Hard Rock Relics

Rating: NNNNNone of toronto's greatest rock 'n' roll landmarks, the Hard Rock Cafe (279 Yonge, at Dundas Square, 416-362-3636).

Rating: NNNNN

one of toronto’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll landmarks, the Hard Rock Cafe (279 Yonge, at Dundas Square, 416-362-3636) isn’t in the history books because of its recent $5-million overhaul. Back in 1965, when the two-storey space was home to the famous Friar’s Tavern, Bob Dylan — then a freewheelin’ folkie — hooked up with the Hawks, the Yonge Street scene’s hottest bar band.

After helping the Voice of a Generation go electric, the five local musicians became famous on their own as the Band. Those historic after-hours jams are memorialized by a small plaque, a black Strat signed by the Band’s Robbie Robertson and a gaucho outfit worn by Bob during his weird period. Against a 20-foot-tall wall of plasma TVs pumping classic videos, more of the Hard Rock’s collection of pop memorabilia gets displayed centre stage — a purple sequined outfit worn by Tina Turner at the Apollo, one of Prince’s fun-fur numbers, a Les Paul owned by Roy Orbison.

Some of it puzzles. Bo Diddley’s first violin? An anonymous sport jacket worn onstage by Gord Downie? A tambourine autographed by R&B diva Brandy?

The Hard Rock’s set list of teenage drive-in-diner grub — burgers, shakes, onion rings — won’t be commemorated in any Hall of Fame. The HRC Burger ($9.79), menu-described as a half-pound of USDA ground chuck, somehow loses 3 ounces by the time it hits the NOW test kitchen’s weigh scales.

And frozen fries on the side rival McDonald’s. And the last time I encountered retro Cobb Salad ($11.99) was at the regrettable Rainforest Café, another tourist attraction where drinks come in logo-emblazoned glasses sold as souvenirs. stevend@nowtoronto.com

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