Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hard Rock Cafe Detroit tips hat to Michigan-born artists

What’s the difference between Hard Rock Café Detroit and, say, Hard Rock Café Chicago? To the unimpressed, about 280 miles
There, we took our shot.

It’s true, the Hard Rock mold was hardly reshaped when the world-famous franchise moved into street-level space in the Compuware World Headquarters building at Campus Martius back in 2003. Hard Rock Detroit stays true to the Hard Rock Anywhere form, from its interesting collection of music memorabilia on display to its menu of meals with rock-inspired names and budget-busting prices. OK, maybe that counts as another shot.

When it comes down to it, though, even the biggest Hard Rock detractors have to admit that Detroit having one is better than Detroit not having one. If nothing else, the company’s willingness to invest in downtown Detroit is a show of confidence that Motown could use more of, if only to show visitors that, yep, there is stuff to do in Detroit. And besides, if Biloxi gets one, dammit, we get one too!

And while the décor at Hard Rock Detroit hardly strays from its corporate blueprint, it does pay obvious homage to Michigan-born artists. Enter the Hard Rock Café Detroit through the Compuware lobby and you get a quick reminder where you are. A pair of powder-blue Shady sweatpants is cased on one wall. Kid Rock paraphernalia hangs on another. The nod to area musicians gives the place at least a hint of originality. It’d be nice to see that uniqueness extended elsewhere, perhaps to the menu. Some Kid Rock Lobster? Or a basket of Glenn Fries? For the kids, a P, B & J Geils sandwich? (Maybe not, but you get the picture.)

This, of course, is all splitting hairs. Hard Rock Café is what it is, and obviously it’s worked for them. If you’ve been to one, you have a pretty good idea what you’ll get at another, including Detroit. The food is good, if a little pricy, and the atmosphere is heavy with loud but not over-bearing music of all genres. Large video screens above the bar play an endless stream of music videos and concert footage.

In the end, it’s a novelty that is a welcome addition to the Detroit bar and restaurant scene, whether for Wednesday afternoon lunch or Saturday night drinks. The anti-corporate crowd might disagree, but honestly, what should we rather see in there? Another coney island?

For more info: Hard Rock Detroit is located in the Compuware Building in downtown Detroit at 45 Monroe St. Visit them online at, or call 313-964-ROCK.