On the Menu: Hodad’s boasts beachy kitsch and the ‘world’s best burger’
When shuffling into Hodad’s Ocean Beach diner after waiting in a line that seemed as long as 2 tons of shoestring french fries placed single-file down Newport Avenue, your brain flashes to the 1960s and the idea of rubbing elbows with Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Gidget and Mike Love of the Beach Boys.
A stone’s throw from the Pacific, the beachy-meets-kitschy vibe screams from a Technicolor display of surfboards standing vertically side by side enclosing the outdoor dining deck that welcomes burgerphiles of all manner.
Once inside, the sensory overload continues. The walls of the compact diner are plastered with a collage of giant stickers, posters, historic photos, vintage bric-a-brac and personalized license plates from coast to coast donated by customers in exchange for a free burger, while seating booths are handpainted in a preschool motif, and the hollow front half of a classic Volkswagen bus is double-parked to provide additional seating.
“Hodad,” by the way, is urban slang for a surfer impostor who digs the beach scene but avoids the waves.
Shane Hardin, co-owner and sister Lexi Kosenick, and Jeremy Diem, president and chief executive of operations, are at the epicenter of this whirlwind burger joint, part of a local chain that includes the Broadway location in San Diego’s East Village and a handful of spots at Petco Park in partnership with the Padres baseball club.
Hardin, a third-generation burger restaurateur and fledgling brewmeister, carries on the family tradition that started more than 60 years ago when his grandparents Virginia and Byron Hardin opened a roadside burger stand in Louisiana. They relished more moderate climes and took the small operation to El Cajon. Hardin’s dad, Mike “Bossman” Hardin, took over in the late 1970s, moving Hodad’s to OB, where it trickled over to its present location.
There it caught the eye of Guy “Guido” Fieri, host of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” who featured Hodad’s a trio of times, putting the eatery on the world burger map. The instant celebrity status drew customers from New York to New Mexico and every nook and cranny of San Diego County. As a gesture of appreciation to his kindred spirit, who can be credited with “tripling their business overnight,” Mike Hardin created the Guido Burger — a rustic Reuben riff with a pile of pastrami, caramelized onions, slice of Swiss and crunchy kosher dill on the classic burger.
Hodad’s many other accolades and awards flow like fountain drinks, including several “best of” lists and a ranking in the top 50 of Foursquare’s “Best Burger Joints in America.”
The menu board, which facetiously boasts “World’s best burger! Under 99 gazillion sold!” might just hit that target sometime down the road, as more than 1,000 burgers are flipped and devoured during peak days.
Shane Hardin inherited the business when his father died in 2015. He embraces the family business with gusto, using local meat, bread and produce distributors as the base for the behemoth beef burgers. Everything is delivered fresh daily, while every burger is made with ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles, tomato and shredded lettuce wrapped in a “burger diaper” to contain the juicy drippings.
While the bacon cheeseburger (Swiss, American or cheddar) has become Hodad’s signature seller, Hardin knows that some of his diverse clientele — which includes “young, old, rich, poor, tall, short, hippie, punk rocker, surfer and professional” — craves nonbeef options. So the menu incorporates items such as the “unburger” — which was created by serendipity when his dad built a burger and forgot to add the patty — a tuna salad on a bun, a fried or grilled chicken burger, along with vegan and vegetarian options with a blend of brown rice, bulgur wheat, oats, mushrooms, corn, carrots, onions, broccoli and more.
There’s also the Blue Jay Burger for more sophisticated palates, topped with bacon, blue cheese and grilled onions.
Crispy, panko-breaded onion rings and chunky, seasoned french fries attract all taste buds, and for bottomless appetites, the menu offers an all-you-can-eat option for $99.25.
For smaller eaters there are mini and single burgers. To wash it all down, the milkshakes, especially the malt-flavored ones, conjure nostalgia of an old-timey drugstore treat whipped up by a soda jerk, while a variety of craft beers from the newly launched Hodad’s Brewing Co. are on tap.
While the dress code is “fast-casual,” Hardin wouldn’t deny service to a customer for wearing “very fast-casual” attire, since a prominent sign in the joint reads “No shirts, no shoes, no problem.”
Where: 5010 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and “Bossman Day” on Sept. 30
Information: hodadies.com, (619) 224-4623
Hodad’s single cheeseburger
(yields one burger)
• 1/3 lb (80/20) ground chuck beef patty
• 1 tsp. seasoning salt, divided in half
• 4-inch sesame-seeded sourdough bun
• 1 tbsp. real mayonnaise
• 1 tsp. yellow mustard
• 1 half-inch-thick slice yellow onion, separated into rings
• 1 tbsp. ketchup
• 8-10 quarter-inch crinkle-cut dill pickle chips
• 1 half-inch-thick slice tomato (4x4 or 4x5)
• 1/2 cup shredded lettuce
• 2 slices American cheese
1. Season both sides of the beef patty with half of the seasoning salt.
2. Preheat flat grill to medium/high temperature, sear beef patty on each side until browned and cooked through — about three to four minutes on each side — melt cheese on patty.
3. Toast top and bottom bun until golden brown.
4. On bottom bun, add mayo and mustard.
5. Add onion, flipping the top ring to create a flat surface for pickles.
6. Top onion with ketchup, add pickle chips on top of ketchup.
7. Add tomato slice and shredded lettuce.
8. Top cheesed beef patty with toasted top bun and place on bottom bun and toppings.
— Courtesy of Shane Hardin