Tag Archives: chicago events

A Dekadent Treat

by: Ally Lullie 

If you think you know someone who seems like they can do it all, wait until you meet extraordinary local, Nikki Kaapke.  From writing her cook book, to blogging, event planning and catering, designing her own apron collection, hosting a cupcake crawl, AND doing 2 reality shows, she gives a whole new meaning to the word multi-tasking.  Nikki, 31 year-old Blue Island native, is one of the most personable people I’ve ever met.  When Dana and I met with her, she made it seem like we’ve known each other for years.  Kaapke attended Harrington College of Design (right here in the city) for interior design, but she couldn’t abandon her true love: food.  This is why she started The Dekadent Diva.

The Dekadent Diva herself, Nikki Kaapke

Sitting down with Nikki at local bar, Mo’s Catina, she told us a little (actually a lot) about all of her accomplishments and goals, as well as what she has up her sleeve for the future.  Welcome to the world of The Dekadent Diva herself! 

The Dekadent Diva is a world of indulgence, exploration, and creation of Nikki’s love of cooking, eating, and discovering new recipes and places for great food.  Since the DD was created single handily by Kaapke, it offers a sense of intimacy and personable attributes; which is unlike any commercial company out there.  Nikki shines being in her element, which is her love for food! Maintaining relationships with clients and fans, she models what The DD is and will continue to be in the future.

Ally Lullie: So to start, the actual idea for The Dekadent Diva, how did you come up with it?
Nikki Kaapke: The DD actually started as a blog, my personal blog.  Following that was the website, then the cook book, then the line of DD aprons, and then our most recent trend, cupcakes. I love food and I love to cook.  I like to go out to restaurants, try what they have, and then go home and try to replicate it. At the time, a friend of mine and his wife recently had a baby so he called me up to help him plan a surprise home-made dinner for her.  I gave him step-by-step directions for making two appetizer choices, two entrees, two desserts, and a cocktail.  I told him to call me if he had any questions along the way, but since the directions were simple, he had no trouble with it.  This kind of gave me the idea to come up with my book of favorite recipes

The DD Logo

AL: The name, The Dekadent Diva, is something that is very unique itself. How were you able to create the name and design of the cupcake logo?
NK:  The name is trademarked which is a process in itself, but I wanted something memorable, catchy, and very much me.  I liked the words fabulous or elegant and had come up with ideas like: “Kiss the Cook” or “Cooking with Kaapke”.  I sent out e-mails to some of my closest friends with my ideas and they all agreed on Dekadent Diva.  The spelling of the DD is a bit of a twist, my name is German and spelled with four K’s, so I decided to spell decadent with a K.

When it comes to the logo, logos are like your face, screaming what you want to represent.  Logos like the Nike swoosh or the Pepsi yin-yang are so widely known that their names no longer need to be put with the logo, which is what I wanted to accomplish when finalizing the marketing image of The Dekadent Diva.  I wanted something feminine, yet not girly.  I wanted my logo to be man comfortable and relatable, meaning that a man wouldn’t feel the slightest bit uncomfortable walking around with a bag with a cupcake on it.

AL: We’ve talked a lot about your love for food and cooking, and your logo is a dead ringer for what you’re all about.  But what else does the DD have to offer?
NK: It is more than just food, it’s a lifestyle.  Yes, we do showcase my favorite recipes and pastries, but I like to think of it as combining the traditional lifestyle with the modern everyday woman.  So, DD in a nutshell is combining the genre

Darling Stacie depicting the 1950's theme for the DD apron line

of 1950’s icon June Cleaver (early inspirations for DD Couture, apron line) with today’s modern day homemakers of Racheal Ray and Martha Stewart.  DD is about personal entertainment, family, friends, and bringing back the sense of spending time together.  Yet, at the same time it’s the fast, easy pace.  So half my recipes are home-made and the other half are ready-made.  I include on the site recipes for almost everything, cocktails, appetizers, desserts, and even kid items.  With my cupcakes, most of them are alcohol infused (laughing), but for the kids I adjusted that recipe with fun goodies like Nerds candy in place of sprinkles. 

AL: You have created this company filled with all the things you love.  So what would you say is your favorite part about owning your own business?
NK: It’s my creation, my concept, my say; I have complete control over it.  When it’s yours, it’s your baby, and it’s also your name.  You have to make sure it’s something you want to be associated with, and if you happen to make a mess of it, you have to own up to it.

