Not enough has been said about San Diego’s burger joints. This sunny, SoCal surf destination has ample amount of quality burger shacks to keep the protein going for a day’s worth of waves, and in town, a blossoming utopia of diverse, meaty creations. There’s ostrich burgers, single-source American grassfed, assembled and cooked to order with optional bacon and mushrooms inside the patty, and a healthy assortment of classic but never plain cheeseburgers for any occasion. Whether it’s indoor or al fresco, late-night or lunch, San Diego’s got a burger for you, and reliably delicious to boot.
The epitome of beachside burger shack, Hodad’s is an Ocean Beach favorite. If Hodad means "a non-surfer who spends time at beaches masquerading as a surfer," then you can bet that all the Hodads in OB hang out at this burger joint. It would be a cliché to say that their bacon cheeseburgers proverbially "carry you away," but truthfully, all the diners at Hodad’s just want to stay at Hodad’s. Hodad’s is decorated in SoCal fashion, with California license plates everywhere, crates and bumper stickers, walls plastered with surf-themed posters, and the burgers remain some of the best in the world. Juicy and perfectly grilled (after 41 years, they’re well-experienced in the art of grilling), stacked high with fresh onion, lettuce, pickle, tomato with healthy squirts of mayo, mustard and ketchup, Hodad’s proves that the best burgers are truly the most simple.
On the other side of the burger spectrum, Tioli’s Crazee Burger is decidedly not charming in its simplicity – it’s dynamic in its moxie. Channeling the atmosphere of a European bistro but the erratic and all-American proclivity for cramming random stuff between slices of bread, Tioli’s makes a burger out of pretty much anything that can be made a burger out of. Whether that’s from the classic and premium fresh angus burger or ostrich (topped with lemon chive cream sauce) and snapping gator (with curry fruit tapenade), Tioli will make it happen in ⅓ pound burgers.
The burger gets a clean-cut makeover at the Burger Lounge. Their signature burgers are all made from single source American grass-fed beef, and all the produce incorporated are from organic sources – they cooperate with specific local agencies like Rumiano Cheese, Rain Crow Ranch, Sun Fed Ranch, Maine Root Handcrafted Soda, Urban Corps. Recycling, Suzie’s Farms and more. What this means is that the flavors of nature really come through with this burger, of organic and fresh beef and warm, organic cheeses, on a hand-formed patty. Vegetarians go for the quinoa veggie burger and diners looking for an extra oomph try the elk burger.
The burger at the pork-centric, slow-cookin’, local neighborhood "Snack Shack," as Carnita’s is so affectionately known, is one of the best ones in the city. They source all of their ingredients as locally as possible, having built relationships with family farmers, ranchers, bakers, vineyards and breweries, and all of their flavors come out clearly and organically. Their burger is made with a fresh ground patty on a layer of housemade aioli, topped with white cheddar, bacon jam, fresh tomato and lettuce on a bun toasted on both sides. Their burger and select other dishes, like the pork belly hash burrito, triple threat pork sandwich (with pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork, and bacon) have made Carnitas Snack Shack one of the best restaurants on the coast.
If you think the freedom to specify whether you’d like your burger cooked medium-rare/medium/well done is "cooked to order," then you haven’t been to Boomerang's Burgers; if you think that having it your way means going to Burger King, then you have been sorely misinformed. Boomerang Burgers allows its diners to get their control freak on. Burger eaters pick a meat (angus, turkey, buffalo, lamb, chicken breast, bratwurst, sirloin, veggie or portobello), pick three toppings and mixers (the cool part: diners can pick any spice and ingredient to mix into the ground patty, including grilled onions, bacon, pineapple and more), choose a cheese from their delectably long list, and choose one free side (which include tater tots, potatoes done any way one can "do" a potato, roasted corn, barbecue beans and grilled veggies). With their remarkable amount of diversity and options, as well as their grilling expertise, it’s no surprise that Boomerang keeps diners coming back.