The work day, or maybe the workweek, is finally over and you’re looking for a place to relax with a bite to eat, a cool drink and some music.
Or you’re holding a conference in the area and looking for a place to take colleagues to unwind after the meetings are done for the day.
Here’s a peek at three restaurants and bars where music plays very different roles, from providing a little background ambience to some full-blown concert experiences.
Arrowhead
The musicians who perform at the Arrowhead Restaurant and Bar at Arrowhead Golf Club in Wheaton almost always have two things in common: they’re soloists (usually on guitar or keyboard) and their music is meant to play in the background, Manager Brian Whitkanack says.
The music starts around 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, but never intrudes on the establishment’s relaxed, country club atmosphere.
Whitkanack says Arrowhead is well known to folks in Wheaton, but sometimes overlooked by others who mistakenly think it’s a private club instead of the public facility it is.
The restaurant, primarily featuring American cuisine, features two main dining areas along with a popular outdoor patio that overlooks the 9th green on Arrowhead’s south course.
The bar, befitting its location at a golf club, has a definite sports feel with more than a dozen HD TVs tuned to the local games. There’s also an extensive beer and wine list.
“It’s a community place,” Whitkanack says, “where people are proud to bring their friends.”
The Beer Market
If you’re looking for a place where the music plays a slightly larger role, The Beer Market in Bolingbrook Promenade features acoustic acts every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and on some Wednesdays.
Greg Goodrich, one of the founders, says the bar and restaurant regularly features solo acts as well as duos and trios with one rule in mind: their music has to be upbeat and entertaining. If you’re eager to hear angst-ridden singer-songwriters whining about how tough life is, you may want to go someplace else.
But when the name of your establishment is The Beer Market, it’s a pretty good bet your main attraction is going to be beer.
Goodrich says the bar and restaurant features more than 500 craft beers, with maybe 60 percent from the immediate area and elsewhere in the United States and the rest from all corners of the globe.
The food is basic Americana, from burgers to a 10-inch pretzel that serves four. The walls, of course, are covered with beer paraphernalia.   
The Beer Market opened in Bolingbrook in early August. It also has a location in Vernon Hills and another is coming to Schaumburg.
“We’re constantly rotating beers and bringing in new beers all the time,” Goodrich says. “It’s a beer lover’s dream.”
I Love This Bar
If the music at Arrowhead is subdued and the music at The Beer Market is upbeat, the music at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Rosemont is, well, one of the main reasons you go.
“This is a music venue first,” says assistant general manager Larry Vanni. “It’s like the House of Blues — a great big House of Blues.”
Keith’s covers roughly 34,000 square feet and can seat 2,200 people. It has a large stage with a state-of-the-art sound system and regularly features country music from local acts and some that tour nationally. And, yes, Toby has played here. 
The music starts at 9 p.m. Thursdays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Vanni says This Bar is looking to expand its musical offerings to two more nights a week with an eye on bringing in some pop musicians to broaden its reach. 
The establishment also offers meeting rooms, lounges and an outdoor patio along with plenty of sports on TV. The food is largely “country American,” including the featured Damned Nachos that comes in a serving measuring 2 feet by about 18 inches and feeds eight.
“People look at it,” Vanni says, “and say, ‘What in the (heck) is that?”