AL: So as a whole, how would you say the DD is unique or different from other catering businesses or bakeries in the city?
NK: Other companies can be very commercial or completely small/grass root based; the DD is both commercial and home-based.  I have used some of my friend’s expertise to help me in the process of creating The DD.   I take my time on choosing who I work with, making sure they’re credible and someone I want DD to be associated with.  Many of the people I work with, especially the Darlings, are those close to me. For example, if I have a friend in advertising I’ll use their advertising abilities, put them on staff, and utilize their “know how” and experiences of trial and error. I am taking my time to let Dekadent grow as a company.  Therefore, it won’t be around for 2 years, it will be around for 20 and beyond.

AL: You mentioned the Dekadent Darlings, which it just so happens that I stumbled upon The DD from my friend who is actually one of your Darlings.  Who are these girls and what do they do for The DD?
NK: They are a group of very lovely girls (and dear friends for several years) who, along with myself, are the “face” of The DD.  They make appearances, talk about The DD’s services, and are involved in philanthropy work close to my heart, especially those that are cancer related.  One great thing that was really a success with the Darlings was a fan based contest called the “Darling of the Year” competition.  For the competition, each girl was given their own Facebook page that they were responsible for managing and promoting themselves in order to get votes.  The Darling with the most votes at the end of the contest wins.  The response was incredible with over several hundred votes for the average Darling.  It works because their friends and friends of friends will see it and wonder what it is, which leads them to checkout DD itself.  It helps get the word out and word of mouth is a powerful thing.

Nikki with Darlings Britta, Stacie, April, and Abbie on the Cupcake Crawl

AL: So you recently completed your first Dekadent Diva Cupcake Crawl.  How did the idea for a cupcake crawl come about?
NK: Being a former Chicago realtor, I’m very familiar with the areas around the city. I am constantly telling friends, who come to visit Chicago, about where to

Swirls Cupcakes

eat, shop, etc. So then I thought to myself with the Cupcake Crawl, why not take them to such places myself?  And this is how the idea for the Cupcake Crawl came into play, being a “tour” of some of my favorite cupcake boutiques in Chicago. It ended up selling out in 3 hours!

AL: What does this Cupcake Crawl offer?
NK: We had 65 guests attend the cupcake crawl in all.  We separated the guests in groups of ten, who were courted around on two beautiful mini charter buses that were provided by Windy City Limousine.  Before even leaving our meeting place, the crawlers were given goodie bags filled with cupcakes from Chocolate Bark and a DD cupcake, which I baked myself.  All Cupcake Crawlers also enjoyed sparkling champagne cocktails while we waited for all guests to arrive and check in.  We stopped at some of my favorite cupcake boutiques, including Bleeding Heart Bakery, Swirls, Sweet Mandy B’s, Sprinkles, and Crumbs.  All were a great blend of traditional “ma and pa” boutiques with commercial as well.  Each bakery gave our crawlers between 1 to 4 cupcakes.  All flavors were pre-picked by the bakery and I as a way to save time on the tour.  We also had a personal photographer from 50 mm Photography, come along with us so that the crawlers and I could remember this event. My goal at the beginning was to have everyone leave really full, really happy, and having fun.

AL: This seems like a lot of work and coordinating for one person, what goes into planning an event like this?
NK: A lot! (Laughing) Luckily, I am the friend who likes planning all of the social events.  So for me the first thing you have to think is where do I want to go for the crawl? What flavors do I like? How do I get the word out? I used social networking and word of mouth for a great majority with this event, along with my Twitter and Facebook pages both.  Then there is the work and research of getting the tickets out and how will recipients make payments for them.  I had to do research on transportation; I researched limos, buses, and trolleys.  Then there is the marketing aspects, the brochures and the goodies bags.  I started calling up bakeries that I enjoy going to and eventually some started calling me and offered to donate cupcakes.

AL: Coming from what seems like a “cupcake expert”, what do you have to say about the increasing popularity of cupcake boutiques popping up everywhere, especially in the city?
NK:  You need to pay attention to pop culture, where to go for the best music, the best clothes, top bars, and restaurants.  Cupcakes have been around for as long there has been cake, becoming very popular in the 40’s and 50’s with the “Leave it to Beaver” genre.  Then when it came to the 80’s and 90’s, everyone became really health conscious and everything was low-carb, low-sodium, and so forth.  Now, everything is about portion control and being more aware of the products that are going into things. This is one of the reasons why I’ve created “Frosting Fridays”.  It’s the end of the week and it can be that one sweet “cheat” day on your diet, allowing you to go and eat a cupcake and not feel guilty.  I think the cupcake trend will stay around for a long time.  If it were to fade out, you wouldn’t have these companies involving themselves and investing so much.  Would you ever think you could have a cupcake that is gluten free? No. These companies are finally realizing you have to cater to your customers.  Cupcakes are here to stay and will just keep evolving.

