Wauconda martini bar a cozy spot for light bites, sweet sippers
Think of Strawberry Moon as the anti-sports bar.
The Wauconda martini bar serves no burgers, and sells craft beer by the bottle — nothing on tap. And if you want to watch a game, well, the bartender will give you a single screen, normally devoted to music DVDs. Just don't expect him to turn on the sound.
204 S. Main Street, Wauconda, (847) 865-5151, strawberrymoonmartinisandmore.com
Hours: Opens 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; closing times flexible
What you get instead of a blaring Bulls game is a relaxing respite — a sophisticated spot where good drinks paired with good friends (and a gooey pot of cheese fondue) make for a memorable evening.
Motif: In its past incarnations, Strawberry Moon's 123-year-old building has housed taverns, a shoe repair shop, an ice-cream parlor, even the waiting room for an old bus line. The current owners, Tom and Karen Malik, bought the building as an investment and decided to open a martini bar there a few months back.
Renovations unearthed a number of old beer, pop and whiskey bottles — dating back as far as the late 1800s. They are on display now behind the bar.
Strawberry Moon features two floors, with a bar and nicely spaced high-topped tables on the first and more seating on the second. The decor leans toward warm woods, black table tops and colorful pictures on the walls.
Crowd: The martinis, the menu and the music-over-sports emphasis mean Strawberry Moon draws mostly couples and women gathering for a girls night out. The crowd skews mainly to those in their 30s and up.
Service: Our waitress was friendly and quite attentive. She was happy to chat about the place and, when she learned of our love of blue cheese-stuffed olives, made sure we got a couple extra.
Food: The menu offers both appetizers and desserts. For starters, we went with the cheese fondue and the pretzel bites. The fondue — a mix of Gruyere and Emmentaler — was creamy and distinctive, perfect for dipping bread cubes and thin slices of apple. The pretzel bites were soft plump chunks that came with four dipping sauces: ranch, honey mustard, queso and horseradish. The latter two provided a nice kick.
If you want something heartier, you can order the duck confit, ribs or the fruit and cheese plate.
The three desserts on the menu should appeal to any chocoholic. There are two fondues — chocolate and white chocolate — and both come with marshmallows, brownie bites and strawberries for dipping. The third choice also pays homage to the bar's name — fresh strawberries drizzled with chocolate and stuffed with marscapone cheese.
Liquid consumption: The focus is on martinis, both classic and contemporary. We had to try the signature Strawberry Moon, and found it a sweet, creamy concoction of Stoli strawberry vodka, Godiva white chocolate liqueur and strawberry purée. The Classic would do "Mad Men" proud. Made with either Beefeater Gin or Absolut Vodka, it's a strong, crisp rendition of what a traditional martini should be — with a skewer of blue cheese-stuffed olives to boot. Other options are the appletini, lemon drop, mango madness and more.
If martinis are not your thing, you can get other cocktails, wine or craft beers by the bottle.
Music: Three screens show a mix of music videos; you might come in to the sounds of Adele, Stevie Nicks, the Moody Blues, Elton John, Dave Matthews or others. The music is loud enough to enjoy, muted enough that it shouldn't hamper conversation.
Strawberry Moon brought in singer Heather Moran recently for its first foray into live entertainment, and she's booked for more appearances.
Parking: There is on-street parking.
Overall: Strawberry Moon makes for a perfect date spot or girls night out gathering. Sip your martini, enjoy some chocolate-drenched strawberries and leave those boisterous sports bars for another night.
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