River North, the neighborhood just north of the Chicago River, has no shortage of exceptional restaurants. But eating cheaply here is a totally different prospect, one that requires planning and some serious detective skills.
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When visiting a new city, I feel like I'm always caught in the that strange middle ground of wanting to sample the iconic local food specialties, while simultaneously avoiding the kind of restaurants that prey on my naivety and take all my money. These are the places that that offer an unmistakable glimpse at Chicago, while also dishing out great food.
It didn't matter where I looked in Chicago this year, I could always find something truly delicious. Some weeks it was about a little taqueria with killer tripe tacos (La Chaparitta), while others it was a restaurant recreating fine dining in Paris circa 1906 (Next).