When I was a kid, my family lived in London for a few years. It was an excellent experience that shaped my life and worldview. One of the issues we faced, though, is that when we were homesick there was nowhere to go for comfort food like hamburgers and fries (Footnote 1).
At some point, a friend of my mother’s mentioned that there was an American-style restaurant in London near Green Park. We went there. We liked it. We went back about once every other month. I remember the blue-and-white tablecloths and a neon sign in the window that said “No drugs or nuclear weapons allowed inside.”
The restaurant was called the Hard Rock Cafe, and it really wasn’t a big deal back then.
The Hard Rock Cafe was just a fun place to go, with loud music playing and guitars on the walls. I remember sitting in the back a few times at the table next to Elvis Presley’s driver’s license. It was never particularly crowded when we went. Actually, we rarely had a problem parking on Old Park Lane right next to the restaurant.
Eventually, the Hard Rock Cafe became a Thing with a capital T. Lines started forming out front. Parking became more difficult. Kids wore Hard Rock T-shirts. I was confused by all the fuss. Today, there are Hard Rock Cafes around the world.
I still feel an emotional connection to the Hard Rock Cafe. The Complementary Spouse and I look for one every time we travel. We often don’t eat there, but I’ll buy a pin and he’ll buy a shot glass. I can’t say the food is exceptional, but going there reminds me of childhood.
On Sunday, we went for a last meal at one of the two Hard Rock Cafes near Camp David. (There are two within a 20 minutes’ drive.) I ordered my old standby, a cheeseburger and fries. I also ordered a Hurricane because I won’t be having any alcohol for a year after the surgery. The Complementary Spouse had barbecue chicken and iced tea.
The burger was good, but the bottom bun got soggy and the meat always seemed like it was going to slip out. The fries could have used more salt. The drink seemed quite small considering the price. But, for me, the Hard Rock Cafe is not really about the food anymore. It’s about connecting to the time when I was a kid and American food was a special treat.
That’s one more last meal to cross off my list.
1. That’s not entirely true. There was one restaurant called the Vermont Exchange near our house. It was terrible. Like we-once-found-a-shard-of-glass-in-our-ice-cream bad.