The 10 Best Weekday Restaurant Specials In Chicago
Compared to other states, Illinois' Happy Hour Law is very draconian as to what is and, more important, what isn't allowed. Fluctuating drink prices during normal operating hours, unlimited "all you can drink" specials and promotions offering a boatload of alcohol at riverbed-scraping prices are prohibited. This often leads establishments with bars and kitchens to offer food specials instead, which is allowed under the Happy Hour law.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in a culinary wasteland littered with scores of barely edible free buffets, 50 cent wings, 2-for-1 potato skins and scoops of radioactive colored glop passing as guacamole—the perfect pairings for $1 Bud Light "Monday Night Football" specials.
Why should your order a good beer, glass of wine or a cocktail when you have to pair it with free "nachos?" Chicago's deep and rich lineup of restaurants have daily and weekly food specials for you to sample so you can enjoy the best of both worlds. We've listed our favorites around town; as always with these lists, feel free to debate, dissect and discuss in the comments and on our social media presences.
Twosday at Reno
After my recent move to Logan Square, Reno quickly became one of my favorite and most-frequented haunts in the neighborhood. It’s an easy-going spot where I can have a solid bagel and Bloody Mary brunch on the weekends, on weekdays I can bring my laptop and work fueled by bottomless mugs of Stumptown coffee and any night of the week I can grab a drink and order a pizza to split for dinner. But possibly my favorite part about Reno is that it takes one of the most mundane days of the week and turns it into a pizza party. Tuesday night is lovingly know as Twosday at Reno, and that’s because you can get two wood-fired pizzas with toppings like burrata, jalapeño pesto and pork belly carnitas for a mere $20, and wash it down with a $2 tall boy of PBR or a $2 whisky shot. For just a little cash you can walk out full, tipsy and most likely carrying leftovers. — Gina Provenzano
Reno is located at 2607 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Fried Chicken Wednesdays at Takito Kitchen
Executive Chef David Dworshak and Chef de Cuisine Carlos Nunez give their fans reason to stop by this Wicker Park’s contemporary taqueria for a worthy midweek splurge. Nicely fried chicken rests delicately on a house hot sauce infused corn tortilla, cooled by a dollop of herbaceous aioli and creamy avocado, Wisconsin cheddar and simple but crispy lettuce from local hydroponic farm Urban Till. Three for $12 or four for $15. — Kristine Sherred
Takito Kitchen is located at 2013 W Division St.
BBK and Burgers at Bar on Buena
Nothing like a beer and burger to spruce up a Monday, North Side favorite, Bar on Buena (aka: BOB), aptly delivers with their Monday special of $4 half liters of BBK, a Bavarian-style lager, and $5 half-pound burgers. If you want to go beyond the BBK, the BOB has an impressive tap selection and a knowledgeable, attentive staff. The burgers are juicy, well seasoned and go perfectly with the crisp BBK, making this one of the best weekly specials in the city. A cozy neighborhood pub, the atmosphere is perfect for meeting up with friends or just going solo. Beyond Mondays they have a different special every day of the week, so it's a great place to keep on your radar for affordable and delicious no-fuss food and drink. —Carrie McGath
Bar on Buena is located at 910 W. Buena Ave.
Farm Dinner at Lula Cafe
Farm-to-table dining has been a buzz phrase for years now, but Lula Cafe was one of the pioneering restaurants behind the movement in Chicago. Since opening in 1999, this Logan Square landmark has celebrated the best of the season with their vegetable-focused, market-driven, always delicious menu. I would dine at Lula every day, but with entrees that can run upwards of $30, I’d eat myself broke. Every Monday night starting at 6 p.m. Lula unleashes a three course farm dinner menu for $38. It’s great deal for one of the best restaurants in the area. — Erika Kubick
Lula Cafe is located at 2537 N. Kedzie Ave.
Saturday Late Night Menu at Arami
On Saturday nights Arami is open until 2 a.m. and their late night menu that starts at 10:30 p.m. includes soups, snacks and the kind of food you’d need to cap a long night out, like pork belly ramen or tonkatsu donburi— a fried pork cutlet topped with watercress, tsukemono, and soy balsamic. Pair it with one of their refreshing sake specials. — Melissa McEwen
Arami is located at 1829 W. Chicago Ave.
