Today's burger report comes from Erin Jackson, a food-obsessed Torontonian who writes for Food Network Canada. Since AHT was lacking information about the famous burger joint Hodad's, she offered to share a review from her recent visit to San Diego. —The Mgmt.
5010 Newport Avenue, San Diego, 92107 (at Bacon Street; seriously!; map); 619-224-4623; hodadies.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Beef patty + bacon patty + 2 slices of cheese = 6 inches of burger goodness.
Want Fries with That? Thick-cut, mildly spiced, absolutely essential.
Prices: Bacon burger, $6.25 / $7.75 with fries; hamburger, $4.75 / $6.25 with fries.
When the guy behind the grill at a burger shop has a giant cheeseburger tattooed on the back of one leg and a milkshake on the other, that's a good indication of passion—and where passion resides, mad flavor is likely to follow.
The king of burgers in question is Mike Hardin, co-owner of Hodad's, a burger joint in Ocean Beach, a laid-back community in San Diego. The menu is simple: burgers, fries, rings, and shakes, served in a surf shack dining room. Hodad's has been featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and has been in business for over 40 years.
If you want to get to know the burger that made Hodad's famous, look to the bacon cheeseburger because that's where things get interesting. Instead of topping the burger with a couple strips of bacon, they boil pounds of bacon in water, then fry it on the grill under an iron weight. This may sound like a strange method, but it creates a crispy, super-flavorful bacon patty that has the consistency of a hash brown. Aside from sheer volume, the patty also delivers bacon in every bite.
Size-wise, Hodad's burgers are big to the point that they're almost intimidating. Before it's wrapped, a bacon cheeseburger is easily 6 inches tall, largely due to the stacked onions, huge slab of tomato, and the two slices of cheese. Burgers are topped with the standard pickles, ketchup, mayo, and mustard, which—when combined with the juiciest patty I've ever tasted—makes them so moist and drippy that you dare not remove the burger wrapper while eating.
Depending on your state of mind, the ooey-gooey goodness that is a Hodad's burger can be a blessing or a curse. Because they're so juicy you barely have to chew, I was faced with a conundrum: wolf it down as quickly as possible before the bun got soggy, or risk having the burger fall apart and make an even bigger mess. Wanting to keep my napkin use under three, I opted to mow down, which made me equally ashamed of how fast I ate, but also totally satisfied.
Luckily, Hodad's epic shakes can not be consumed so quickly. Served in a metal tumbler, the shakes are roughly 80% ice cream and 20% milk. In addition to the tumbler itself being nearly all ice cream, it's topped with three additional scoops, whipped cream, and syrup, making it look like a sundae on top of a milkshake. At less than $5, you can't beat the value, considering it's got to be close to a pint of ice cream.
Hodad's thick-cut, subtly spiced steak fries are also show stoppers. Glistening with oil and cut in different sized chunks, they're the best of both words, satisfying the craving for soft and crispy fries at the same time.
Simply put, Hodad's burger is one of the best I've ever tasted. From a size, flavor, and value perspective, it can't be beat. Add an order of fries to the mix and you'll be wondering if that chorus of singing angels is your imagination or really happening. The milkshake was a bit over the top, but split between two people, it's an accomplishable feat.
The only problem is Hodad's is no longer anywhere close to a "best-kept secret." During peak hours, the line-up can easily go around the corner. To me, that's a strong endorsement. Even with lots of options on the strip, people are more than happy to hang curbside. After sampling the best of Hodad's menu, you can count me among those willing to wait.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.