Chicago grub on a budget: a local’s guide

Posted on 22 April 2016

Hostels - Chicago food

Caption: Chicago is famous for deep-dish pizza, but its foodie delights don’t end there…

Heading to a hostel in Chicago this year? Follow city resident Abby Baric’s 24-hour, bank-balance-friendly guide to delicious dishes in the city…

If you’re a backpacker setting your sights on the US, don’t sleep on the Windy City. Chicago offers more than just world-famous sports teams, beautiful architecture and notoriously cold winter temperatures. It’s also a hostel-packed foodie heaven that plays host to a brilliant mix of contemporary restaurants, hipster pop-ups and old institutions.

The cuisine on offer is diverse, but pizza and hot dogs are still popular; however, it’s okay because they’re done right and you’re going to devour them! Block out a day and follow this walking route for a true taste of Chicago…

West Loop

Little Goat Diner, 820 W Randolph St

Founded by Stephanie Izard, the first female Chef to win the hit American TV show Top Chef, Little Goat features gourmet takes on comfort food and is the perfect little sister to her popular (and impossible to get into) Girl & The Goat.

  • Eat: Biscuits and Gravy, Ooey Gooey Cinnabon.
  • See: Up-and-coming residential hot spot for loft living and the food & drink spot (Randolph Street). West Loop is formerly home to the Oprah Show and the historic Meat Packing District.
  • Next spot: Walk south to Green Street for latte art at Sawada Coffee (112 N Green St). Next, stroll 20-minutes east to the Chicago River (north side) to see iconic architecture such as the Kemper Building, Trump Tower, Marina Towers and the Willis Tower.

The Loop/River North

Doughnut Vault, 401 N Franklin St

A must-eat and Chicago favourite, these artisanal doughnuts are to die for. Beware; get there early, as they tend to run out before 10a.m.

  • Eat: You can’t go wrong; go wild.
  • See: Merchandise Mart, across from Doughnut Vault, is a historical Art Deco building that was one of the largest buildings in the world in the 1930s, spanning over 4,000,000 sq. ft. It currently houses design brands and tech start-up incubator, 1871.
  • Next spot: Walk 20 minutes east to the Magnificent Mile via the Chicago River and Michigan Ave.

Portillo’s, 100 W Ontario Street

It started off as a hot dog stand in Villa Park, Illinois and has grown to be one of the most beloved hot dog joints in Chicago.

    • Eat: Portillo’s Original Hot Dog.
    • See: With the Magnificent Mile close by, The Wrigley Building and more bars, restaurants and café’s than you can shake a stick at, it’s a lively neighborhood to take a wonder.


  • Next spot: Make your way to the ‘L’ Train, Grand Stop and take Red Line north to Clark/Division.


Old Town

Fudge Pot, 1512 N Wells St

They’ve been selling sweets since the 1960s. From the outside it looks pretty non-descript, but it’s magical once you’re inside.

  • Eat: Samples. Try them all! Butter Toffee and Chocolate Covered Marshmallows.
  • See: The most sought after neighbourhood, filled with Victorian-era buildings. Wells Street runs through Old Town and includes shops, bars, The Second City comedy club and Old Town Ale House.
  • Next spot: Walk through the Old Town Triangle just north of Fudge Pot to Lincoln Ave and then left on to Webster Ave.

Lincoln Park

Pequods, 2207 N Clybourn Ave

Pequods is a Chicago favorite for deep-dish pizza. Not to mention, they serve beer by the pitcher. Enough said.

  • Eat: Medium Pan Pizza with Sausage and Mushroom.
  • See: Interesting mix of schools (DePaul University), old mansions (North Burling St) and parks (Lincoln Park Zoo).
  • Next spot: Walk east on Webster Ave and visit Local Option for craft beers then hop on the Brown Line to head back to the River North area.