No trip to San Diego would be complete with out going to the beach. No trip to Ocean Beach is complete without a stop by Hodad’s. The legendary eatery has been widely covered in media and is busy serving fresh grilled food to hungry sunburnt patrons every day. It’s not unusual to see a line out the door down Newport Ave. for the paper wrapped sloppy burgers and seasoned fries. Founded by Mike ‘ Boss Man’ Hardin, it was a huge shock and loss to the community when he passed on earlier this year. Now under the watchful eye of second generation grill master and ‘good dude’, Shane Hardin, Hodad’s continues the great tradition.
I met Shane by chance one night in OB while I had a rehearsal there. He was getting ready to head overseas for some trekking in exotic places. We agreed to catch up when he got back. The ocean breeze kept OB cooler than other parts of San Diego during the September heat streak. Shane and I caught up for an interview and of course, some of the famous Hodad’s burgers and fries.
Chris Lougeay: Is there a minimum number of tattoos required to work here?
Shane Hardin: No, some people don’t even have any. *
What’s the average estimated number of tattoos per Hodad’s employee?
Some guys here are covered head to toe, but around 7 would be average. It’s encouraged at Hodad’s! I don’t think Eric or Jaime have any… Maybe 5 guys here don’t have tattoos out of our 90 employees, maybe less. I was like, I didn’t even think about it, I don’t even notice them, I don’t look at them. I forget about them, I don’t have time to look at them!
[A hot fresh order of ‘Frings’ arrives. It is a mix of seasoned wedge fries and onion rings in a basket served with cool ranch dressing on the side.]
That’s Frings. It’s a combination of fries and onion rings and one of our best sellers. That and the bacon cheeseburger are the top two. The only other one is our chocolate shake. Our menu is pretty simple. We have two new burgers, the Guido and the Bluejay, they are first new burgers… in like, ever! The menu has been the same my entire life.
Do you have a fav?
Right now, the Guido. Probably because it’s new. The tuna sandwich melt is great too. I’ve been eating this food my entire life. I like it all.
What keeps you busy outside of cheeseburgers and fries?
I play in a band. We’re called the Los Seafinks. We do surf, garage rock and some instrumentals too. We are an on and off again kinda band. Mostly just friends who get together and occasionally we play a show.
You recently spent some time traveling in Japan. How was that?
Yeah, I just got back from Japan. After finishing my dad’s memorial service, I needed an extreme change of pace for a moment. The food in Japan is so good. I can’t wait to go back.
Can we talk about Mike for a moment?
Yes. Mike ‘Boss Man’ Hardin.
What was he like?
He was larger than life. He was the definition of a good dude.
I have heard this from many people who have no connection to one another. They all tell me the same thing.
That question ….It’s kind of hard to answer. He was just ‘dad’ to me. As you get older and know your parents as people… he was kinda of weird. But he was just Dad to me. He was always a really attentive lister. You could always tell he paid attention when you talked to him.
One thing I can tell you is, he loved to drive. He would drive 200-300 miles frequently. He loved to drive up in the mountains you know. He’d say, ‘I’m on my loop‘.
There are very few places in the world where people will line up around the block to get a bite to eat. Geno’s philly cheese steaks is one and Hodad’s has that same kind of draw, why is that?
It’s just simple. It’s consistent. The atmosphere is laid back. Nobody does it like we do at Hodad’s. It’s the real deal, it’s big, sloppy, fresh burgers. It’s classic. We’re not trying to be something that we not. We let our employee’s be themselves and that’s our biggest asset. We get a lot of characters here at Hodad’s.
Ocean Beach, know for it’s surf culture, is literally less than a 90 second walk from Hodad’s. Do you guys hit the waves after a shift?
Yes! Especially right now since it’s so hot in San Diego. Most of the guys wear board shorts and even on a 30 minute break they’ll go jump in the water! We have our own surf team.
How many people are on the Hodad’s surf team?
