Martini bars might have a reputation as trendy and formal spots, but Chill Martini & Wine Bar -- which opened at 216 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Lake Villa last February -- shows you can enjoy great cocktails without feeling the need to dress up. The relaxed and friendly servers will help you melt away your worries.
Motif: Chill features an impressive display of beer both in coolers behind the bar and through a menu written on chalkboards. There are a few TVs tuned to sports and the walls are decorated with synonyms for "chill" like "mellow" and "unwind" along with martini-themed paintings. You can grab a seat at a high-top table or a couch near an electronic fireplace.
Chill Martini & Wine Bar216 N. Milwaukee Ave., Lake Villa, (224) 643-7659
Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
The space was formerly a liquor store and the coolers were re-purposed as a private party room with one-way glass so partyers can watch the scene outside while maintaining privacy. An isolated back area offers video gambling, making Chill the only place you can play in Lake Villa.
Crowd: While Chill draws some 20-somethings, it primarily brings in an older crowd that picks up between 8:30 and 11 p.m.
Food: Chill's small kitchen limits the menu to a few simple dishes like spinach and artichoke dip and grilled cheese. Most customers eat before coming to the bar for drinks.
Liquid consumption: The Mango Tango and Lemon Chill are the top picks on the bar's drink list, but it's well worth your while to ask the bartenders what they're mixing at the moment since they're constantly coming up with new concoctions. Their holiday season pumpkin martini was excellent, a creamy blend of RumChata, pumpkin spice, vanilla vodka and Kahlua topped with a bit of whipped cream and cinnamon and served in a graham cracker-rimmed glass. The Chocolate Dipped Banana is another great choice for drinkers with a sweet tooth, tasting just like an alcoholic chocolate banana milk shake.
Beer fans also can find a lot to love, with 86 varieties available by the bottle or on tap. The bar regularly rotates its draft list as kegs empty, offering great craft brews like Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout, Revolution Anti-Hero and Bell's Winter White. One of the mainstays is an alcoholic root beer from Wauconda's Small Town Brewery. While it's 10 percent alcohol, it just tastes like a particularly delicious version of the soft drink, especially when served in float form. Bartenders pick out a $2.50 microbrew each day from Monday through Thursday. As an added service to drink lovers, Chill hosts monthly tastings from distributors of whiskey, tequila, wine, beer and more.
Service: It was quiet when we came in and the bartenders were happily chatting with customers at the bar, offering samples of beer and the cocktails they were making for other patrons.
Music: A mix of cover bands, acoustic acts and DJs provide tunes on Friday nights.
Parking: There are plenty of spots in the free lot.
Overall: Chill really lives up to its name.