DD Cupcakes

AL: As the cupcake phenomenon continues to grow, what is to come for DD in the future?
NK: Well, I hope to keep expanding my brand and even own my own restaurant one day.  A second Cupcake Crawl is planned for August 27th, and I’m currently in the middle of planning and promoting DD’s Launch Party-“An Evening of Dekadence”, which will be on June 11th.  The event is being held at Soldier Field, a black tie event, with a red carpet entrance.  Guests will view a fashion show premiering the DD Couture apron line, a book signing of the published cook book titled “The Dekadent Diva~Glamorous Cooking for the Simplest of Chefs”, introductions to the Darlings, silent auctions, and DD catering and cocktails throughout the night.  Portions of the ticket sales will benefit the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, along with all funding from the silent auctions.  It will be a great time, tickets are on sale, and I couldn’t be more excited to enjoy it all. 

The DD Cupcake Crawl was definitely an event to remember.  Dana and I haven’t been to most of these bakeries, so it was nice to visit them all in one morning!  Some of the flavors were so unique, like Guiness and Baileys, champagne, banana nutella, red velvet, apple cobbler, and carrot cake.  The cupcake Nikki made herself was made with pineapple rum, which was just as tasty if not more.
Even though Nikki has been on The Bachelor (season 13) and The Bachelor Pad, she didn’t need any publicity from either show to be successful, doing it all on her own.  I hope you enjoyed meeting Nikki Kaapke as much as we did, and getting a taste of her world.

Follow Nikki & The Dekadent Diva on Twitter, or Like the Facebook Page.
Don’t forget to purchase your tickets for The DD Launch Party (June 11th) & The 2nd Annual Cupcake Crawl in August (Tickets go on sale June 15th).

Reggie’s: Where Chicagoans Eat, Drink, and Rock Out!

By: Dana Ragazinskas

Talk about sticking out like a sore thumb! Reggie’s doesn’t blend in very well with its surroundings, and we would bet that’s exactly what the owners were going for when they built this place. Reggie’s Music Joint, located on 21st and State (near the South Side), is a bar and grill, music venue, and record store all in one! If that doesn’t scream unconventional then we don’t know what does!

Welcome to Reggie's!

Reggie’s is divided into three separate buildings, Reggie’s Music Joint, Reggie’s Rock Club, and Reggie’s Record Breakers. All three buildings are connected to one another, yet serve different purposes.  Let’s take a closer look at all three of these places so you’ll know what to expect when you get there. You will also be able to know where to go for exactly what you’re looking for!

Tables in Reggie's Music Joint

Reggie’s Music Joint is the place to go if you’re looking to grab a bite to eat and drink a couple of beers.  It’s a 21 and older bar and grill that has live music nightly. If you’re not into live music, come in early before it starts and grab lunch. The atmosphere is very casual and laidback, almost like you’re hanging out in a garage or basement with some friends. The walls are heavily decorated with sport artifacts, music posters, and pictures. There is a stage located in the back and 17 flat screen TVs! There is plenty of seating with options to sit at the bar, the tables alongside the walls, or the ridiculously long picnic tables in the center of the room. The bathrooms are definitely a site to see; the women’s bathroom is completely made out of chalkboards! Find a piece of chalk, get creative, and leave your mark! It’s fun to just look at, like a giant piece of public art.

Bathrooms in Reggie's Music Joint

The bar, being very large, is stocked with 95 beers (70 in bottles or cans and 25 on tap) and a list of vodkas, tequilas, and whiskeys. So drink up and drink responsibly! Be sure to check out the menu as well. Their menu is loaded with tasty bar food that goes perfectly with a nice cold beer! Some of the things you can find on the menu are tacos, hamburgers, chicken wings, nachos, and TV dinners. Yes, TV dinners, and the menu goes on. There are also daily “eat-in only” specials that come only with a drink purchase. So eat up and enjoy!

Grab a Menu!

Reggie’s Rock Club is definitely for all you music lovers out there. This is a 17 and older concert venue, equipped with a huge stage, and there’s not a bad seat in the house.  This area of Reggie’s is also very casual, giving off that outdoorsy vibe, like being in your neighbor’s backyard or garage. The stage and walls resemble an old building, covered in bricks and old stone, adding to the outdoor look. There are fenced in decks overlooking the stage, walls covered in graffiti as a creative backdrop, and colorful bright lights shining down towards the stage. Performances are scheduled ahead of time, so check their website regularly to see whose playing next and how much the tickets are!

