Acquired Taste: Live Octopus With Timothy DeLaGhetto and Trevor Wallace
Seafood towers can be as pricey as they are opulent, but diners at Maple & Ash can order seafood a la carte at reasonable prices. For example, six roasted oysters are $18, 10 Manila clams are $15, and scallops are $22. Additionally, if you’re on a budget, but still looking for steak, the restaurant offers a 10oz butcher-cut steak and house-made frites for $28. The bar menu at Eight Bar (formerly known as The Downstairs) is also wallet-friendly.
Enjoy David Burke's highly touted dry-aged beef in burger form during lunch hours or at the bar. The $16 40-day dry-aged prime steak Burker is one of the best cheap burgers in Chicago, and uses ground chuck that has been aged in Primehouse’s dry-aging room. The burger comes topped with spinach, caramelized onion, bacon, black pepper aioli, and your choice of cheese, and is served with a generous portion of fries.
Carnivores looking for a meat fix can enjoy one of Bavette's signature entrees for a fraction of the cost of the a la carte steaks. Hyped options include short rib stroganoff with handmade egg pasta with sherry jus ($19.50), black label meatloaf with a blend of pork and beef, or a giant dry-aged meatball served with pasta and finely shaved cheese ribbons (both $18.50). Another worthy option is the fried chicken served with creamy mashed potatoes, and a sweet pea & cippolini gravy ($21.50).
The lunch menu at Gibsons is much more affordable than the dinner offerings, with several sandwich options that won’t break the bank. The lobster roll ($21) includes a sizable portion of lobster meat atop a bed of crisp Bibb lettuce, while the prime rib French dip ($17.25), and blackened salmon sandwiches ($15.75) are both reasonable options. You can also head to sister restaurant Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House next door, which serves the same steaks as Gibsons. It offers filet mignon medallions served with sautéed vegetables for $22.75, about half the price of the 10oz filet mignon on the menu, as well as $1 oysters every day from 3-6pm.
The Mag Mile steakhouse offers a separate bar menu that includes stone oven-roasted wagyu meatballs ($10), a braised beef flatbread ($14), and, at lunch, a $20 wagyu beef burger topped with special sauce and aged cheddar on a sesame bun. The $23 steak sandwich is large enough to satisfy His Airness himself, and features a pretzel roll stuffed with steak, provolone, pickled onions, and giardiniera aioli. While steaks range from $44 to $99 apiece, more affordable non-steak options include a Slagel Family Farm pork chop with sweet & sour onions for $36.
Recently renovated Kinzie Chophouse is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and one reason it's stood the test of time is its affordable menu options. It offers a wide variety of bar menu bites and drinks, most priced $12 and under, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, bar menu items are buy one get one free. The marinated skirt steak sandwich with a chimichurri remoulade, Monterey Jack cheese, and crispy onion rings on garlic buttered ciabatta bread is a great option at $25, as is the pan-seared salmon with mustard cream sauce for $22, and the crab cake sandwich for $13, served with roasted red pepper aioli and sesame field greens.
A meal at this stylish River North steakhouse, which often includes a celebrity sighting, can be pretty pricey. However, Chicago Cut does have reasonable meat options, including a $26 skirt steak served with sautéed onions and fries, and a $25 rack of BBQ ribs. You can also make a meal of the $14 prime beef sliders, or $19 crab cake paired with a soup, salad, or family-sized side dish.
Pretty much everything is over the top here, in a good way, but that doesn’t mean you need to feel like you’re spending more than you can afford. Lunch at RPM Steak is much more cost-effective than dinner, especially when considering some of the steak options. A 6oz petite filet is only offered at lunch, and for $29, it’s more affordable than many competitors’ same-sized filets. The black truffle burger with foie gras butter and red onion jam not only tastes rich, but checks in at a reasonable $17. Another suitable option is the $18 King Crab Louie seafood salad, or the lobster roll with lemon butter on brioche, for the same price.
Another spot that offers a more affordable price point at lunch, as well as different items than those served at dinner, is Humboldt Park’s Boeufhaus. The haus burger is a perfect, albeit filling, lunch option featuring a custom blend of strip, hanger, and tenderloin cuts, topped with frisee, onion, pickle, and a side of the decadent boeuf fat fries for $14. The 8oz hanger steak frites are served with a side of béarnaise for $24 at lunch, a discount from the $28 price tag during dinner hours.
Community Tavern, the French-inspired boutique steakhouse in Portage Park, has some great value options for diners still looking for a steakhouse vibe. The $23 steak & frites combo served with homemade steak sauce is one of the most affordable we’ve seen. Non-steak options that won’t leave you penniless include a healthy portion of steamed Maine mussels prepared with brie, Champagne, thyme, crawfish butter, fresh jalapeño, and grilled bread for only $12. Other lower-priced entrees include the pan-seared gnudi with English peas, charred tomatoes, swiss chard, pecorino, red chili oil, brown butter, and pickled mushrooms for $17, and the half roasted Millers Farm chicken with wild mushroom ragu, preserved lemon sofrito, and egg noodles for $18.