It fluctuates between 5 to 10 at any given time. I think there are ten now.
The surf team is a sponsored team?
It’s a group of good wholesome local kids we sponsor to surf. We do a lot of stuff with the community. It was a huge important thing for my dad and we will keep this going. Our community is what helps us and we love them! You know how OB is. There is no other place like it.
You’ve been in OB your whole life. What changes have you seen in here?
It’s more popular now. Tourism has increased, but it’s still OB. It’s like, it’s changed a lot, but it hasn’t changed at all. The attitude is consistent. The looks change, some of the people change, but the over all vibe never changes and I don’t think it ever will. I’m surprised some of the more corporate businesses have survived here as long as they have.
OB has a lot of good looking girls (and guys) walking up and down the streets nearly naked. How do you focus on Hodad’s with that type of distraction?
It’s pretty hard!
Is there a dress code for patrons?
No shoes, no shirt no problem! Says it right there on the sign.
So bikini’s are ok?
This building is pretty cool. Can you tell me anything about it?
The building is old. It was built in 30’s. My dad got it when I was like 3 weeks old. It’s got a lot of cool stories. I heard there was even a poker room upstairs at one time, but I never saw it.
What else does Hodad’s do?
Out veteran grill guy, Chad Le Blanc, handles all of our catering. He’s been here for like 22 years. They do onsite catering. Grills, oil fryers, shake machine, every thing. They kill it! There’s the trailer parked out back. (Shane points out window.)
What’s the lead time to have Hodad’s to cater your event?
Give us a couple weeks notice.
Are you guys open late in OB?
Till 10pm. We’re trying something new out. We’re doing 11am – 10pm every night now. It’s a trial run.
Wait a minute… You guys seriously close at 10pm on Friday night in OB?
Yeah, sometimes we have turn people away. We don’t like to do it, but we gotta shut the doors sometime. A couple at 9:58, no problem. But please don’t bring 35 drunk people in the door 10:05… come on man! (laughs)
Any famous people come in?
Bill Murray used to come in all the time. Suge Kight. Brian Poshen always stops by when he’s in town. Malcolm Floyd from the Chargers is in here all the time. One time I got a call for a order to go, and when I asked for the name this big guy on the phone said, “Daphney’ I said, “Who?” “My wife is coming to pick it up‘. It was Malcom. We cater the Charger’s practices about once a month.
How much food does it take to feed the Chargers!?
Those guys can pack it in! They eat triples like monsters, and come back for seconds and thirds! It takes 3 trucks. We serve 75 people, but we prepare enough food for 400 people. They eat every thing. That’s eight cases of meat…. I don’t even know what else. It’s a ton a product.
Troy Palomalo came in. I know I’ll think of about hundred more people after you leave.
Any Navy SEALS eat at Hodad’s?
Tons of military. Any time a ship docks the Navy families all come in. We donate a lot to The Wounded Warrior foundation. We cooked for over 4,000 US Marines at the Marine Corp base at Twentynine Palms. We’ve gone out there a few times.
Now that I think about it, Guy Fietti did an episode here in 2007.
You have three locations?
Yes. We have two, OB and downtown. And then there is one kiosk and restaurant and half at Petco park.
Do you guys do any vegetarian options?
Yeah! An awesome veggie burger with bacon! That’s pretty special. Just messing’ around. We can do lettuce wraps for the gluten free crowd and… the veggie burger IS killer!
Anything else you want to promote?
Just the two new burgers, catering, good will and peace on earth, one big sloppy cheeseburger at a time.
Hodad’s, located in Ocean Beach.
*Editor’s note – Many of the Hodad’s employees’ stopped by the table and said hello. Some of their comments are sprinkled into the Shane’s responses.
Copyright © 2015. C. Lougeay
Do you have anything you would like me to check out? Leave a comment below and I’ll try to feature it on the blog. Please subscribe to my Youtube channel and thanks for reading.