Reggie's Rock Club

Finally we have Reggie’s Record Breakers. This part of Reggie’s is the perfect finish to their music related theme. Reggie’s Record Breaker is a music store that is said to have started it all! Here you can find new and used CDs, records, DVDs, t-shirts, posters, and the list goes on! They will even buy CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records from you. You can also buy concert tickets for the shows at Reggie’s Rock Club, without getting hit with that service charge we all hate when buying them online. This is a really cool looking record store, very similar to the Rock Club and the Music Joint, adding a vintage feel with all the old records and old music memorabilia.

Reggie's Record Breakers: Shop & Rock!

It’s a Local Thing talked to a Reggie’s regular, Colleen, because as a Chicago local herself, she would have an opinion worth hearing. Colleen raves about this place saying “I love Reggie’s, I feel like I come here way too much! The food is great, the bar is cool, and I love looking through all the old records. There’s something here for everyone. You also can’t beat dollar tacos on Mondays either, they’re so good!” We asked her what she would tell someone who hasn’t been to Reggie’s before and she said that she recommends coming in to eat and have a few drinks with friends at Reggie’s Music Joint first, and to not leave Reggie’s without hitting their music store. She also recommended trying their wings because they’re said to be the best in town!
For more information about Reggie’s food, live music, concerts, or store, check it all out for yourself or hit up their website!

Our Mark on the Chalkboard Bathroom Walls!

Photo Credit: Reggie’s Website & Dana Ragazinskas (first and last photo)

Simone’s: Where “Unconventional” & “Going Green” Meet Over Drinks

By: Dana Ragazinskas

It doesn’t get any more unconventional than this! Simone’s is bursting at the seams with unique characteristics. Simone’s is definitely unlike any bar I’ve been to before, so it has become my all time favorite spot to eat and drink. This is not a place you can only visit once! After reading this, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with Simone’s just as I did! You can find Simone’s in the Pilsen neighborhood, right on the corner of 18th and Morgan, open every day from 11:30am to 2:00am, with daily food and drink specials.  This area is quiet yet full of personality.  It’s closeness to University Village and art galleries are just two factors that create this personable feel. No place in the Pilsen area is quite like Simone’s, and I think that’s what makes it so attractive to the locals in the area.

The Front Bar of Simone’s

Simone’s is a unique bar and grill, owned by Russ Grant, his wife Desiree, and their partner Michael Noone. They opened Simone’s on February 13th of 2009, making it fairly new to the Chicago scene. How do we know the exact date they opened? Marc, one of the managers, happened to be at Simone’s when It’s a Local Thing stopped by to grab a bite to eat, and chatted with us for a moment. “We are getting ready to celebrate our two year anniversary, which is kind of exciting”, Marc said as he filled our glasses with water. He took a moment to fill us in on the history of Simone’s, and gave us a few in depth descriptions of the design and artwork.

He started by telling us that one of the owners, Desiree, wanted to name this place Simone’s not only because it was her favorite name, but because it sounded mysterious and international. We would have to agree with Desiree on this one, Simone is a very intriguing name, and it seems to fit the personality of the bar quite well. “There were two main designers/architects that were behind the concept and design of Simone’s, and they are also responsible for the hand painted wallpaper in the bathrooms“, Marc continued, as we listened and looked around at all the extreme details that went into this place. “Our bars’ counter tops are made out of old bowling alley lanes, with handrails that are made out of old conveyor belts from a candy factory that closed down.” He also showed us the vintage pinball machines that were hanging from the ceiling as artwork. Marc pointed out to us that the glass doors used to separate their front bar from their back bar are the executive office doors from VBBM-TV, with the company name still preserved on the glass.

The Coolest Chandelier & “The Lab” (Simone’s Back Bar)

It’s a Local Thing sat in the back half of the bar, which Marc called “The Lab”. “The back bar, which we call ‘The Lab’, is made almost entirely out of material from an old high school that closed down called Westing House High School. As you can see, the tables are the student’s old desks, in which we kept their writing and graffiti on them for character”, he explained as he pointed out all the old chemistry equipment behind the bar. Beakers, test tubes, and burners decorate the bar area, surrounding an old chalk board that stands as a centerpiece. Last but not least, he informed us about the weird, yet beautiful chandelier hanging over our heads. The chandelier was created by the artist Davide, and is made entirely out of washing machine parts and other old junk yard material. This is definitely unlike your typical chandelier. We were happy Marc was able to share all this with us before he had to run off and get back to work.

