I always feel like a fraud whenever I tell someone that I’m from San Diego. There’s a certain beach bum culture that pervades the city (and its stereotypes) that I’ve never taken part in. Sure, I rock the Roxy on occasion, but I’ve never lived by the ocean, owned a surfboard, or worshiped the sun. I’ve also never been especially laid back, which is an essential quality for every native.
During a recent trip to my hometown, I infiltrated the ranks of authentic San Diegans chowing down at Hodad’s, a little burger shack with a huge reputation (See: A Hamburger Today, CNN.com, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives). Locals and tourists alike line up outside this forty-year-old shop for hours on end, all for a taste of their impressive burgers.
Joining me for lunch was The Astronomer, my cousin Phil, his fiancee Tannia, and my mama. We were seated after enduring a 40-minute wait.
The menu at Hodad’s is straightforward—burgers, fries, onion rings, and milkshakes. For those who don’t do cow, there’s also tuna on wheat, grilled cheeses, veggie burgers, BLTs, and chicken sandwiches. My soon-to-be cousin-in-law ordered the chicken sandwich; the patty looked and tasted like it came off the Sysco truck. Be warned. Do cow.
Our party of five shared two baskets of onion rings ($4.25) that were crisp and properly seasoned. Deep-frying is an art form and Hodad’s has it down.
Everyone but Tannia ordered some variation of Hodad’s famous burgers. The Astronomer went for a single bacon cheeseburger ($6.25), while Phil ordered a single bacon hamburger ($6). My mom and I split a double bacon cheeseburger ($9.50), which arrived nestled in a plastic basket, neatly wrapped in butcher paper. The sesame seed bun stood agape, much like my mouth when I saw this thing.
Each burger was topped with slightly grilled onions, standard pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard. Both beef patties were nicely seared and fully cooked through. The most unique component of the burger was the bacon. According to A Hamburger Today, Hodad’s boils their bacon in water, then fries it on the grill under an iron weight. The result is a mass of bacon that delivers a little smoked piggy in every bite.
After she polished off her half of the double bacon cheeseburger, my mother concluded that it certainly merited the extra long wait. Everyone at the table nodded in agreement. Hodad’s creation was everything a great burger should be—deliciously beefy, a little bit greasy, seriously messy, and totally satisfying. It wasn’t a cutting edge burger, just solidly good.
[By the way, a “hodad” is a non-surfer who spends time at beaches masquerading as a surfer. Also known as a poser.]
5010 Newport Avenue
San Diego, CA 92107