Not so Hard, not so Rockin’

The Hard Rock Cafe

“Well, that was disappointing.”

The deck was stacked against our visit to the Hard Rock Cafe (ranked #30 on our list) from the beginning, for one simple reason: It’s located at the Mall of America. The attitudes of our group in regards to this mall range from “It’s fine” to “I’d rather join a suicide cult.” But there we were, honoring the arbitrary list and putting on our game faces for pseudo-journalism. Even after we met up at the restaurant, things were less than ideal. We had to wait until 80% of our party was seated. That is an odd mathematical threshold for people being seated. I guess they probably started out saying “most of your party” and then repeatedly had people saying “We just want to sit down but Aunt Cheryl is finishing up at Everything But Water, so please let us have a table and she’ll be here soon.” So, 80% it is. They do text you “Your table is ready to rock” when your table is, um, ready, so that’s cool, kinda. Also kinda cool: The presence of the turtleneck sweater that Alanis Morissette wore in her “Ironic” video. Would we have 10,000 spoons during dinner, when all we need is a knife? (Spoiler: No.)

The food: Overall, bad. Rachel learned that her palate is distinctly less refined than that of her peers, being neutral or even positive regarding food that the others deemed disgusting.

John says: My honey mustard chicken sandwich might as well have been my shoe. Terrible. The bacon was as limp as Elton John at a Hustler shoot. The brownie sundae was ok but didn’t outweigh how bad my sandwich was.

Jenna says: If you f*** up chicken strips, well then you are just an asshole. I’m pretty sure the Mexi-flatbread had a mayo based sauce on it. Just ew. The only edible thing was the brownie sundae, which was actually tasty. Or it might have just seemed tasty after that mayo-based incident that will haunt me forever.

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Ambience: Morrissetturtleneck aside, there were also cool artifacts from Prince (of course), Kiss, and Linkin Park (rawk). The server turned over one of the TVs to the hockey game, which was nice of her. Other than that, it felt very generic in its chain-restaurant-ness.

John says: I actually liked some of the memorabilia on the walls. The bathrooms were weird though. Don’t put the dryer with the sink. No, just no. Most of the place is garish and hard to look at. The lighting made everyone in the bar look attractive, which is total bulls***.

Jenna says: Nice stage, curious about the acts that they draw. Alanis Morissette?

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Casualosity(tm)?: This place was definitely casual. You could probably show up in swim trunks and no one would care. If you think Olive Garden is too fancy because they have cloth napkins, you’ll probably feel very comfortable at HRC at MOA.

Jenna says: I was honestly so disgusted with the food that I didn’t pay attention. But having trivia is a nice touch.

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Service: The Cinderella story of the night. Our server took forever to get to us, and seemed jumbled when we asked for things like water or a beer list. But as the night went on, we realized how appreciative she was of us not being restaurant amateurs (like more of her clientele, surely) and being friendly and polite while still asking for what we wanted. By the end, she was so downright friendly that we had to reevaluate our first impressions.

Aaron says: When asked [about a beer], the server says something like, “oh yeah it’s still coming” as if they’re cask conditioning some Dale’s Pale Ale and just a few more minutes will really mellow the bulls*** and enhance the I-don’t-give-a-f***. GIVE ME A GOD DAMNED BEER!

John says: Our server was actually pretty good. Probably the best part of the experience.

Jenna says: Started at a 0 when it took 15 minutes for us to just order water, then she forgot my water. But she climbed out of that hole nicely and was actually quite pleasant towards the end of the evening. Plus the free booze.

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Return potential: Basically, nil. Even though we cleaned up at trivia (obviously), we still would not come back unless forced to do so at gunpoint, or if we were starving and penniless and would thus be able to use our gift card prize to buy food.

John says: I am perfectly fine with never setting foot in another HRC again.

Jenna: NOPE

Andrea says: I would rather listen to Bjork for 3 hours while having a migraine than go back.

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Cheesecake: A huge disappointment. What looked like a delicious towering slice of Oreo cheesecake was merely a mixture of poorly blended sour cream and cream cheese.

Rachel says: The best part of the entire dessert experience was the half of an Oreo served as a garnish.

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Beverages: The tap beer selection had some surprising winners on it (Dale’s Pale Ale) was a table favorite. The free round of drinks we won included a mojito. This turned out to be, best we could tell, a rum-and-Sprite with mint leaves thrown in. Awful and too sweet. They did have a selection of N/A cocktails, which was canceled out by the presence of Pepsi (not Coke) products.

Jenna says: Impressed with the fact that they had Dale’s Pale Ale, however you had to practically get behind the bar to figure out their beer list since it wasn’t clearly listed anywhere. But that mojito, just no.

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Worst part: Interestingly enough, the bathrooms came out at the bottom of this experience. The sink fixtures included an odd faucet-and-dryer hybrid that was engineered by Dyson. Between not being able to figure out how to use them, to getting water blown in your face while drying your hands, these sinks got a thumbs down from everyone in our party.

Best part: Getting free drinks (mojito aside) from a server who grew in competency before our very eyes.

Would you go back? Again, a resounding “no” from our entire team.

The best part:

Andrea says: trashy wait staff

Aaron says: not just one free beer, but two! thank you very much John! (and trivia mafia!)

The worst part:

John says: being in the mall. AND F*** WE HAVE TO GO BACK 3 MORE F***ING TIMES.

Aaron says: looking up on the map at the mall entrance, all the information it gave for HRC was “in Camp Snoopy.” As if that narrows it down. Somewhere in or around the biggest indoor theme park in the world, there is a s***ty restaurant that you’re trying to get to. Also, it’ll always be Camp Snoopy to me!

Andrea says: Extremely confusing bathroom sinks

Rachel says: Having to make polite conversation with the host, an old college buddy, while he was supposed to be grading our goddamn sheets so we could just finish trivia and get the hell out of there.

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Next Casual Encounter: Houlihan’s in Richfield!