Hardin’s Hodad’s: celebrating a burger legend


Great surprise and saddened shock rocked San Diego’s Ocean Beach on the afternoon of Thursday Feb. 5. Beloved owner of Hodad’s and the man credited with “best burger in America,” Mike Hardin, died of a heart attack in a hotel in Chowchilla, Calif. He was making a trip to visit his daughter in Oregon.

Hardin took over the family business in 1967 from his parents. After a while, he moved it to it’s current location on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach. Hardin influenced many lives, he took the time and went out of his way to help community members solve problems. He was referred to as the mayor of Ocean Beach and treated each of his customers like they were family.

Hardin made Hodad’s famous for giant portions of fries and onion rings along with huge hamburgers and milkshakes. The interior of the restaurant is decorated with license plates from all across America and a giant road sign that reads “Ocean Beach Only.”

The exterior is covered with a vast array of different bumper stickers. There is not a piece of the restaurant that is not covered with some contribution from a customer. Hardin was most well known for his signature tattoo of “Boss Man” across his knuckles and his one-of-a-kind personality, like that of his burgers.

Hodad’s was featured on Guy Fieri’s TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” a couple of times and students like sophomore Courtney Freeman loved seeing a local joint being given so much national attention.

“I really love watching triple D,” Freeman said. “I’ve seen Hodad’s on it a few times and it’s definitely a San Diego landmark and one of the most popular burger joints in America.”

A touching makeshift memorial was erected outside of Hodad’s Ocean Beach location. Surrounding the door and all along the front facade of the restaurant were flower bouquets, burning candles, religious quotes and written sentiments to friends and family of how much the San Diego community had appreciated Hardin.

A large photograph of a smirking Hardin doing his signature pose of arms thrust forward showing off his knuckles tattooed with “Boss Man”stood with a taped on piece of paper of longtime friend Guy Fieri’s tweet about the news of Hardin’s death.

“RIP Mike Hardin ‘boss man’. You helped the world in so many ways,” Fieri said. “We will miss you everyday.”
Despite Hardin’s death, his Hodad’s family continues to carry on his traditions of “giant burgers and fat milkshakes.” There has been a great amount of love and support for the famous burger joint by fans and loyal customers. There are still massive lines and a bustling crowd within Hodad’s everyday; customers who are willing and eager to wait in a line for more than an hour just to get that unique Hodad’s experience that Hardin made so famous.

Freshman Rachel Maltz found the whole scene heart-warming, proud of how San Diego came together over something a man tried to achieve throughout his whole life.

“It was shocking and touching to see that many people there to support the restaurant and their beloved owner,” Maltz said. “I never knew the owner, but to see how many people in the community appreciated and were willing to support the family was moving.”

Locals in Ocean Beach fondly recalled that Hardin was a genuinely kind man and never turned down an opportunity to give back to the community. He created a legacy not only through his attitude, but also through his staff and the signature family business he leaves behind.

The food definitely does not go unnoticed by students either. Senior Callie Mahlan recalls the few times she’d been in Hodad’s and how the food and atmosphere was when Hardin was working there.

“It’s pretty crazy and busy in there almost all day everyday,” Mahlan said. “The food is huge and greasy, while that’s not my favorite it was pretty fun. There’s honestly not another restaurant like it, it’s a really cool place and I hope it doesn’t change.”

Looking at the line outside Hodad’s daily, one can not help noticing all the different types of people. People that stir and can’t stand still look like they’ve been quite a few times and can not stop coming, young beach babes, still salty and barely covered with clothes, fresh off the beach, children filled with energy running around as hot parents fan themselves with the menus yelling for some peace and quiet, seriously tattooed fellow boss men and bros with a pint of beer in their hand and without a shirt.

Hardin’s life was dedicated to giving good food to all kinds of good people; witnessing the familial atmosphere that surrounds the entire restaurant and every customer inside Hodad’s, one could say he never lived a day of it in vain.