To the Chicago Beat: The City's Best Through the Eyes of One of Its Hippest DJs"It was not that I could not make it at other places, but this was the place that worked for me."
When Kate Simko starts talking about her favorite clubs in Chicago, it is a little intimidating to the non-techno fan. An internationally known DJ and electronic music producer who spends weekends being whisked off to Copenhagen, Berlin and other global hot spots, Simko is in the know.
But when she cites Wrigleyville's Smart Bar as one of her favorites because "it is the kind of place [where] you wear gym shoes and dance all night; it is comfortable and has all this music-industry history," she instantly puts even the neophyte at ease.
A native Chicagoan, Simko was raised in the Windy City, left for college and to spin vinyl in Los Angeles, but eventually heard the siren song that called her back home. "L.A. and New York are more hip in some ways," she says. "[But] when I came back in 2004, at that time it felt like Chicago was a better place for my music. It was not that I could not make it at other places, but this was the place that worked for me."
Simko, a composer at recording studio Mosaic Music, writes film scores and performs her own work at clubs and festivals across the globe. When she's in town, she haunts boutiques and independent businesses in the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood where she lives. "I do most of my shopping in Wicker Park. For shoes, my favorite is City Soles. They're forward thinking. And at Eskell [which sells both new and vintage goods], I just found this great pair of used leather shoes for $15."
Once she's well-shod, Simko can show off Chicago's varied music scene. When in a classical mood, she heads to the Symphony Center to listen to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which she says is one of the best in the world.
More contemporary sounds lead her to The Empty Bottle, the leading indie music club that "has given so much to the city," she says. Chicago also shows off its music cred to the rest of the world with big festivals, including the World Music Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival and Lollapalooza.
Simko no longer DJs at Danny's in Bucktown, but still frequents the bar, thanks to the owners' "impeccable taste in music, and because it is the same as it was 15 years ago. The drinks are not overpriced." It is a different kind of drink on her menu at Russian Tea Time, near the Art Institute of Chicago. "I just love the experience there, sitting there, looking at all of it."
Simko is happy that her favorite Chicago restaurant, avec, recently reopened after a fire forced a temporary closure. "It is a very warm, inviting place, with a good wine list, relaxed atmosphere, and I love the bacon-wrapped dates."
For a lower-brow treat, Simko orders the organic trail mix and chocolates at the Century Centre Cinema. "It is a no-stress way to see a movie. It is artsy and mainstream and only $5 to park."
Check out Kate's Chicago.