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updated: 7/27/2011 3:34 PM

For a chill night out, think Hartley's in Crystal Lake

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  • Amy Krotser of Crystal Lake makes a toast with good friends at Hartley's.

       Amy Krotser of Crystal Lake makes a toast with good friends at Hartley's.
    Kristin Ackmann | Staff Photographer

  • General manager Cory McIntyre mixes a drink at Hartley's Restaurant in Crystal Lake.

       General manager Cory McIntyre mixes a drink at Hartley's Restaurant in Crystal Lake.
    Kristin Ackmann | Staff Photographer

  • Dennis Breit, left, of Huntley and Jon McBride of Algonquin enjoy drinks with friends at Hartley's Restaurant in Crystal Lake.

       Dennis Breit, left, of Huntley and Jon McBride of Algonquin enjoy drinks with friends at Hartley's Restaurant in Crystal Lake.
    Kristin Ackmann | Staff Photographer

  • Bar patrons can enjoy live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at Hartley's in Crystal Lake.

       Bar patrons can enjoy live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at Hartley's in Crystal Lake.
    Kristin Ackmann | Staff Photographer

  • Bar patrons can enjoy live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at Hartley's in Crystal Lake.

       Bar patrons can enjoy live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at Hartley's in Crystal Lake.
    Kristin Ackmann | Staff Photographer

  • Hartley's opened in May in Crystal Lake.

       Hartley's opened in May in Crystal Lake.
    Kristin Ackmann | Staff Photographer

  • Historic photos decorate the walls at Hartley's.

       Historic photos decorate the walls at Hartley's.
    Kristin Ackmann | Staff Photographer

 
By Samantha Nelson

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.

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.

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