I was invited to attend a media tasting of Hard Rock Cafe’s new 2016 World Burger Tour offerings (which launched Sunday) on Tuesday night, and while there was no burger representative of Sweden, I could SWEAR that I inhaled a ingested a heavy dose of Stockholm syndrome // now I kind of want to live at Hard Rock Cafe.
To backtrack, I’ll just go ahead and say that, had I not been invited as a member of the press to attend this dinner, I highly doubt I’d have hit up my local Times Square Hard Rock Cafe of my own accord. NOW, however, I’m feeling like I could definitely go back in an 80% un-ironic way to eat a burger or five. (Last night I ate three.)
The available selections are inspired by flavors from countries around the world, including England, India, Argentina, Jamaica, Greece, and (of course) the good ol’ USA by way of Vegas, Seattle and Hawaii. I tasted the English burger, which is a riff on a full English breakfast, as well as the Argentinian burger and the Hawaiian burger.
Let’s start at the beginning with the English burger, shall we? This was a goddamned MONSTROSITY, but oh so delicious! (My favorite of the three I tasted, in fact.) It’s inspired by a full English breakfast (aka my “death row meal”, if you were curious) and comes topped with ham, breakfast sausage, a grilled portobello mushroom and a fried egg, and it’s nearly impossible to fit in your mouth, but if you’re determined (like I was) you’ll make it work. The only element I wish they’d incorporated onto the burger was Heinz baked beans (which allegedly come on the side, but our table didn’t get them for some reason), because even though they’d be messy, the burger was not necessarily tidy to begin with, so why not go the distance? I was also OBSESSED with the fresh tomato ketchup that came with the fries // PLEASE BOTTLE THAT AND SELL IT TO ME, HARD ROCK CAFE!
Next up came the Argentinian burger, which I was fully prepared to judge heavily since I practically lived off hamburguesas over the course of the year and a half I was there. (Seriously, that’s what I treated myself to one Thanksgiving because turkeys are pretty hard to come by in Argentina.) While this one was certainly not 100% porteño, they definitely nailed the elements of egg and cheese (common on top of a “completa”), and while I’d have preferred the chorizo (which was a little bit overkill) to have been replaced by a more traditional topping of good old fashioned ham, the salsa criolla addition kind of made it a franken-wich cross between a burger and a choripan. (I was into it.) Overall a pretty fantastic combination of flavors and textures, and I would be willing to bet our South American compadres wouldn’t think it half bad.
And finally we arrive at ye olde Hawaiian burger! While I almost went for the Seattle option (which involves espresso and jalapenos and is super delicious // shout-out @JasonEats for giving me a bite of his) for the USA course, I ultimately couldn’t resist the siren song of pineapple and spam, and SO IT WAS DECIDED. Unfortunately this one ended up being my least favorite, because (very weirdly) it ended up feeling dry despite the pineapple slice. I think it would have benefited from an actual sauce (it allegedly had a soy glaze happening, but I didn’t get much of that) instead of the guacamole and pico de gallo, which seemed a little out of place to me. (To be clear, it tasted fine, it was just lacking in the juice department, you know?)
In addition to the burgers, there are a few specialty cocktails (including one non-alcoholic option) that are meant to be paired with certain burger flavor profiles. I started out on the All Jacked Up, which (as you may have guessed) involves a melange of whiskies, and comes garnished with pineapples, oranges and cherries. It was a little too sweet for my liking, so I decided to go full throttle with my next choice, which is called the “Sweet and Spicy”. For starters, it is blue. BLUE. A shade of cocktail that I would never in a thousand years be caught dead ordering anyplace on earth, yet last night I drank a total of three, and now I don’t even know who I am anymore. But it’s legitimately very, very good; it’s definitely sweet, but the sweetness is balanced out with heat from pepper-infused vodka, as well as a punch of ginger. (The one and only drawback is the color, but after a few sips, you’ll start to care less about that.)
In sum, if you are willing to leave your ego at the door and embrace the absurdity of Times Square, you will not be disappointed in Hard Rock’s new burger and drink selection. (And just think of all the ironic Instagram photos you’ll take! It will be worthwhile regardless!) Thanks to Hard Rock Cafe for restoring my faith in the integrity of the international chain restaurant, and for increasing my pants size // WORTH IT.