Rock around the clock at this comfort eatery

The Hard Rock Cafe is an international chain of restaurants that circles the globe from New York to London, Cairo and Shanghai. For the past 16 years, Hard Rock La Jolla has been a fast favorite with the local crowd and tourists. That's not bad for a theme restaurant that some skeptics thought would fail over time.

Some of the early rock 'n' roll fans have grown up and planted roots. Now, you'll see them at Hard Rock Cafe with their spouses and kids. That's fine with the Hard Rock Cafe. They have a terrific menu for the "Lil' Rocker" in your family .

The 10-and-under gang can enjoy cheeseburger, macaroni and cheese, pizza, crispy chicken pieces shaped like tiny guitars, spaghetti with meatballs and other favorites. All eight children's selections sell for $5.99 and include a beverage served in a souvenir cup. Hot fudge sundaes are $1.99 for kids.

The restaurant is more than just a place to eat. It's a walk down memory lane to many of the faithful, a spot where you can hear the music and soak in the whole rock experience.

The atmosphere is chockful of memorabilia. The walls are lined with photos, guitars and gold records, enough to keep you fascinated while you wait for your food to be delivered from the kitchen.

Quality food has been a hallmark of this restaurant, which is another reason Hard Rock has survived and prospered when other trendy eateries have fallen by the wayside.

Most of the menu items are standards, but you'll always find something new to tempt you away from your old favorites. These days the Hard Rock Cafe has added the Ultimate Burger to its ample burger menu. Like every burger served at this popular hot spot, it is made with certified Angus beef. The burger is $12.19, but it's more than a meal on a bun. It's enough to share with a dining partner, although many of Hard Rock's customers manage to do it justice.

The juicy burger is topped with bacon, cheddar cheese and a crispy homemade onion ring. Even the bun is special; it's made with Guinness beer.

The appetizers are big sellers at Hard Rock, especially the jumbo combo ($14.79). This whopper of a starter is meant for sharing with the table, and it features a selection of the restaurant's most popular appetizers, including Santa Fe spring rolls, chicken wings, onion rings, potato skins and breaded chicken tenders. The barbecue sauce and three other dipping sauces for this feast are homemade and delicious.

The homemade nachos are another specialty ($8.69). They're piled high with jack and cheddar cheese and home-made seasoned pinto beans. They come with sour cream and jalapenos, and they're a great way to start a meal.

The specialties at Hard Rock Cafe may surprise you, if you haven't checked out the menu in a while. The kitchen puts out a wonderful mac and cheese entree, made with twisted pasta and tossed in a lightly spiced, three cheese sauce. Bits of roasted red peppers perk up the flavor and give the dish a little color, and a grilled chicken breast tops it off. This is a very satisfying version of everyone's favorite comfort food.

Other tasty main dish items include grilled fajitas ($12.49) and a Texas T-bone steak ($22.69). You can add a house salad or Caesar to any entree for $2.99.

A personal favorite from the smokehouse is the pig sandwich ($9.69). It's billed as an old Southern delicacy, and it never fails to please. Likewise for the hickory chicken 'n' ribs combo ($13.39).

Hard Rock Cafe is at 909 Prospect St. For more information, call (858) 454-5101.

   
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