Hartley's Restaurant in Crystal Lake opened in May, taking over On the Rocks' former home. The spot offers a night out with a bit of old-school elegance, hearty food, classic decor and chill live music.
Motif: The small space is divided into two dining areas and a bar area. The large rounded bar features tall leather-backed wooden chairs and is surrounded by three flat-screen TVs tuned to sports. Decorative grape vines are draped over a display of wines and whiskeys. A brick wall behind the bar and brick pillars near the baby grand piano add to the classic vibe. A trough with plants separates the bar area from the dining area, which features small tables and mellow illumination from lights dangling overhead. The walls are lined with music-themed pictures, and the second dining area features a display of black-and-white photos of Crystal Lake dating back to the early 1900s.
Hartley's Restaurant394 W. Virginia St., Crystal Lake, (815) 455-0600, hartleysrestaurantandbar.com
Hours: 4:30 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday; 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Crowd: Hartley's has been slow to attract a following, partially because construction on the road it's on has been making it tough to get to the restaurant. When we were there Saturday night, it was sparsely populated by a few older couples in the dining area and a group of twentysomething women at the bar.
Service: The bartender greeted us quickly, offering food and drink menus for us to peruse. When I asked for a suggestion for a fruity cocktail, he said that he was out of the mango needed for the drink he would have recommended, but he whipped up a cocktail off the menu and said he'd get me something else if I didn't like it. It wasn't a problem since my drink was delicious. When he identified us as first-timers, he was happy to chat about Hartley's and encouraged us to come again.
Liquid consumption: The bar has a small draft list including Magic Hat #9 and Blue Moon, plus a list of 11 wines by the glass. Cocktails were well-mixed whether it was a classic Old Fashioned or the more unusual Electric Lizard, a neon-green blend of Midori, Malibu, orange juice and pineapple juice that was sweet and refreshing.
Food: Hartley's menu features a blend of American, Italian and Greek fare. The appetizer menu offers standards like fried calamari, crabcakes, and spinach and artichoke dip. The entree list also goes for the classics, serving a variety of steaks, pork chops, burgers, and chicken and veal Parmesan. The restaurant plans to begin offering lunch after the construction is done.
Music: There's never any cover at Hartley's, which hosts live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. A mix of singers, pianists and violinists play blues and jazz. When the piano's not being played, you'll hear a lot of Beatles and Michael Jackson as background music.
Parking: In addition to having a small lot, Hartley's has free valet parking Friday and Saturday.
Overall: Hartley's is a mellow place to drink, dine and catch some live music.