Three Cheap Group Meals for Student Group Lunches

With my tour company, Chicago Detours, we love the enthusiasm of student groups on our special educational group tours. The students, usually in high school, come to Chicago for a memorable visit and educational experience. These school groups may come from anywhere around the world, from across the United States, or simply from small-town Illinois. No matter where they’re from, these students will need some cheap group meals here in Chicago.
student groups daley plaza chicago

Surely most students don’t have the most refined culinary tastes. High schoolers are generally content with a pizza or a hot dog. There’s no shortage of those in Chicago. But Chicago has many great food options, even for student groups with a cheap budget. And while Chicago Detours offers high-end private tours, because of the educational nature of our tours we work a lot with student groups as well. And anyone appreciates a delicious, cheap lunch, right?

Rather than take a student group on a field trip of Chicago to yet another chain restaurant, we recommend the following local restaurants for memorable and cheap group meals in Chicago. You can get lunches for $10 or less here:

photo (14)1. Valois Cafeteria in the Hyde Park neighborhood

“New American” cuisine restaurants on the North Side of Chicago charge an arm and a leg for a semblance of down-home cooking. But the Valois diner has been doing the real deal in Hyde Park on Chicago’s South Side for almost a century. Options include hot beef or turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy (about $6 including tax), cheeseburger (about $4) and lots of pie choices (about $3). They have super cheap and delicious breakfast options, too. I highly recommend the pancakes!

How it fits in your student group tour itinerary: Visit the Museum of Science and Industry or tour the University of Chicago campus with us.

2. Gyro sandwiches in Greektown

For about $10 per student you can get a giant gyro sandwich and soda at multiple locations. The most authentic spot is in Greektown, near the intersection of Jackson and Halsted streets. Generally a group of around 20 won’t be too overwhelming for these Greek fast food joints. But if a group is bigger you can easily split them into smaller groups and conquer your cheap lunch at these two locations: Zeus Gyros and Mr. Greek Gyros. And to top off your cheap group meal, you could grab delicious Greek cookies from Artopolis around the corner.

How it fits in your student group tour itinerary: the National Hellenic Museum, our Chicago Neighborhoods and Cultural Diversity Bus Tour with step-on guide, or just about any other museum or theater performance in downtown Chicago.

soul food restaurant chicago cheap group meals

3. Pearl’s Place on the South Side

This soul food restaurant welcomes large student groups for cheap group meals. It’s one of the few genuine spots for Southern cooking in Chicago. Considering that Pearl’s is the only sit-down service restaurant on this list, the total price may be a smidge more than $10/student. Options include baked or fried chicken, sweet potato, chicken noodle soup, and baked ham sandwich. For something extra, the desserts are worth it. I particularly love the banana pudding and peach cobbler.

How it fits in your student group tour itineraryChicago Detours’ Jazz, Blues & Beyond student group tour with step-on guide

We hope this helps you in planning for a fun and affordable student group trip around Chicago.

— Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours Executive Director


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
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Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
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