Hodad’s (San Diego, CA)
In San Diego, there’s a little town called Ocean Beach. This place is about as close to a quintessential surf town as you’ll find on the Pacific Coast anymore. It’s filled with local, independent stores and restaurants and a funky character that’s all its own. (It actually took Starbucks multiple attempts to get a store in Ocean Beach.) This is where Scott lived when he was in San Diego and is where his old roommate Brian and Brian’s girlfriend Bridy still live.
In Ocean Beach, there’s a street called Newport Avenue that serves as the main street of the business district. This is where the most popular bars and restaurants are. Nestled into the middle of the block of Newport Avenue closest to the beach is a burger joint named Hodad’s. You won’t have to look very hard to find it. The line is typically out the front door, at least 10 deep anytime after 11am. Don’t worry though, the line moves fast.
Suffice it to say, Scott has had more than his fair share of Hodad’s burgers, but he’s always up for another.
No review of Hodad’s is complete without a discussion of the restaurant itself. The food is one thing. The experience is another. First, there’s the seating. There are booths and a few tables. There’s a storefront bar that faces through open windows out onto Newport Avenue, where passers-by can be jealous of your food. The servers actually go outside to take and deliver your orders.
In the middle of the restaurant is a surf-board shaped table that’s probably 15 feet long for community seating. Pull up a seat, meet your neighbors, and have a big burger. You might even end up with plans for the rest of the evening from a chance meeting. On his first visit to Hodad’s back in 2008, Scott ended up at a beach bonfire with people he’d just met at Hodad’s. Scott, Brian, and another friend ended up at a party with some people they met on another visit. Welcome to Ocean Beach!
We were lucky enough to get to sit in the VW Microbus booth on our most recent visit. Yes, that’s the front end of a VW Microbus attached to the wall with seating for two.
Adorning the walls are license plates from every state in the country that people have donated, as well as a few foreign countries. We noticed a plate from Panama, for one. Many of these are vanity plates, like TOPLSS1 (convertible, perhaps?), N2MYSLF (BMW driver, no doubt), and TWOHIGH (speaks for itself).
Alright, onto the food…the ambiance is great, but the food is just as great! Edie went with the standard for all Hodad’s visits, the single Bacon Cheeseburger. If you’re a huge eater, you can go for the double, but be warned, it’s a hefty burger. Look at that picture of the single. Now imagine it with two patties.
The burger patties themselves aren’t enormous, but when you add bacon, a thick slice of tomato, thick slices of raw onion, pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayo, American cheese, and lettuce, plus a bun, you end up with a burger that’s probably 4″ thick. The bacon isn’t crappy little strips of bacon either. This is thick, crispy bacon that you’d be happy to serve at Sunday breakfast.
Blue Jay Burger
Take that burger above and add blue cheese and grilled onions (in place of the raw ones) and you have the Blue Jay, a burger we’d never noticed on the menu before. But with Scott’s love of blue cheese, it was an automatic. The blue cheese is right up front, but doesn’t overpower the rest of the toppings.
For you burger purists, it might be hard to believe, but Scott likes this one even better than the regular ol’ Bacon Cheeseburger. Next time we’re in San Diego, you can bet a trip to Hodad’s is in order, and Scott will be having a Blue Jay.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t fill you in on how to go about eating a Hodad’s burger. This isn’t one of those wimpy fast food burgers. These are 6 napkin burgers. Maybe 8 napkins. Remember what your parents told you. Eat over your plate. You might want to tuck a napkin into your shirt collar and your lap too. They’re big and messy.
With a single (and definitely with a double), you have to flip the whole thing over during eating. You see, with a burger this thick, you’ll end up eating the bottom bun before the top because you can’t get a full bite, making the whole thing fall apart while you still have 1/3 of it left. You have to flip it every few bites to prevent this.
And don’t even think about unwrapping the burger and trying to eat it. Think about an ice cream cone. You wouldn’t just munch the entire cone halfway down without eating the ice cream as you go. You have to peel the wrapper back a little at a time, keeping most of the burger inside the wrapper or you’re going to have to ask for a fork.
