No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem! That's the motto at Hodad's, San Diego's version of the definitive beachside burger joint having proudly served under 99 billion gazillion of the world's best burgers. The food usually follows a wait in line, usually out the door and down the block, and usually mixed with first-timers and dedicated fans alike eagerly awaiting their bite of burger nirvana.
Burgers at Hodad's are available in three sizes—mini, single, and double—prepared as hamburgers, cheeseburgers, or bacon cheeseburgers and served either alone or with a side of potato-wedge fries. All orders come on a sesame seed bun and are topped with lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup “unless you say otherwise”. Perfectly crisp deep-fried onion rings are a common side order, and drink options range from beer to milkshakes and malts.
For the first-time visitor, a Hodad's burger can seem like a formidable opponent. Before it's wrapped, a Hodad’s cheeseburger is easily six inches tall largely due to the stacked onions, fresh tomato, and two slices of cheese. The burgers are so big they must be eaten in layers, and depending on the build, endurance, and personal motivation of diners, even an hour-long sitting can leave a group of amateurs looking defeated. Sensei, instruct me in your ways. Expert eaters know not to put the burger back down once they have picked it up from the basket, opting instead to rotate it carefully in its yellow-paper wrapping and not risk loss of contact with—and disintegration of—their burger. Likewise, the staff at Hodad's is skilled in the art of delivering food to eager diners, often balancing a group's entire order of drinks and burgers in a single hand.
Like Giordano's in Chicago, or Nathan's Famous in New York, Hodad's is a culinary treasure on a national scale. Hodad’s has been named as one of the “five tasty burger joints worth visiting” by CNN. Hodad’s has also been featured on the Food Network, appearing on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. “They have a burger where they make a bacon patty that goes on top of the burger that is just ridiculous,” said Fieri. It’s his belief that all ingredients in a burger must co-exist and compliment one another for a great experience. He also named Hodad’s bacon burger the "best bacon he ever ate" on an episode of Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Beyond the food, the locale in Pacific Beach is an eclectic mix of patrons in an ambiance of ceiling-lined surfboards and wall-posted license plates. Diners sit in booths, stools, or the front seat of a Volkswagen minivan and listen to Metallica’s Black Album, among other rock and heavy metal classics. For those who enjoy people watching, there is a row of stools facing street-side. Food is also available to go for a quick stroll down to the beach or pier. For those not near the sea-side location, a second Hodad’s restaurant opened in the East Village in downtown San Diego in 2011.
Well worth the drive and the wait, open 24 hours (just not in a row), and no longer by any means a “best-kept secret”. More details including menu and catering information available on the Hodad’s website.