Hodad’s: Classic Hamburger Oasis Near Ocean Beach

Restaurant San Diego

The Hardin family has run a surf-themed burger spot on Ocean Beach for decades.

Hodad is a surf term for a person who hangs out at the beach with a nice board but doesn’t know how to surf. Thankfully, none of that posturing exists at the Ocean Beach burger bar by the same name. This was my third visit to Hodad’s in the past seven years, and it was as good as ever, a serious contender for the best traditional hamburger in the country.

Byron and Virginia Hardin founded the burger spot in 1969 on nearby Santa Monica Avenue and eventually moved closer to the beach in 1991, on the city’s main drag, Newport Avenue. Son Mike Hardin now owns Hodad’s with longtime friend Teri Rhodes. They’re not modest. The sign touts the “world’s best burger.” They might not be far off.

There’s normally a line near the entrance, but Hodad’s is well run, so you won’t have to wait long for seats.

Restaurant San Diego

Decor includes high-top tables, stools at the bar and a large surfboard shaped communal table. Walls are lined with out-of-state license plates and surfboards hang from the high ceiling. We sat at a counter overlooking the sidewalk, which offers prime people watching.

Newport Avenue is kind of like Venice Beach was 10 years ago, fairly grungy, but with plenty of character.

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In the corner, I discovered a Bacon Street sign that proved to be extremely auspicious.

Restaurant San Diego

The prized seats reside inside the sawed-in-half surf van, which features flames licking at the hollow windows. While I was there, a family of three occupied the van, and the little girl seemed to love the experience.

Hamburger San Diego

The Double Bacon Cheeseburger ($9.50) was tightly packed in a “burger diaper” with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, mustard and ketchup.

Patties are formed from fresh ground beef that’s never frozen. The burger is better than the sum of its parts, but the individual components are still pretty stellar. Case in point, the meaty, thick-cut bacon. “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” revealed that the cooks boil the bacon in water, place it on the grill and then form a bacon patty. Better bacon has never graced a hamburger.

Onion Rings San Diego

A half-order of Onion Rings ($4.25) was still jumbo-sized, with crisp sheathes that weren’t too greasy. Rings came with containers of tangy ranch dipping sauce.

In Los Angeles, Father’s Office sells an outstanding luxury burger that’s undeniably delicious, but the service experience is always challenging. As far as traditional burgers go, there are none better than Hodad’s, and the atmosphere is fun and casual. Given the total package, the choice between my two favorite burgers is easy: Hodad’s.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

sandie weatherford

do you still faith burgers? they were so good. thanks

man. nice post! your blog is making me hungry for hodads now!

That’s the idea. Hodad’s is definitely one of SoCal’s best burgers. Have you been?

definitely a must try for me.

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