re: little debbie
Ok - I see you are probably not from the area at all- I assumed you were a Chicagoan visiting the Oak Park area.
Eating like a local Chicagoan in /around Oak Park:
Grease joints on the cheaper side of the spectrum:
Johnnie's Italian Beef. This place is on North Avenue in Elmwood Park. It's close to Oak Park. Very Close. Get a combo with peppers. a combo is a shaved hot roast beef sandwich with a grilled Italian sausage stuck in the middle of it. It comes on a piece of french bread. hot peppers will be a mixture of sliced hot peppers and a few other veggies chopped up bite size soaked in oil/vinegar. Sweet peppers are steamed green bell peppers. If you want a real deal beef sandwich or combo, there are plenty who will tell you that Johnnie's is the gold standard in Chicagoland. If you really want to try a unique to Chicago "cheap eats" food, you will miss out if you go somewhere else for a beef sandwich or a combo if you are this close to Johnnie's.
There's a Parky's on Harlem Avenue just north of Madison if you want a minimalist Chicago style hot dog and fry.
Both of the above places are "joints" - ie eat at a ledge on the wall. They both have outdoor seating, but the weather ain't warm these days.
A step up:
Diner food done extremely well at The Depot American Diner on Roosevelt road. It's a tiny place, try to go just after or before peak times if possible.
Bodhi Thai Bistro on Roosevelt road in Berwyn. Ask for food that the workers are eating. Ask for real Thai food. ask enthusiastically if there is anything not on the menu that day that perhaps would be more authentically Thai. You will be rewarded. The food on the menu is damn good as well.
Giordano's has a place on Chicago Avenue in Oak Park if you wan to try stuffed pizza.
Xni Pec in Cicero. Yucatecan food. If you are not about pretentiousness, and mostly about the food, I would take you here. It's not a DIVE, mind you, but it's not white tablecloth. I think I'd say it was standard somebrero Mexican decor, but the food is a huge surprise if you're just expecting tacos and burritos with melted cheese on top.
A bigger step up:
Maya on Oak PArk Avenue. Little on the pricey side. Fancy Mexican.
New Rebozo. Fancy Mexican as well.
Gaetano's. Italian. If you want to splurge a little bit - not a huge splurge, go here. Yes, this is the place to go, IMO. It's in Forest Park. Go here. If I'm not mistaken, the tasting menu was 60.00. Worth every damn penny. Talk to Gaetano if he's around. If he comes out and says hi, tell him what you've enjoyed or not enjoyed as much. He'll send stuff out to you. Worth every penny. That takes a lot for me to say that. Best dessert I think I've had in the last three years was there. It was a free form napoleon of sorts with creme brulee between each layer, covered in a peach sauce. Out of this world. Words cannot explain. Menu changes - lively small room.
If you have a specific craving for some kind of food, I'm sure others can point you to best in the area. If you have a car, and some time to spare, you are not that far from the big city at all where the options are limitless (depending on time restraints.)