Something Unexpected at the Hard Rock Cafe

There aren’t a lot of surprises at the new Seattle Hard Rock, until you get up to the roof.

By Jessica Voelker February 8, 2010

The new Hard Rock Cafe on Pike Street at First Avenue will have its soft opening on February 10; I went over this morning for a sneak peak.

Downstairs, the place looks exactly like what you’d expect from a Hard Rock Cafe: there is a gift shop, and booths with individual TV screens—diners vote on what song they hope to hear next over the sound system. Seattle rock paraphernalia lines the walls. There’s an acoustic guitar along the body of which Eddie Vedder taped notes on the lyrics to “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” to help him remember; an incoherent ramble of a letter sent by Courtney Love to Spin Magazine; a totally 80s jagged white electric guitar that once belonged to Heart.

Inside a drinks menu are bright images of cobranded cocktails like the Blue Devil: Captain Morgan, Curacao, margarita mix, and Monin wildberry syrup. Yowsa.

I asked director of operations Kelly Marshall what differentiated the Seattle restaurant from the 161 other Hard Rocks around the globe and she pointed to the beer taps—the Hard Rock here pours Northwest brews like Deschutes Black Butte and Mac and Jacks. She talked about the “Java Lava” burger: an espresso-rubbed patty covered in some kind of tangy coffee sauce, and the philanthropic partnership the Hard Rock has brokered with nearby Pike Place Market. She also mentioned that the Hard Rock Seattle is working towards a gold-level LEEDS certification, the first in the company.

One level up is the stage area: capacity 400, according to press materials. The Hard Rock has started booking local bands and shows will begin in early March. The memorabilia continues on the walls upstairs, so you can engage in the incongruous activity of watching some struggling band while standing next to a framed man purse once toted by Jimi Hendrix.

Go up one more level and you’re on the Hard Rock’s surprising rooftop deck: a very beautiful, understated lounge with gas firepits and its own small bar, not to mention an addictive view of the market and sound beyond. It was really quite something to walk around this virgin space this morning, before one Blue Devil has been poured in the face of one distressed jeans-wearing douchebag, before one Black Eyed Peas song has defiled the state-of-the-art sound system.

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