Hard Rock Cafe's Menu Overhaul

June 18, 2014

You might not know Hard Rock Cafe as a dining destination, though they've revamped their menu to change that perception. With 140 cafes in 55 countries, Hard Rock is truly a global establishment and continues to offer American-style food with rock 'n roll flare.

When Hard Rock's Chicago location invited me to an exclusive media dinner, I have to say I was a bit skeptical. However, the new menu piqued my interest and, to be fair,  the last time I had eaten at a Hard Rock Cafe was probably in high school. Along with other Chicago food bloggers (and their lucky guests), we sampled appetizers, five courses of food, and accompanying cocktails. It was probably one of the most indulgent evenings of my life (thank goodness for cardio)!

Every Hard Rock Cafe offers a unique experience from specific memorabilia that pays tribute to emerging and legendary musicians; however its menu remains the same globally. Imagine having to source the same food in cities across the world--not an easy feat. In late March, Hard Rock rolled out a newly designed menu after more than a year of research and development, including taste testing 27 types of burger buns (definitely not gluten free). The result was a menu with 30 new items, and 28 modified menu items. The most surprising fact of the night was that Hard Rock's new menu features all scratch-based offerings. Yes, re-read that.

We kicked off our evening with cocktails and passed appetizers on Hard Rock's outdoor patio. We sampled bruschetta, spinach dip, and mac & cheese, their most popular menu item. The spinach dip uses fresh spinach, never frozen. 

Hurricane & Magical Mystery Mojito
After cocktail hour, we were seated at communal tables, while the chef spoke about each of the dishes we were about to try. There were five full courses (including dessert!), each paired with a cocktail. We tried three entrees per course, in sample sizes. Though, the sample sizes were HUGE. I tried my best to only take a few bites each, but it was difficult!

Food highlights included the grilled chicken arugula salad with white balsamic, the grilled Norwegian salmon wrapped in cedar paper, bbq ribs (Hard Rock has a smoker and smokes all of its meat on-premise), and the Fiesta Burger topped with fresh pico de gallo and guacamole.

Cowboy Rib Eye and Grilled Norwegian Salmon
Check out photos of some of the full-size portions:

Cowboy Rib Eye
Twisted Mac & Cheese
Grilled Chicken Arugula Salad
Along with each course, we sampled a variety of new cocktails (very tough job, but someone had to do it.) One of the more interesting cocktails was the Red Berry Press, with clementine vodka, strawberries, and raspberries, served in a French press. I've never seen a cocktail served in a French press so I thought it was kind of neat.

Red Berry Press
The Big Kablue-na was Hard Rock's take on a pina colada and seemed to be the crowd pleaser.

Big Kablue-na
Just some of the cocktails we tried...
Overall, it was a great evening meeting new bloggers and taste testing a variety of indulgent entrees. If anything, I learned that just because a restaurant is a global chain, doesn't mean they can't prepare food from scratch. While Hard Rock Cafe isn't the best place to go if you're on a diet, they're definitely upping their game and working hard to appeal to patrons with a variety of culinary tastes.

Note: My meal at Hard Rock Cafe was complimentary; however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

Hard Rock Cafe
63 W. Ontario St.
Chicago, IL 60654
Hard Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

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