Classic San Diego: 50 Years of Surf Culture & Iconic Burgers at Hodad's in Ocean Beach
Surfers and hodad's alike have been flocking to this beach town burger joint since 1969.
All images courtesy of Hodad's
In 1969, a beachfront burger shack opened in Ocean Beach on Saratoga Avenue. in 1973, Byron and Virginia Hardin bought it for $600. The shop catered to local surfers and was called Hodad's, a tongue-in-cheek slang name for kids who liked surf culture and carrying around a board, but don’t actually surf.
In the fifty years since, the family-run restaurant has grown into one of the most beloved local chains in San Diego County.
The current owners are siblings Shane and Lexi, third generation Hardins. Shane affectionately describes his grandparents (the original owners) as “hustlers”, yet, he points out, it was his father, Mike “Boss Man” Hardin, who expanded the family empire outside of Ocean Beach to a location downtown, five walk-up stands in Petco Park, and one in the Sycuan Casino.
Shane first worked at Hodad's when he was in high school, but even as a child, Mike would bring Shane to the shop to teach him the ins and outs of the business, from taking orders to getting behind the line to cook. Known as the unofficial mayor of OB, Mike had a big personality, a surfer and a prominent community figure in the beach city, he left big shoes for Shane to fill when he died five years ago.
Shane always knew that he carry on the Hodad's legacy alongside his dedicated employees, some of whom have worked at the restaurant for over twenty years.
"Working at Hodad's has taught me a lot—how to work hard, be nice, and take pride in a quality product made and served by interesting and passionate people,” says Elyse VanWormer, who has worked at Hodad's for 14 years. “I consider myself to be a member of a very special club and I wear my Hodad's gear as a badge of honor."
The joint’s tattoo-covered employees, hangloose vibe, and lines that stretch out the door on to Newport Avenue have become almost as iconic as their food. Almost.
The ultra simple menu hasn’t changed much since 1969, with a focus on burgers (including a veggie burger and a new black bean vegan burger), fries, onion rings, and milkshakes, in addition to a newly added line of locally brewed beers, which include everything from IPAs and Hefeweizens to a new Oatmeal stout.
The streamlined menu helps to ensure there is almost no food waste.
The monster-sized double bacon cheeseburgers, made with nearly two-thirds of a pound of meat, weigh-in at over a pound and a half, and remain the star of the show. They're best eaten the classic Hodad's way, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup and eaten with a mound of onion rings and fries.
Shane is doing his part to move Hodad's into the future, while keeping the classic elements that make it so special.
He has maintained the relationships his family established with local vendors like Pacific Restaurant Supply and Seaport Meat Company, and continues to support the local community through charity events, sponsorship of surf events, and the annual Bossman Day celebration dedicated to his late father.
Shane also remains committed to the restaurant’s long-standing stance on environmental responsibility, never using polystyrene packaging, wrapping burgers in sustainable wax paper, and using recyclable paper bags.
Hodad's might have begun as a humble, surfer’s-only snack shack in Ocean Beach, but it can now safely be called the most iconic burger joint in San Diego County.
Hodad's Downtown, 945 Broadway
Hodad's Ocean Beach, 5010 Newport Avenue
Hodad's Petco Park
Hodad's Sycuan Casino, 5469 Casino Way