Who doesn’t know of the Hard Rock Café? Who hasn’t visited a Hard Rock Café at least once for a real, all-beef burger and Coke? I know I have and on numerous occasions and in numerous cities. I was lucky enough to grow up in San Francisco and at the tender age of 9 (1984) they opened their doors in my backyard. While at college in Chicago, fellow classmates and I made our way to the rockin’ café on various occasions to chow down.
Later on as an adult I would find myself checking into the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas for bachelorette parties. And now, living in Barcelona where a good, American hamburger is hard to come by, I find myself going to the Hard Rock Café in Plaça Cataluyna when I am craving a little piece of home.
It’s odd to think though that as American as the Hard Rock Café portrays itself to be; the first location was in London, England! I suppose the original founders, Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, new early on that exporting good ole’ American cuisine and culture would be a sweet recipe for success.
In 1971 when Isaac and Peter opened the first café near the popular Hyde Park Corner in London, the tradition of covering the walls with rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia didn’t start until 8 years later. Originally the café just had an eclectic décor of odds and ends but thanks to Eric Clapton and his donation of an unsigned Red Fender Lead II (guitar) the beginnings of what we all know as the Hard Rock Café began.
Hard to imagine the chain of casual dining restaurants that have become somewhat of institution with 149 locations in 53 countries, without rock star relics. Actually right after Eric’s donation, a regular at the London location, Pete Townshend of The Who was prompted to give one of his guitars. It was also unsigned but was sent with a note that read ‘’Mine’s as good as his! Love, Pete.’’ From these two guitars and almost 40 years later the Hard Rock has amassed an archive over 70,000 items displayed in its cafes.
Situated in a high-traffic, prized spot at the southern end of Plaça Cataluyna just steps from Las Ramblas, the Barcelona Hard Rock Café opened in 1997 and has been packing in locals and tourist ever since. For some, the novelty of dining in one of the most globally well-known restaurants alongside, for example a snakeskin jacket worn by Keith Richards or Jimmy Hendrix’ Dobro 12-string electric steel guitar is just cool. Not to mention the vintage Cadillac with white-wall tires that hangs above the bar is an attention grabber too.
For others, like myself living in a foreign country or traveling abroad the Hard Rock offers the comfort of something familiar. There is never a question of what’s on the menu or what you are going to get…Burgers, BBQ pork sandwich, fries, baby-back ribs, hot fudge sundaes … fast food favorites that American cuisine has become known for. Forget those tiny European bottles of Cokes that you’ll find in most dining establishments serving here or what about Thanksgiving dinner?
Most people haven’t a clue even when El Dia de Accion de la Gracia (Thanksgiving) takes place but at the Hard Rock Café in Barcelona you can have an authentic turkey dinner. Other American activities and pastimes that can be enjoyed here like the Superbowl (American football championship game) can be watched on their big, flat-screen televisions.
For Halloween, a favorite American holiday, the place is decorated like an authentic haunted house and the waiters join in the fun with costumes. Celebrating a birthday, come to the Hard Rock because they will make your fiesta much more festive with waiters hoisting you up on your chair while inciting the whole restaurant to serenade you with the Happy Birthday song. Your reward for suffering such embarrassment: a brownie sundae with a candle.
The Hard Rock Café in Barcelona is also one of the few places in town you can dine until the wee hours of the morning and all day on Sundays. You’ll realize how big a deal that is once you try to have a late lunch on a Sunday or have the munchies after a mid-week bar crawl. The only downside is that the place is constantly busy. Night or day, you’ll most likely have to wait for a table but you won’t be disappointed. Take a seat at the bar and chat up your friendly bar-tender while you wait for booth to open up.
Visiting the Hard Rock Café anywhere is just one of those ‘’things’’ everyone has to and wants to experience. Buying a mug or better yet a Hard Rock Café t-shirt is the equivalent of rock concert t-shirt commenting to the world that not only are you hip for having dined at one but that you are well traveled as the t-shirts display the city you ate your bacon burger in.
Hard Rock Café
Plaça Cataluyna, 21
Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11am – 2am
Friday – Saturday, 11am – 3am