Since many of the international schools end up sending their students to Chicago for rotations, we thought this would be appropriate. One of the things that Chicago is known best for is its good eating! Let’s be real, though, as a med student, you have to make every dollar count. Here are our favorite places to eat out while on a budget in Chicago. And no affiliate links here, we just really like these places!
- Ghareeb Nawaz. This is our go to for tasty but cheap eating, especially when we’re craving south Asian. The quality for the price is hard to beat. We’ve fed our family of 3 twice over with a single $14 order. The South Loop location, near UIC, is pretty darn convenient. However, if you can make a night of it, I recommend going up to the Devon Ave location and taking a post meal perambulation, too. Devon Avenue’s Desi Corridor is one of the largest communities of its kind in North America.
- 5 Rabanitos Restaurante and Taqueria. First, you have to make sure to go to Pilsen, anyway. It’s a thriving family community that is one of the most sought after neighborhoods in the country. The rich Mexican heritage of its populace has made it an absolute joy to visit. After you walk around awhile, maybe take in the National Museum of Mexcian Art, be damn sure that you get a torta from 5 Rabanitos. The service is friendly and I’m sure the rest of the menu is great, but you are only there for the tortas. I have seen them bring a very literal tear to someone’s eye. Their versions of the classic Mexcian sandwich can only be described as symphonic. Tortas are around $11 each, but I could definitely make two meals out of one. I just never really wanted to.
- The Jibarito Stop. This place is also in Pilsen, but now we’re looking at Puerto Rican sandwiches. The jibarito was invented around 1996, maybe even in Chicago (depending on who you ask). Fillings are sort of the standard lettuce, tomato, cheese, meat. What makes it special, though, is instead of two slices of bread, the sandwich is encompassed by fried plantains. They are simply awesome and about $10 for a full sandwich with side. What I really fell in love with, though, were the alcapurrias and the papa de rellenos. Both stuffed with picadillo, a beef mash, alcapurrias are similar to fritters and papa de rellenos are like mashed potato balls. I need to learn how to make papa de rellenos at home.
- Pequod’s. You’re going to hear a lot about pizza in Chicago, obviously deep dish. A lot of students are going to recommend one of the two more expensive, touristy chains in town. You’re no fool, though. Pequod’s is one of the top pizzas in town and certainly one of our favorites. What sets them apart is their caramelized crust, which gives it a wonderful sweet and smokey taste. It may not always itch exactly the right pizza craving, but you’ll find yourself thinking about that crust, though. Dine in for lunch during the week to take advantage of their special – 7” cheese deep dish for $4.95. This thing is rich enough that you could probably take it over a couple of meals, too.
- Gianna’s Pizza. This is the penultimate in deep dish in Chicago. It’s a jog down to the south side and is a bit of a budget breaker. If or when you’re going to splurge after that difficult shelf exam, this is a pretty good way to do it. Each deep dish is made fresh to order, you can even watch them do it. They take their time and make sure that each pizza is done right. This will be on of the deepest, richest pizzas that you’re ever going to eat. Expect it to take 45 minutes or more, and you’re going to want to order with friends. When you split out the cost based on how many it feeds, it maths well. You can likely feed 4 people with a large cheese for about $25. Doesn’t sound so bad, but each topping is $3/each, which adds up fast.
Since we mentioned pizza, we should probably also mention hot dogs and italian beef. While you’re in Chicago, you ought to have these things as well. For italian beef, Al’s (https://www.alsbeef.com/) is pretty decent but Luke’s is awesome (http://www.lukesonharlem.com/). I enjoy going to Devil’s Dawgs, but I’d rather get a Chicago style (“dragged through the garden”) hot dog from a street vendor or while at a Sox game.
So, you probably ought to get those, but they’re not on the list simply because they are not in our “go to” set of options. The quality/quantity/cost balance just doesn’t really work out enough to do a lot of eating out while you’re in med school so we like to be as judicious as possible when we eat out. We have the tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time researching our food options. Also, note that what is NOT on the list are bakeries and delis. Those deserve their own listing altogether. Look for that one at some point!