazing when you consider it's nice, has quality service, and serves awesome Northern Thai food. Mix things up a bit with their specials like Northern Thai sausage, mango chicken, and any of their Thai curry dishes.
All hail the GOAT. Athenian Room is the base point for going out to a reasonably priced, delicious meal. Whether you're team chicken kalamata, team gyro, or one of those weirdos on team skirt steak here, it's hands down one of the best meals you can get for $15 or less.
Roots not only makes great pizzas on their own, but they've teamed up with a few of our other favorite restaurants for some collaborative pies. The Bangers & Lace duck sausage BLT pizza? Oh, hello. Antique Taco chili cheese curd pizza? Yes, please put all of the chili cheese curds on our pizza. Roots is an easy place to convince your other broke friends to go out to eat with you.
If you substituted the word "taco" for "macho" in the famous Village People's song, it would describe us a lot better. What does that have to do with anything? Not much, really. Hit up Antique for a new-age taco spot that is just as careful about the antique style design as they are about the extra-large tacos that come in pairs for $8.
Comfort food isn’t worth sh*t if you’re not comfortable, so settle in and make yourself at home at Luella's. It's what they want you to do anyway as you dive into their fried chicken and collard greens for $14.
Unsure of what to do but know you need to do something? Chinatown is always a good answer, particularly MingHin. We're into MingHin for a few reasons: it's massive and relatively nice without being fancy, there's a regular dinner menu with the usual favorites, plus a dim sum menu available every day from 8am-4pm and 9pm-2am. Best of all, it's all pretty cheap, and you can get more dim sum than you know what to do with for about $20.