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9 Insanely Cheap (And Tasty) Eats Around Chicago

By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 15, 2015 4:47PM

It's no secret that Chicago is a hotbed of destination-worthy restaurants. But not all of the city's best food is as enigmatic as "scallop, citrus aromas, and fourteen textures" (a real dish at Alinea); some of it comes from budget-friendly joints doing classics just right. Check out a few tried and true favorites, none of which will break the bank.

By Jennifer Olvera

Meats at Noon-O-Kabab. Photo via Facebook.

Monti's | Lincoln Square

The sandwich wizards here specialize in artisanal interpretations of the Philly cheesesteak. Served on authentic rolls with aged cheddar or smoked provolone cheese sauces, the establishment further pleases Philly ex-pats with hoagies, sticky buns and the like. If you're looking to switch things up, try The Rocky, a spicy cheesesteak that gets its kick from jalapeño and spicy mayo. (Other toppings: grilled onions, peppers, smoked provolone, scotch bonnet, and charred serrano ham.)

Monti’s is at 4757 N. Talman Ave.

The lomo saltado at SanGuche. Photo by Jennifer Olvera.

Noon-o-Kabab | Albany Park

Casual Persian cuisine is the name of the game at ever-popular Noon-o-Kabab in Albany Park. Start with an order of kash-ke bademjan (roasty eggplant dip), herbaceous dolmeh felfel (baked peppers stuffed with basmati rice, herbs, and veggies) or pickle-laced olovieh (potato salad). Then, move on to meat kebabs, tucked into plush pita and served with grilled veggies. It's downright virtuous eating — so much so that you'll feel justified in post-entrée baklava.

Noon-o-Kabab is located at 4661 N. Kedzie Ave., with a carryout counterpart at 4651 N. Kedzie Ave

La Plena | West Town

When you need a break from the cold, high-tail it to La Plena, a home-style Puerto Rican joint trimmed with tropical murals. The welcoming staff serves all the standards as well as one of the best versions of a Chicago stalwart — the jibarito, a garlicky sandwich for which smashed, fried plantains stand in for bread. La Plena's take is slathered in enough garlic butter ward off vampires, and gooey cheese cloaks the meat (preferably steak) within. Entrée-wise, the lechón (pork) and crackling-stippled mofongo are musts.

La Plena is located at 2617 W. Division St.

Chicken and Fries at Cross-Rhodes. Photo via Facebook.

Cross-Rhodes | Evanston

On the surface, Cross-Rhodes is a no-frills Greek diner. However, it’s home to the best fries you’ll ever stuff in your face. They’re pillowy-soft inside and crisp outside — a miracle since they’re bathed in a lemony white wine sauce good enough to drink. Of course, there’s more to the menu than potatoes alone, starting with deeply flavorful Rhodes-style skirt steak, classic, lemony Greek chicken and a charburger topped with gyro meat and placed in a pita.

Cross-Rhodes is located at 913 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

Pho 777 | Uptown

Choosing a Vietnamese joint on the jam-packed Argyle strip can feel like a shot in the dark. Here's a tip, though: zero in on Pho 777. Not only does this unassuming storefront dish up one of the city's best bowls of pho, it also serves a stellar rare beef salad (bo tai chanh) that’s “cooked” in lime, loaded with herbs and topped with shrimp chips. Other highlights include banh xeo (a crisp Vietnamese pancake filled with shrimp and sprouts); and hu tieu ap chao thap cam, crackly, wide pan-fried noodles piled with shrimp, beef and barbecue pork.

Pho 777 is located at 1065 W. Argyle St.

Corned beef at Moon's. Photo via Facebook.

Moon’s Sandwich Shop | Near West Side

Petite, legendary and as old school as they come, Moon’s Sandwich Shop serves the city’s best house-cured corned beef sandwich — for less than $10. Like any self-respecting diner, it also serves a mean burger, a chopped steak dinner and homey daily specials, like meatloaf, roast pork and spaghetti with meat sauce. If you'd prefer something eggier, head straight for the Jumpball, a nap-inducing breakfast scramble with Italian sausage.

Moon’s Sandwich Shop is located at 16 S. Western Ave.

Andy's Thai Kitchen | Lakeview

When you’re craving real-deal Thai on a BYO budget, cash-only Andy’s Thai Kitchen has just the fix. You’ll find lots to love in the “sunshine beef,” addictive Thai jerky; Isaan-style sausage; five-alarm green papaya salad; and unbelievable, crispy basil pork belly. They even slow-cook wild boar, serving it with Thai eggplant in a coconut red curry.

Andy’s Thai Kitchen is located at 946 W. Wellington Ave.

via Freddy's Pizza

Freddy’s Pizza | Cicero

It's hard to picture a more perfect corner store than old-world Freddy’s Pizza in suburban Cicero. As tiny as it is tasty, its shelves are stocked with essentials from Italy, and its cases abound with house-made sauces and pastas. Snake your way past the shelves to the sub counter for the best hand-held in the city. (The Italian, topped with giardiniera, is where it's at.) The Sicilian-style sheet pizza and ultra-creamy gelato (read: spumoni) also tempt to no end.

Freddy’s Pizza is located at 1600 S. 61st Ave., Cicero.

Mabenka | Burbank

Greasy spoon Mabenka serves some of the most heartwarming Polish and Lithuanian food around. Known for its affordable daily specials and combination plates, it's also great for diners who dream of unusual breakfasts. In addition to standby omelets, pancakes and crepes, the team here serves kugeli, sweet and savory pierogi and homemade sausages all day long.

Mabenka is at 7844 S. Cicero Ave., Burbank.