If you call the new Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Seattle, you might get this answer: "Hard Rock Cafe, this is Pete—how can I rock you?" Each and every Hard Rocker—this is what employees are called, according to a sign in the bathroom directing them to wash their hands—is so upbeat, it ought to be illegal. When you walk in, a guy with a tiger-striped fauxhawk is liable to half-shout, "Hey-guys-how're-you-doing!" When asked in turn about his state of mind, it may be: "FANTASTIC, now that you're here," without a glimmer of irony.
At the bar, a blond bartender recommends her favorite drink to two women: It is fruity and amazing and makes you feel like you're sitting on the beach, she says with conviction. It's a Hurricane; it comes in a take-home souvenir glass. Sold! A guy asks about beer; she says, "I like Stella, because I like what everybody else likes." He is swiftly guided to another souvenir glass, one with a complicated explanation involving free refills; it sounds like an undeniably good deal. (She also explains that he will receive a clean, boxed glass to take home: "That's awesome," he says sincerely.) Getting out of here without a souvenir glass takes an iron will.
The Seattle Hard Rock Cafe is half a block from the Pike Place Market, where a pawnshop and a peep show used to be. The multinational chain ("Anti-established" in 1971 in London) of the Great 1980s T-Shirt Proliferation is on the march again, with 162 outlets in 52 countries; the corporation's rock-memorabilia collection (rotated through the outlets) numbers 70,000-plus items. Visible from the bar: the drums of Sean Kinney of Alice in Chains and an empty display case meant for a guitar (placard: "TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENOUGH"). Another bartender, all in black with a stocking cap, studded belt, and chinstrap beard, shares his ambition to work at the franchise opening in Dubai. He'd never been to a Hard Rock before last summer. He is stoked.
The upscale glam-diner look of yesteryear's Hard Rocks is out; exposed timbers and brick are in. (Some have compared the upstairs—a 477-capacity club/music venue—to the new Crocodile, but the Croc doesn't have Jimi Hendrix's man-purse. There's also a roof deck with glowing tabletop gas fireplaces.) The place is busy on a Wednesday night, and the crowd doesn't look like Pike Place Market tourists—more like a shipment of twenty- and thirtysomethings from any upscale mall in America.
For $14.95, you get a merely adequate mushroom and Swiss burger and fries, the former on the rare side with notably parsimonious toppings. The menu instructs you to "Tell your taste buds to get ready to rock." This is not necessary.
Hard Rock Cafe, 116 Pike St, 204-2233