College students are always on the hunt for the cheapest eats without traveling far distances. A lot of us are too busy to go to the dining hall and depend on GrubHub to deliver a low-price (or sometimes extremely high-priced due to delivery fees) meal to wherever we have designated as our study spot for that day.
But exploring the city on the weekends often leaves students blowing their money on expensive restaurants and coffee shops. If you’re one of those students desperately in need of a cheap meal without compromising your health with some cheese fries at Sam’s Chicken & Ribs, there are quite a few options close to campus.
Within few blocks of the Belmont Red Line stop, I stumbled upon a variety of Mediterranean and Asian cafes that looked appealing with fresh ingredients and bright store fronts. As I walked toward the lake and eventually hit North Broadway, I found my cheap-eats destination of choice: Falafill (3202 N. Broadway). When on the hunt for a unprocessed healthy meal, Mediterranean eateries almost never let you down.
Falafill offers a variety of items, ranging from pita pockets to lentil soup, all under $10. Of course, everything on the menu is so tempting to buy you could easily spend $20 or more, but my trip only cost
I decided to go with the classic falafel bowl ($8.50), which comes with four falafels, a side of brown or white rice and half of a wheat or white pita. Within five minutes, I received my bowl. I had the option of having the cashier put my toppings on for me or going to the mezza bar (included with my meal.) The mezza bar is a huge bar of spice-filled toppings and sauces. It is located in the middle of the small restaurant, surrounded by scarce seating options.
My bowl seemed a bit small at first, so with only one trip to the mezza bar, I knew I had to pile on my toppings like a mountain if I wanted the most bang for my buck. I ended up choosing chickpea salad, fried cauliflower, quinoa tabbouleh, Jerusalem salad, Tunisian carrot salad and plain hummus.
Although the cauliflower was fried, it tasted more roasted. The Jerusalem salad was a combination of tomatoes, cucumbers and tahini sauce and was a great addition to the dry falafels. Other toppings included baba ghanoush, tahini and tzatziki sauces, minted cabbage and red pepper hummus.
Being a hummus connoisseur, I found this hummus impeccable — very creamy, fresh and basically the opposite of what you get at Damen Dining Hall.
I didn’t think the brown rice was necessary in the bowl, and the small pita worked great for spooning some of the toppings in to make a side sandwich.
Falafill has a concept similar to Chipotle, so if you’re not a bowl person, you have other options. Pita pockets and wraps are available for a smaller price than a bowl. Turkey marinated in yogurt and spices, steak marinated in Middle Eastern herbs, spicy sujuk sausage and curry falafel are the other options alongside the classic falafel.
Every topping at the mezza bar can come as a side for $3.50 if you are not interested in a full meal or would like an extra side dish. My bowl was so massive that I could not even finish half of it, making it a great leftover for when I wasn’t in the mood to head to the dining halls later that night. If you somehow manage to conquer a whole bowl and have room for a little something extra, grab a piece of baklava ($1) for dessert.
For the month of October, Chicago Marathon runner John Paul created the featured “Champ Wrap” filled with grilled portabella mushrooms, spicy slaw, baba ghanoush, sweet potato fries and tahini-yogurt sauce. When you buy the wrap ($6.50), proceeds will go towards the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
To donate to a great cause and eat healthy on a cheap budget, be sure to stop by Falafill for a mouthwatering Mediterranean fix.
Falafill, located at 3202 N. Broadway in the Lakeview neighborhood, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 11p.m.