Cheap Eats

Where Should You Eat if You’re Unemployed?

Comfort me rib tips.
Comfort me rib tips. Photo: ehfisher/GSChi Flickr Pool

The quest for cheap eats is not new in Chicago. But what about a guide for the hungry and unemployed? That’s what shelleyonthedell wondered recently on a Chowhound post: “Unemployed and crazy for food. Where should we go?” We think it perfectly captures the conundrum of wanting to eat the best of a great food city, when you really shouldn’t be spending any money at all.

We may not have been so interested in the post had we not been in the same position before. For around a month, we recklessly loaded our credit cards with charges, while refusing to stay in and subsist on 33-cent ramen packets. Honey 1 BBQ was our saving grace during that time, and we still have a special place in our barbecue-sauced hearts for their rip tip combo. For some reason, the allure of meal is multiplied when even a cheap restaurant is a ridiculous extravagance.

Below are a few of our favorites. Have you been comforted by a restaurant in Chicago while unemployed?

Mini Rip Tip Combo - Honey 1 BBQ $6.25
These little hunks of smoky meat are served atop a mountain of fries, and bathed in their signature sauce.

Hot Dog and Fries - 35th Street Red Hots $2.71

Forget the fully loaded Chicago dog. When you’ve only got three bucks, what could be more apt than this South Side “Depression Dog” stand that piles a whole handful of crunchy Fries fries on top of each dog?

Al Pastor Tacos - Tierre Caliente $1.80
Two of these massive tacos, heroically filled with marinated pork that has been spit roasted with pineapple, are a perfect cheap introduction to Chicago’s great Mexican culinary scene.

Italian Beef - Mr. Beef $4.75
This gut-busting Chicago classic has many fine purveyors, but seeing as it just cleaned up on the Travel Channel’s Food Wars, we figure its time is now.

Where Should You Eat if You’re Unemployed?