If you have an aversion to fun and the best burger to ever touch your lips, then Hodad’s is not the place for you. It’s been the seaside burger joint of choice for laid-back Ocean Beach surfers since 1969. The playful name emerged from the surf community’s inside joke; a hodad is a person who hangs around surf beaches with a board, but in reality is a poser who doesn’t know how to surf. All the same, this restaurant welcomes surfers and hodads alike!
This breakout burger sensation was over 40 years in the making. After 15 successful years of serving Ocean Beach, Byron and Virginia Hardin turned the family restaurant over to their son Mike, nick-named the “Boss Man”, who took over the reins to the iconic restaurant and grew its local reputation for the quintessential burger experience.
The unfussy restaurant and the Boss Man’s jovial, charismatic, and big-hearted ways eventually caught the attention of celebrity chef Guy Fieri. In 2007, Fieri brought his television show Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives to OB and featured Hodad’s in a second season episode. The restaurant went from San Diego’s best kept secret, to international fame overnight.
Hodad’s has since opened a second location at 10th Avenue and Broadway in Downtown San Diego’s hip East Village neighborhood. In 2012, Hodad’s opened inside Petco Park, San Diego’s state-of-the-art ballpark, during the Padres home games. Now, they have four new concessions inside the park, and one at Park at the Park across the street from the stadium.
With their explosion from neighborhood favorite to Hodad Nation icon, you may wonder if they’ve lost their laid-back surfer vibe. Never fear, at Hodad’s the philosophy remains, “It’s not life or death. It’s lunch or dinner.” These days, Mike’s son Shane Hardin is Hodad’s third generation Burgermeister, where there are still “under 99 billion served”…for now.
Hodad’s welcomes you to come as you are – no shoes, no shirt, no problem – a beachgoer’s dream come true. The walls of the burger joint are covered with photos, artwork, road signs, and license plates – everywhere the license plates. Reading the vanity plates is an experience in itself. The street facing wall is open to the outside at counter height. Seating is an eclectic mix of options. Sit at the window counter, high-top or low-top tables, communal tables, an indoor counter, in booths covered with Hodad’s stickers, or even in the front seat of a van.
A beach cruiser hangs from one wall. Surfboards, skateboard decks, and lifeguard flotation devices are suspended from the ceiling. Like any good diner, Hodad’s giant wall menu is framed in red neon. An actual street sign stands in one corner. The high-energy diner reflects the fun-loving, casual beach personality of the neighborhood.
Hodad’s describes their burgers as “Old-fashioned, sloppy, run down your arms burgers”. Order the bacon cheeseburger for the complete experience. All burgers are made fresh, never from frozen patties, and the burgers are bigger than the buns. The bacon is boiled first, then grilled into patties the size of the burger. The bacon is stacked on the burger, and two slices of cheese are melted over burger and bacon.
They slather the bun with mayonnaise, add a whoosh of mustard, top it with sliced onion, squeeze catsup on top, layer pickles, tomatoes, and shredded lettuce over that, and add the beef patty, bacon, and cheese. It’s all wrapped in what they call a paper diaper and served hot and juicy. No wonder it runs down your arms!
Another favorite is the Guido Burger, Hodad’s famous burger with pastrami, catsup, pickles, Swiss cheese, grilled onions, and spicy brown mustard that was inspired by Guy Fieri. If you’re not into amazing burgers, but find yourself here with family and friends who are getting their grub on, Hodad’s also has a fried chicken burger, BLT, grilled tuna sandwich, or veggie burger. Kids will love the grilled cheese sandwich or chicken strips.
No burger at Hodad’s is complete without frings, a basket of wedge cut French fries and onion rings, served with ranch. Add their famous milkshake served in the frosty metal cup it’s made in, and topped with a scoop of ice cream. They also have a most unusual menu item for the big spender – it’s all you can eat for $99.25! With such great menu prices, you’d have to eat a lot of burgers for that one to make sense.
Hodad’s current OB location, open since 1991, is on popular Newport Avenue. Expect a line down the block to get into the beach neighborhood diner. This is the kind of diner that is packed at 2:00 p.m. on a weekday during the off season. It’s lively and usually loud. The diner is ADA accessible. There is street parking and bike parking only. Hodad’s does take-out, but not delivery. The only alcohol served here is wine and beer. There’s a TV, but no Wi-Fi. Hodad’s doesn’t accept reservations. Both the OB location and its East Village counterpart are open from late morning to late night daily. Petco Park locations are only open during home games.
Longtime Hodad’s employee, Chad “JR” LeBlanc, offers catering for parties of 50 or more. He has a mobile service that allows him to grill and build burgers fresh at your event location. Check Hodad’s website for details.
Once considered the Haight-Ashbury of San Diego, the Ocean Beach neighborhood is one of California’s last remaining classic bohemian beach towns. The laidback neighborhood is characterized by food-coops, hippie-style boutiques, head and surf shops, sandy beaches, and a tight-knit community. Newport Avenue and the five-block radius of downtown OB has over 50 bars and restaurants.
Other neighborhood highlights are Ocean Beach Municipal Pier – the longest concrete pier in the country; Ocean Beach and Dog Beach; and surfing at the end of Newport Avenue and at Sunset Cliffs on the neighborhood’s southern edge. Good hotels include Ocean Beach Villa Inn and Ocean Beach Hotel at the end of Newport Avenue. San Diegans flood Ocean Beach Wednesday evenings for their weekly farmers’ market.