A Hard Rock rip-off?
Situated almost directly across from The Hard Rock Cafe, ThunderRoad Cafe in Temple Bar has its competition cut out for it. Can this Dublin diner compete with its classier and world-renowned older sister?
ThunderRoad Cafe is an American themed restaurant-diner with TVs and nick-nacks galore.
Temple Bar proves to be, however, big enough for the both of them. There were plenty of free tables at around 8:30 on a Wednesday night but the venue did fill up swiftly.
While the menu doesn’t stray far from the American theme, it does have a wide variety of options; with pastas, burgers, steaks, salads, Tex Mex, and an array of specials and starters gracing the menu.
It’s most recent claim to fame is the launch of its Union and Darko Special burgers – based around the vegan Moving Mountains burger that bleeds like a rare steak. The bloody burgers joined ThunderRoad Cafe’s menu in early February and have made a national profile for themselves since.
The Moving Mountains burger also has added Vitamin B12, a vitamin found in animal products which many vegetarians and vegans take in supplements. The burger contains mushrooms, wheat, soy proteins, and beetroot juice which makes the burger bleed red.
The Veggie Burger is another option that should be considered when ordering. Unlike the Moving Mountains burgers, this burger doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. With a falafel-like texture, it’s very obviously not meat – but it is full of flavour. At €14.95, the Veggie Burger was the cheapest of the vegetarian options. A salad would cost the same and a steak would see guests spending anywhere between €24.95 and €36.95.
However, the vegetarian options are limited to burgers, with even the salads all containing meat.
The decor is impossible to miss. You won’t find two of the same thing, with statues, ornaments, and artwork scattered across the restaurant. The large American flag on the ceiling is an all but subtle reminder of the theme of the restaurant in case the motorcycles and guns pass one by. It’s a bit more homemade than the Hard Rock, but is unmistakably similar.
As abrasively American as it is, ThunderRoad Cafe does narrowly avoid tackiness. The lighting is dim and relaxed and the tables are well spaced apart. As long as you know what you’re getting into – the all American experience- the atmosphere can’t be faulted, especially among the right company.
If you had any doubts, they can be quickly brushed aside with the extensive and impressive drinks menu. At €9.90 each the cocktails are not the cheapest, but certainly cheerful. They don’t hold back in terms of size or alcohol content. The frozen margarita is a refreshing dessert in a cocktail glass and the pina coladas will keep you coming back.
The service is quick, thorough and gives the person dining a sense of control with a device that changes colour and indicates to staff that you’re ready to order when flipped upside down. The central location also allows for quick access to nearby pubs after the restaurant closes at 11:30 pm or 12:30 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
While you will need to be prepared to splash out a bit of cash to get the full American dining experience, ThunderRoad Cafe is an ideal location for a smart-casual meal, get together, or girls date.
Value for money: 6/10