Womens Bathroom at Simone’s
After our visit at Simone’s, we came across an interesting fact on their website that Marc had left out! Simone’s is a certified green restaurant! You might be asking yourself, what the heck does that mean? Well, all that stuff Marc said about getting used and old material to create Simone’s actually has a bigger purpose then just looking really cool. When a restaurant, like Simone’s is a certified green restaurant, it means that it meets the criteria for being an environmentally responsible operation. So not only does Simone’s look really awesome, it’s also helping the environment, one piece of furniture at a time! This place is incredible! You really have to see it all for yourself. Be sure to check out the graffiti on the walls, the fireplace lounge section, and the fenced in pinball DJ booth that looks over the front bar. You’ll also find different paintings and photographs from local artists on all the walls. If you see something you like, all paintings and artwork are available for purchasing.

 

Street View of Simone’s & a Cool Pinball Machine on the Wall

 

The afternoons at Simone’s tend to be rather quiet, only having a small crowd. At night you can enjoy a live DJ and grab a few beers with friends. The casual atmosphere attracts both people in their twenties and thirties. The local crowd grows during the night hours, so if you’re looking to just casually check it out, come during the afternoon and grab a bite to eat. When It’s a Local Thing stopped by Simone’s, it was around 1:00pm and it was surprisingly crowded! We found out later that there was a trivia tournament going on, which was kind of exciting and fun to watch! Although a trivia tournament doesn’t happen often, Simone’s does have regular bar trivia that is free to join. So if that sounds like something you would be interested in, check their website regularly to find out what days their having trivia night. We enjoyed our time at Simone’s eating lunch, talking to Marc and with our waitress as well! We asked our waitress what she liked best about working at Simone’s, and she eagerly answered with, “The staff! Everyone here is awesome, and we all get along really well. I think us getting along well and working together effortlessly, gives Simone’s a pleasant atmosphere! Not to mention this place just looks really cool!” We agree with our waitress, Jen, completely! So get on over to Simone’s and enjoy some great food and great people! For more information in regard to food or drink specials, feel free to check out Simone’s Website.

 

When Old Desks Become Tables in “The Lab”

Location: 960 W 18th
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 666-8601
Photos taken by: Dana Ragazinskas

It might be spelled W-I-L-L-I-S, but It’s Pronounced Sears

A Look up at the Sear's Tower

 

Written and Photo Credit by: Anna Grimm

Did you hear about what happened on July 16, 2009?  For those of you who might have missed it, the Sears Tower was officially renamed the Willis Tower. When changing the name, I’m sure they thought big deal, who cares about the name, at least we didn’t knock it down, right? WRONG! I don’t know about you, but for us this news was hard to swallow.  So, you might be wondering who is responsible for the name change.  We would like to thank Willis Group Holding, a global insurance company based out of London, for ruining a Chicago tradition all the way from Europe!

We are all about traditions in Chicago, and that is what we’re known for!  Take the Cubs for example, they haven’t won a World Series in over hundred years, yet their loyal fans are still by their side and continue to show love for them.  I don’t know about you, but I’d say that is some serious Chicago tradition and commitment right there!  As Chicago locals, we’re  committed to the traditions of our city, and we like to stick with them because that’s what we know. So when this company decided to change the name of the most iconic building in our city, of course we were going to be upset about it!  It’s not just about the name change, it’s about the tradition that’s been changed with it.  A tradition that has been a part of our city for 35 years.

Change is difficult to deal with, even if it is only a name change of a historic building.  Maybe one day we will accept the Sears Tower as the Willis Tower, but for now we will still pronounce it as the Sears Tower.

Hello Chicago!

So you live in Chicago. Have you ever found yourself wondering what else is out there? Well, yeah…us too. And that’s probably why you’re here!  Welcome to the “solution” (cheesy, we know, but go with it). It’s here that you’ll find new ways to entertain yourself without falling into the typical mainstream Chicago activities. Who cares about The Bean or The Sears Tower? (You heard correctly…Sears). Leave those places for the tourists. Come along with us and see all of the places you’ve been missing! This city has a lot to offer, and we’ve found it! Well, not all of it. That’s where you come in! Let us know what even we’re missing! Found a rare place in Chicago that is worth looking into? Post it on our page and we will check it out ourselves and write about it! It’s like a “we help you and you help us” kind of deal. Together we’ll find all the interesting and new things to do in the city, so no local will ever go bored again! If you’re shy, email us at ALocalThing@gmail.com