Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Difference Between Night and Day

OK. We marveled at the waves. We listened to the roar of the surf. We people watched. What do we do now? Lunch. Of course.

The real purpose of our visit to Ocean Beach—or OB as it’s known to the locals—was to have lunch at Hodad’s, “hailed by many, such as foodie Guy Fieri and CNN, to be among the best burgers in America” (Melissa Gomez at examiner.com).
“Hodad’s motto is ‘No shirt, No shoes, No problem.’ The rock music is loud, the servers sport myriad tattoos and the d├ęcor is part retro diner, part auto body shop” (gayot.com).

“It's a classic laid back burger joint with character. The walls are covered with entertaining license plates from around the world and various surfboards hang from the ceiling. Unpretentious and cool, Hodad's is a family business, owned and operated by the now famous ‘Boss-Man,’ Mike Hardin” (Melissa Gomez at examiner.com).

And if you are wondering, “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” (Joshua Lurie at foodgps.com).
“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 are high-top tables, stools at the bar
and a large surfboard shaped communal table.
The walls are lined with out-of-state license plates and surfboards hang from the high ceiling….
Newport Avenue is kind of like Venice Beach was ten years ago, fairly grungy, but with plenty of character” (Joshua Lurie at foodgps.com).

This wasn’t our first visit to Hodad’s, the last being just about two years ago. Chuck and I, along with our friend Tom from Philadelphia, descended around 8:00 p.m. to find this small space filled with the young and the hip. The next day, when Tom told his local business associate that he had been to Hodad’s the night before, his friend exclaimed: “You went there? That’s a hippy place!” But during the day, the tattooed crowd with multi-colored hair was not to be seen. Rather, I suspect that the gray-haired diners in a nearby booth were probably Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (with Guy Fieri on the Food Network) fans like ourselves.

The short menu does contain some non-burger options like a Chicken Burger(fried), Veggieburger, Unburger (everything but the beef patty), BLT, and tuna and grilled cheese sandwiches. But burgers rule at Hodad’s and come as minis, single, and doubles with cheese and/or bacon. There is also the Guido Burger (with pastrami, swiss cheese, grilled onions, ketcup, pickles, and brown mustard) and the Blue Jay Burger (bacon, blue cheese, and grilled onions).

“…solo or as part of a basket with a pile of French fries, these burgers are a sight to behold. The double, which is two good-size patties, is huge beyond belief, piled inside a broad sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup. The menu warns that all burgers come with all condiments ‘unless you say otherwise’…

“The hamburger is presented partially wrapped in yellow wax paper, which provides a way to hoist it from the table and to keep it relatively together as you try to eat it. ‘That paper is your burger trough,’ proprietor Mike Hardin explains. ‘We tell people, 'Do not take the paper off! It is there for a purpose.' The purpose is to keep the immense thing from disintegrating. Mike points around the dining room at veteran customers wolfing down not merely huge hamburgers, but doubles, which are an insanely larger bun, larger patty, and larger larder of toppings all in one package. He notes that experts all eat their Hodad hamburgers the same way. Grasping it by the paper-covered part, they gingerly rotate it around within the wrapper; and most important of all, they never let go of it once they hoist it from the plastic-weave basket in which it is served. ‘Eat your onion rings and French fries first. Drink your milk shake. Do whatever else you have to do,’ Mike says. ‘Then, pick up your hamburger’" (Michael Stern at roadfood.com).

Chuck was about to order the double cheeseburger until I reminded him that, on our previous visit, I had ordered a double and took half of it home with me to become the next morning’s breakfast. So, instead, he ordered the single cheeseburger with onion only and made it a basket with fries.

(This place is also a bargain—the cheeseburger with fries came to $7.25.)

My choice was the Blue Jay Burger with none of the optional condiments. What makes Hodad’s bacon-topped burgers distinctive is the preparation of the bacon. “Not content to just slap some bacon on the grill, Mike Hardin first parboils the bacon strips and, after they have softened and rendered some fat, arranges a few slices in a circular pattern on the flat top where they fry to a crisp deliciousness.
This way, every bite of burger gets you a bite of bacon. Heaven on a bun” (thewandererschuckandkate.blogspot.com).

These are exceptional burgers. At first bite, beef juices come gushing from the patty—another reason to keep what Mike Hardin calls the trough, and what I call the diaper in place. And the beef is never frozen which makes the burgers even juicier. But I do have one minor complaint. We both requested our burgers cooked medium to get more flattop char. But they came closer to medium rare. Not a big thing to be sure. But still not what we ordered.

At 4.5 Addies, this remains on our Top Five Burgers in America List (at least those we have tasted) and with your burger you get the added benefit of the ocean’s roar.

Oh, if you’re thinking about stopping by Hodad’s for a burger or two, be aware, as the message on the cup says: “We are open 24 hours—JUST NOT IN A ROW.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

No comments: