Under 99 Gazillion Served: Hodad’s Burgers

The joint’s interior is reminiscent of a rustic flea market. Co-owners Mike Hardin and Teri Rhodes allowed the locals to decorate the joint themselves in glorious surf-kitsch; every inch of space is covered with stickers, surfboards and license plates from all 50 states (we searched like mad to find the more obscure ones like Iowa.)

Beach bums, friends, coworkers, class ditchers and even a four-star admiral have eaten at this greasy spoon (expect to see dreads, tats, piercings, bare feet and smiling faces — dress is casual.)

Diners can sit at bar height, on Hawaiian-style benches in a booth or in the remnants of a VW van.  Despite the friendly atmosphere, we recommend ordering take out on a warm night — gorgeous Ocean Beach is only a block away.

Menu-wise, Hodad’s doesn’t suffer from a lack of variety.

The shop offers sandwiches 13 different ways. The meat is smoky-sweet, succulent and infused with the warmth of the grill’s smoke (you’ll need a handful of napkins to stave off a rush of juice).  Go for the bacon burger — sprinkled with caramelized bacon and crisp, fresh onion, it’ll put the mess OVT serves to shame.

Thirsty? Add creamy milkshakes, malts or cheap beer to wash your meal down for $5. Top off the meal with thick and salty wedge fries or crunchy onion rings for $1.50, and you have the greatest chophouse menu west of the Mississippi.

But Hodad’s is not for the small-stomached. It’s mini-burger is half the size of a football and comes with a heavy helping of condiments including ketchup, mustard, mayo and pickles ($3.75).  Lightweights should ask for a little less on top (or pass up the optional sides), though the extra won’t cost you — our whole meal was only $11.

Hodad’s staff has restaurant service down to a science. We’re not sure how they charmed us — maybe it was the prompt drink refills, perfecting our complicated orders or asking (repeatedly) how our meal was. Unfortunately, you’ll have to race to grab an empty table  — on a normal business afternoon, the line of hungry hopefuls can stretch down Newport (hint: stop by on a rainy day to expedite the wait time).

But once you have a table, the food’s timely arrival will compensate for the restaurant’s crowded bustle.  And let’s be honest: At that point, the flavors speak for themselves.