Hodad's - Ocean Beach, California

5010 Newport Avenue
Ocean Beach, CA 92107


Date of Visit: Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Time: Dinner - 7:30 PM
Server: Entire Staff
Number of Diners: 2

Food Quality: 7
Service: 7
Ambiance: 5*

*Unique place - Clean enough, Eclectic Funky Decor, and LOUD!

My co-worker, the very thin Mike S., and I decided to hit what is arguably the most famous burger joint in Southern California. It should be noted that Hodad's is about a block from the beach, not in San Diego "proper," but in the town of Ocean Beach, California. "The OB" is a pretty interesting place, catering to the hippie fringe of SoCal society. On this Wednesday we were surprised to find a street festival in full swing on the main street, featuring organic whatever fried in organic grease or grilled on organic wood, and served on recycled toilet paper (or something). There were also hundreds of hemp and macramé wares mixed in with some herbal and organic products for both internal and external use. Dozens of 2-3 person acoustic bands and dreadlocks were everywhere. Most of the people smelled very... organic!

The presence of all the street food was good news, as the feeding frenzy in the street depleted the starving crowds at this infamous burger joint. The sign outside proudly proclaimed "Less than 99 billion served!" When we arrived the place was full, with about half a dozen waiting in line outside. We queued up and waited on the street, the SoCal midwinter weather being about 55 degrees and beachy-humid, really not bad at all. In no time we were accosted by a hostess/waitress and ushered in. The place is bright and very noisy. They support local live music, so it COULD have been even noisier - hard to conceive! Our helpful hostess asked, "Would you guys mind sitting in the van?" Of course not! So here was our table...

I took the driver's seat and Mike took the passenger's side. Once inside, even though the windows were all missing in action, the noise factor was greatly reduced, and we had an awesome ringside seat for the night's activities. The steering wheel and column were long gone, but the dash and instruments were there, indicating 40MPH, and the odometer reading HODAD. The fresh air vent at the top for the heating system was fully functional, too! A helpful waitress took a beer order, quickly filled by another young lady. There were at least 5 different servers working - all young, attractive, and in better shape than either of us, and all of them visited us more than once - we never went wanting for attention, food, or drinks!

The Menu and what we had...
We sipped from excellent California micro brews as we perused the menu. Having had a late lunch, I opted for the single cheeseburger with bacon, while Mike, who had joined me for lunch, decided to go for the gusto and ordered the double cheeseburger with bacon. We were debating fries or onion rings, both having been described as legendary, when the server suggested "Frings" a half and half basket. Perfect!

The room is medium sized, with about a two dozen high tables, a long dining hall picnic table, and a counter on the window - seats inside, facing outside, where the servers would go to take orders and bring food. Those were primo seats for watching the fun on the Avenue outside! There's a large L-shaped counter protecting the grill and many chalkboards jammed with menu information and clever sayings.

As you can see from the photos the walls are covered with license plates from all over, and we spent our time with beer and Frings trying to decipher some of the more clever ones. 2NICAGY took us some time. Either it was "Too Nice A Guy" or "Tunica Gay." The Frings came with both ketchup and ranch dressing - and this was the full time Mike had ever tasted real ranch dressing, as opposed to low fat. Ultimately the burgers, ordered "with everything" came. Mine was enormous - Pile of bacon topped by 2 slabs of cheesy beef topped by tomatoes, lettuce, pickle, rings of fresh white onion (thick) and mustard. The bacon deserves some comment. There is a lot of it, and it tastes very good, but it is unusual - about a quarter pound of bacon is parboiled, globbed together, then grilled next to the burger. So the taste is there, but the bacon is not at all the crispy breakfast treat that Americans are used to - much more like a semi-greasy glob of Canadian bacon. Closest I've seen to it is real Irish bacon.
My burger, like all at Hodad's, was served in a generous wrapper described by the owner as a "burger trough." It was way too big to bite into. Trying to compress the thing to mouth sized was not at all possible. You pretty much just have to nibble around the edges, taking what you get in each mouthful. And as big as mine was, Mike's was TWICE AS BIG!!

We each gathered our thoughts and our burgers and literally dove in. "Good bread, bacon, and mustard," says Mike. I got bacon, lettuce, bread and mustard in my mouth, along with beef and cheese in my nose, so I could not immediately comment. Silence reigned inside the van as we each attacked the giant burgers from a variety of angles. Each bite was different, with different components. Every bite was damn good. About halfway through Mike ordered another round of beers, the consumption of which was hampered by the need for two hands on each of the burgers. We moved the beer glasses to the dash, hoping that the indicated 40MPH was not in violation of any California open container laws. After an extended consumption time, I managed to finish mine and resume on the Frings. Mike, surrounded by several heaps of used napkins, pressed on. I was stuffed, leaving 2 onion rings in the aftermath. Mike finished the meat and cheese and showed me the results. "I'd call it victory," was my comment. "No way!" says Mike who proceeded to eat the salad and bun, leaving nothing. Satiated, stuffed, and feeling a beery-protein high, we just relaxed in the van and watched the show in the dining room.

We had previously discussed whether a milkshake might be in order, but opted for the beers to enjoy a rare respite from the draconian laws found in Utah. But the folks at the next table obliged by ordering one. Words cannot describe this thing, so just try to comprehend the photo...

Our tab with 4 beers, a split basket of Frings, and one single and one double was $31 with tax. All of it was toxic and quite delicious. A sign by the register informed us, "If this isn't the best burger you've ever had, we really don't want to hear about it!" I can't say it was the best, or even the biggest, but I can say it was right up there. And the experience and the friendliness of the folks from "The OB" made a good thing even better. Two thumbs-up and highly recommended!

Highs: Friendly service, funky decor, al fresco dining in perfect San Diego weather, The Van, the OB experience
Lows: We were too full to try the milkshake

Bon Appétit! - W. Ego

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