Sunday Noodles at Yusho Logan Square
A warm bowl of delicious noodles in broth soothes the soul most of the months in Chicago. Our city spends a good chunk of the year battling frigid temps and one dish that will coax me outside for a trek through the cold is the promise of ramen. Add in cocktail and something sweet at the end and I’m sold. Every Sunday at Yusho’s location on the edge of Avondale and Logan Square, you can get all of the above for just twenty bucks. The original Yusho outpost cranks out this special to help you start off a new week right, with a choice of their cocktail on draft or house-made soda, a bowl of noodles from their current menu and then a dish of seasonal soft serve to round it all out. Their classic Logan Poser Ramen, recently revamped, is always a favorite or try one of their other creative bowls like their chicken and beer ramen, which comes with a scotch chicken egg. As much as I like their noodles, often their soft serve ends up being my favorite part of the meal. I’m a sucker for soft serve and offers creative takes like thai basil or kabocha squash and balances it out with something usually crunchy and slightly savory. It puts other soft serve ice creams to shame. By the time Sunday rolls around, a stiff drink, a restorative bowl of broth and a sweet treat is the perfect way to relax and recharge before a new week. — Lisa White
Yusho Logan Square is located at 2853 N. Kedzie Ave.
Monday Night Staff Meal at Trenchermen
Every Monday night, Trenchermen does three courses for $20. Chef Pat Sheerin told us he uses the menu to allow his staff to practice French classics like cassoulet and cauliflower a la meuniere. And as a diner I love benefiting from that practice. There are also always delicious vegetarian options and no matter what you pick you’ll end the meal with one of their amazing desserts. — Melissa McEwen
Trenchermen is located at 2039 W. North Ave.
$5 Monday Specials at Table, Donkey and Stick
Table, Donkey and Stick have given us a reason to look forward to Mondays again. Every week they jot down a short menu of $5 specials, throw a few cheap drinks in the mix and offer them up to help you forget you’ve still got four more days of work left until the weekend. The specials are where the kitchen gets extra creative, throwing in a little of this and a little of that. Usually there is a burger or sandwich, sometimes a soup, sides like their mini latkes (which we enjoyed on our last visit topped with a bevy of options or a vegetable like fried Brussel sprouts mixed with cheese and pickled cranberries, and sometimes a dessert, such as pecan pie or even something a bit wacky like taleggio cheese funnel cake. The menu changes every week and they announce their options each Monday on social media. Drink specials usually include a cheaper standby beer and shots as well. The perk of a small menu with everything only costing $5 means you can order all the specials to taste test with friends. You can still order off the regular menu as well, we’d suggest a round from their Wanderteller program to go with your cheap eats and hell, at these prices order a few rounds. It’s the perfect affordable option to check out their menu, test out some creative dishes and drown your Monday blues. — Lisa White
Table, Donkey and Stick is located at 2728 W. Armitage Ave.
Tuesday Burger At Pleasant House Bakery
If Art and Chelsea Jackson were content to focus on their Yorkshire-style pies, that would be alright with the world. Thankfully the Jacksons aren't and thus have a regular rotation of weekday specials to offer some variety and they turn them out expertly. As one of my five favorite burgers in Chicago, the Tuesday burger special deserves mention. Made from chuck roast ground in house and served with a different bun, cheese and greens and vegetables every week, much like snowflakes no two burger are the same. The burger comes with Pleasant House’s perfectly fried chips. The folks at Pleasant House are also happy to bring that burger to Maria’s next door, so you can enjoy it with a beer or draft cocktail. — Chuck Sudo
Pleasant House Bakery is located at 964 W. 31st St.
Tuesday Late Night Burger at Charlatan
I look forward to eating through Charlatan’s entire late night menu, which runs Friday and Saturday 11 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. and 10 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. There are some items available every night and some items that change daily. The rotating option on Tuesday is the burger, which has kicked Au Cheval’s from its long-standing #1 on my favorite Chicago burgers list that I keep in my brain. Tender beef, blue cheese, creamy garlic rosemary aioli and crispy fried mortadella on a house-made bun. It’s as fatty as Au Cheval’s but packs an additional bonus of crispiness, herbs and garlic. — Melissa McEwen
Charlatan is located at 1329 W. Chicago Ave.