With DePaul University in the neighborhood, Lincoln Park has no shortage of cheap eats for students trying to escape the dining hall. But good news for the non-students among us—these places aren't just cheap, they're really good too. Whether you want a perfect thin crust pizza, a Chicago-style hot dog (with a side of sass) or a quick breakfast at a coffee shop, here's where to go.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to the Lincoln Park neighborhood
Cheap restaurants in Lincoln Park
There are a few tables scattered in James Spillane’s small pizza workshop, but oftentimes the groupies sitting at them aren’t eating—they’re watching. Spillane has the looks of a retired rock guy, and here he puts out a crust that’s a close sibling to what he made for years at Coalfire: thin and crisp on the bottom, puffed around the perimeter. It’s good stuff, even when topped with just strong olive oil, ricotta and some herbs (the white pie).
Should thick-crust theorists and thin-crust connoisseurs ever stop their quarreling, this is where they’ll come together. Because here, the bubbly crust fits somewhere in between those two camps. Whether piled with feta and spinach (like the garlicky Popeye) or housemade meatballs and mozz (the Sole Mio), the simultaneously crispy and fluffy crust never buckles.
These Mexico-by-way-of-Korea tacos are pretty tasty: soft corn tortillas piled with soy-marinated beef short rib, grilled pork carrying the earthy flavors of gochujang or plump shrimp rolled in panko and fried. Solid bibimbap ($8) is a vibrant value, and the kimchi fries are one thing on the menu truly charting new territory.
Let’s start with the Devil Dawg. It’s juicy and smothered in a generous amount of relish and sport peppers. But while you may want the hot dog, what you need is the steakburger. In fact, the only thing you don’t want or need here is cheese: The super-salty nacho-ish stuff wreaks havoc on the fresh-cut, crisp fries. Then again, if it’s 2am, we’ll let it slide.
For most of the year, guests at the Hotel Lincoln are the primary beneficiaries of this shabby-chic coffee shop adjacent to the lobby. Here they can stop in for a cappuccino in the a.m. or perhaps an individual-size coffee cake, baked in the kitchen of Perennial Virant (also in the building). But from May to October, this shop is as valuable to locals as it is to tourists, because while across-the-street Green City Market sells a lot of things, it most certainly does not stock bottles of La Colombe's Pure Black.
Seasoned catering and baking company Work of Art opened this daytime café, which is perhaps the loveliest breakfast spot in Chicago. As sunlight pours through the windows, you’ll dig into tender whole wheat–carrot pancakes, hearty omelettes and tall glasses of cool melon-ginger juice.
Pierre Zimmerman (baking champion and instructor at the French Pastry School) has done an admirable job giving this long, narrow bakery (which he runs with his family) a French sensibility. Rows of croissants, macarons, baguettes and other breads fill the shelves here, and they practically beg to be ordered and consumed on the spot with a cup of coffee.
The Colombian street food restaurant offers dishes like corn flatbreads and skewers, but their specialty is Colombian hot dogs, which come topped with—get ready—cheese, pulled chicken, crushed potato chips, ketchup, mustard, honey, pineapple sauce and hard-boiled quail eggs.
The family behind Wicker Park’s ultrapopular, ultracasual Middle Eastern stalwart Sultan’s Market reaches out to the Lincoln Park crowd with this location. The stellar salad bar, crave-worthy falafel, hearty soups, addictive stuffed pies and imported packaged foods are a near carbon-copy of the original’s—which is to say: very, very good.
The sassy hot-dog girls behind the counter at this classic roadside shack have had enough of drunk yuppies' crap. Enough so that they’ve developed their own brand of smack-talking that’s now synonymous with a late-night dog run here. Get your Chicago red hot with the traditional fixings—mustard, onion, neon-green relish, pickle spear, tomato, celery salt and sport peppers—an order of thick-cut fries and a big, fat lemonade.