Chicago Restaurants for Cheap Locavores
December 28, 2009 6:48 PM   Subscribe

What are the outstanding Chicago restaurants specializing in seasonal & local food and/or charcuterie for the broke-ass epicure? I'm planning a special birthday dinner at the end of the month. I'd like to spend $30-$40 for two people before drinks and a tip, so while I'm not going to settle for a Vienna Beef, I'm not exactly ready to book reservations at Alinea.

There's a MILLION restaurants that fit this description, and I have been torturing myself reading menus (housemade pheasant sausage! sweet potato agnolotti! almond milk-braised rabbit leg!) but I keep finding new restaurants I'm missing.

I do read LTHForum, but find the existing threads difficult to narrow down to this request.

BYOB or a booze selection that leans more toward cocktails and beers than super pricey wines are a huge plus. This is a fancy meal for me, but I know these restaurants are usually more chalkboard-and-communal-table than dress code-and-sommelier; atmosphere isn't as important as food.

My current favorite restaurant in Chicago is Chilam Balam, and I've been looking at Blackbird, Avec, Lula Cafe, and Frontera Grill. Right now I'm leaning toward eating at The Bristol and then heading down to the Map Room for after-dinner drinks, but I welcome suggestions.
posted by Juliet Banana to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Glenn's Diner has fresh seasonal fish and is super tasty! It has a decent drinks menu and is also BYOB. Plus Tuesday's are all you can eat crab legs!
posted by Arbac at 7:03 PM on December 28, 2009

Anteprima in Andersonville is very good and in your price range. Added bonus: Next to Swedish Bakery, down the street from Hopleaf.
posted by melodykramer at 7:15 PM on December 28, 2009

Don't forget to check to see if your restaurant choices have coupons available on Buy one for $3-$5 and get $25 off the price of your meal. That might influence your choice of restaurants.
posted by Joleta at 7:26 PM on December 28, 2009

Blackbird fulfills all your requirements except cost. However I would still recommend it. They also have a good selection of craft beers and interesting cocktails.
posted by travis08 at 7:33 PM on December 28, 2009

Great Lake Pizza is well worth the hassle and the wait. BYOB, well within your budget, and absolutely great. When we went, Lydia took our phone number along with our name so she could call us when our table would be close to ready. You can head over to Hopleaf for drinks while you wait.

If you want to BYOB with local flair, get a growler filled up at Half Acre. Bring your own growler, or call first to see if their order came in; the Ball jars they've been using leak like crazy.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:06 PM on December 28, 2009

Lula Cafe's food is excellent, and the restaurant is charming. It gets crowded and there's usually a wait, but it's well worth it.
posted by smich at 9:07 PM on December 28, 2009

Oh hey growlers are in stock now.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:20 PM on December 28, 2009

Bristol / The Map Room is a good combo.

Past this: it's at the higher end of your budget, but if you like the looks of Lula Cafe (a brilliant spot, but it's better for brunch or lunch than dinner), take a look at Nightwood. It's the second restaurant by the Lula owners, so a lot of their energy has gone there.

It's more grill than charcuterie, but their ingredients are killer, and they've got a great beer list and have made some awesome pairing suggestions with both beer and wine.

Very good cocktails, too (quality of which you'll also find at Lula).

If the prices are too high, you could always do a few appetizers and split an entree. Bonus points for cheap, good drinks and a photo book at Skylark afterwards.
posted by asuprenant at 9:28 PM on December 28, 2009

Er, photo booth..
posted by asuprenant at 9:28 PM on December 28, 2009

The Bristol is what I came in here to recommend, before I even saw that you were leaning in that direction.
posted by veggieboy at 9:31 PM on December 28, 2009

It may be on the pricey end, but Chalkboard is really tasty.

Another (slightly touristy, but incredibly tasty) option is sushi at Kamahachi on Ontario and a couple blocks east of Michigan.

I think The Violet Hour has food, as well as cocktails (you mentioned cocktails, right?) Their world-class bartenders are really the VH's schtick (and oh my god, you need to get cocktails there!!!), but it is a really classy, get dressed up and have a few in a quiet, slightly dressy, but still comfortable setting. I'm usually one to cook a nice meal and go out for drinks afterwards, which is why the VH comes to mind. In any case, they do have good food. and fantastic drinks.
posted by chicago2penn at 12:07 AM on December 29, 2009

If you like Chinese (rather Chinese fusion-seafood), there is a place in Bridgeport that is great. $20 prix fixe five course meal. BYOB, with no corkage fee. Han202
posted by sulaine at 6:20 AM on December 29, 2009

If you are willing to go away from downtown, Cida Thai in Countryside is great, BYOB (great wine/beer store next door), and definately in that price range. You can do I 55 South to LaGrange North and go to 55th street. It's in a strip mall looking place next to a laundrymat and the wine store (Mainstreet Liquors).
posted by stormpooper at 7:35 AM on December 29, 2009

This list is pretty killer. If you're not beholden to a specific day, some great restaurants run great specials on off days like a monday or tuesday.
posted by xammerboy at 7:50 AM on December 29, 2009

I love, love, LOVE the Bristol, but if you'd prefer a BYOB spot along the same lines, you might want to check out Mado. Mado is in the same Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood so you'd still be close to the Map Room. Mado's pate is absolutely nuts.
posted by awegz at 9:28 AM on December 29, 2009

seconding Mado -- it is seriously tasty and super affordable for what is is.

bonus round: it's BYOB, so you can nip down the street to Aldi and indulge in a $2 bottle of Winking Owl! but, if you want to go legit-style, W Crossing or Olivia's Market both have pretty good wine/beer selections.
posted by chickadee at 4:38 PM on December 29, 2009

Late answer, just found out the Purple Pig is brand new and opens today. House-cured charcuterie and whatnot.
posted by misskaz at 7:53 AM on December 30, 2009

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