The burgers at Hodad’s are great and the serving size is more than ample. Follow our advice for eating these delicious monstrosities, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.
Oh yes, one other piece of advice from numerous trips to Hodad’s. We’ll do this Animaniacs style for those of you that remember the show, particularly the Good Idea, Bad Idea segments. Good idea: having a drink or two (perhaps at OB favorite Gallagher’s), then going to Hodad’s. Bad idea: going to Hodad’s, then trying to find room in your stomach for a drink or two.
At Hodad’s, you have two choices of deep-fried goodness to accompany your burger: fries or onion rings. Or you can get a basket of Frings, with half onion rings and half fries. Or you can get a half-order of Frings, which comes with more than enough for 2 people.
The onion rings are some of the best we’ve ever had. There’s nothing worse than onion rings that aren’t crispy. Apparently Hodad’s knows this. The batter is just thick enough and fried crispy. Dipped in the accompanying ranch, they’re even better.
The fries are seasoned wedges. They almost seem like they could be battered and fried, but probably not. Maybe they’re double-fried. Who knows? All we know is that they are incredible!
Shakes & Malts
For $4.75, you can get an enormous shake. For $5, you can get an enormous malt. What’s the difference between a shake and a malt, you ask? That extra quarter gets malted milk powder added to your shake, adding some additional flavor to what’s already a great hand-dipped shake.
The shakes come right in the stainless steel milkshake cup that they’re made in. They’ll probably come out before any of your other food. The first thing you need to do is grab two napkins, one to sit under the cup and one to wipe the inevitable drips running down the side of the overflowing cup. Second, grab a straw and dig in. You’re hungry and these delicious shakes are here to put a dent in it.
Note, shakes to go pale in comparison to shakes consumed right there inside of Hodad’s. Take it from experience.
Service at Hodad’s is always fast, friendly, and accurate. The food is delivered as it’s prepared rather than sitting until the whole order is ready. That typically means that shakes and malts arrive first (woohoo!), then fries and onion rings, and finally burgers. All in all, though, you’re not going to wait more than 5-10 minutes after ordering to start filling your pie hole.
The afternoon that we were there, the owner was wandering the restaurant shooting the breeze with the customers. With us sitting in the VW Microbus, he comes over and says “Whoa! How’d you get this seat? You must know somebody important.” Then he informs us that we’ll soon be taken care of by a well-trained drug addict. We asked if we get any of the drugs and were informed “Oh yeah, they’re in the food already. But if you pay more, you get more.” Where else can you get this kind of banter from the owner? Or at least, we assume it was a joke. Though, if not, that certainly explains the addictiveness of the place.
A single bacon cheeseburger is $6.25. The Blue Jay is $7.00. Our half-order of Frings is $4.25. And the malts are $5.00 each. With tax and tip, the total came to $36.00. Not a cheap lunch, to be sure, but it’s also more than enough for a couple meals. If you eat it all at once, you really won’t need to eat again that day. And you really will need a nap. The malts are big enough to split if you can agree on a flavor, unlike us. In terms of value though, for the quantity and quality of the food, this is top-notch stuff.
The Doggy Bag, By Knox
Up to this point, I’d been a little disappointed with this San Diego place that people seem to have such fond feelings for. Sure, my little playmate, Nellie, is awfully cute and the beach is a fun place to romp and meet new friends. But when the parental units go out for food, they leave me behind and I get nothing.
Today, however, I got a special treat. Thanks to Hodad’s and their giant burgers, Mommy brought some home to me. Not only did she give me about half of her burger, there were fries that went uneaten. I’m not sure how they managed to escape Scott’s appetite, but from the looks of things, perhaps Scott should consider bringing a little home for the dog too.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any of the onion rings, but that’s okay. I’ve heard that onions are bad for dogs anyway. Next time, Mommy really needs to bring me my own malt though, vanilla preferably. Smart pups like me don’t eat chocolate, either.
Anyway, kudos to you Hodad’s. That’s one dog-gone good burger and some killer fries, to boot!