Restaurant Review: Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, DC

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Dinner at this Hard Rock Cafe location was a memorable experience; just not in a good way.

Recently, I was in Washington, DC with a small group of 3 youth from the nonprofit I work with. When the subject of where to eat came up one restaurant was unanimous. The kids wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, DC. The atmosphere is casual and the price is moderate. My husband and I dined there on previous occasions and had great service. So, the Hard Rock Cafe it would be.

We arrived at the Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, DC at about 8:00 pm on a Saturday night. Once there we met a friend and her son. This brought the number of our party to 6. Once that happens an automatic 18% gratuity is added to your ticket. That’s not a problem if the service is great. But, we found out that if the service is not good the gratuity will stay.

The Hard Rock Cafe is famous world over for loud music and fun rock star decor. Items from the various music artists lined the walls. As we were shown our way upstairs to our table our host paused to point out a jacket. We were impressed when he told us that the jacket used to belong to Michael Jackson and was now worth over 1 million dollars.

We passed more memorabilia on the way to our table. To two of the youths who came with us, there was nothing was quite as memorable or as impressive as the Michael Jackson jacket. The kids were all very happy to be at the Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, DC. They were in their musical element and reveling in it.

At the table, we tried to make small talk while waiting for our waitress. This is not easy at the Hard Rock Cafe but really, you don’t go to a restaurant like this to have nice quiet conversation. You go for the music, decor, food and because it’s fun.

After awhile our server got around to coming by and taking our orders. Most of our group ordered burgers, one person ordered a steak. The prices for most entrees ranged from $9.95 - $14.95 and up. (Download the full menu from the Hard Rock Cafe website here.)The waitress was polite as she jotted down everyone’s orders. In a few minutes she returned with our drinks. These consisted mostly of water, iced tea and a coke.

We didn’t see the server again until our food arrived. That took awhile. Our drinks were all empty or nearly empty by the time the entrees were served. When the food arrived my cheeseburger was warm (not hot) but tasty. The french fries were crisp but the lettuce was slightly wilted. The kids said their meals were all in similar condition. By now it was almost 9:00 pm, they were hungry and didn’t want to wait another hour to eat.

Our server and the order runner left as soon as the plates were distributed. She seemed to be in a hurry. This was unusual when compared to my previous dining experiences at the Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, DC. We assumed that the server was probably going to get the drink refills since most of the glasses were empty. That proved to be incorrect. We didn’t see her again until she brought our checks and handed them out. She never checked to see if we needed anything and never refilled the glasses even after we flagged her down to ask.

When we looked at our checks we found out about the 18% gratuity. Normally, I tip around 20% for good service so 18% isn’t a problem. There was however, a problem with the service. When the waitress came back to pick up the tickets I asked to speak with a manager.

I told him that I had dined at the Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, DC on several occasions (as well as in other locations) and that the service just wasn’t the typical Hard Rock Cafe quality. He explained that he had to add the 18% but could not make us pay it. Then, he apologized for our poor service and said he would speak with our server. He adjusted neither the bill nor the tip. This left me frustrated.

On my tab was the dinner for my friend. The bill, with tip, was just under $50. The server handled the checks. Since I didn’t have exact change I wound up paying the tip. Next time, this won’t be a problem. We’ll dine elsewhere.

The Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, DC. is located on E Street right next to Ford’s Theater. Parking is not available. The full address, phone and hours are as follows:

Hard Rock Cafe

999 E Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20004

Restaurant Hours

Sunday - Thursday 11:00AM - 11:00PM

Friday - Saturday 11:00AM - 12:00AM

Hard Rock Cafe’ Gift Shop Hours:

Sunday – Thursday 9:00AM - 11:00PM

Friday – Saturday 9:00AM - 12:00AM

Phone: 202-737-ROCK

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Posted on Dec 1, 2009

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Gayle Crabtree

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