Mike Hardin – Owner of OB’s Hodad’s – Has Passed – RIP

by on February 6, 2015 · 20 comments

in Culture, History, Life Events, Ocean Beach

Mike Hardin 01 One of the most successful businessmen and restauranteurs in OB’s history, has passed away. Mike Hardin, owner of the most famous restaurant in the seaside village, Hodad’s Burgers, on Newport Avenue died in Fresno.

His body was found in a Fresno hotel  Madera County Holiday Inn on Thursday, Feb. 5th, after Mike had traveled to Northern California to see his daughter.  Cause of death is unknown at this time.  He was 55 years old.

Hardin’s Hodad’s will be closed today, Friday, to allow his workers and friends some time to take this tragic death in. Ironically, Hodad’s will also be closed on Saturday for a memorial and funeral for one of Mike’s employees,  Kyle Witkowski, who died recently in a car accident.

Mike Hardin in vw vanI interviewed Mike in 2009 about whether success had “spoiled” him.  Here is an excerpt:

After their first hamburger place in El Cajon, [Mike’s parents] Bryon and Virginia in 1973 bought a little burger stand in OB, right on the beach. It was called “Hodad’s”.  …

Hodads started in the same building where another restaurant ‘Dempseys at the Beach’ came to be, years later.  … That’s where I first saw Mike back then in the early seventies. …

“Mike,” I said, “you know what ‘hodads’ used to mean?” Growing up in the budding surfer world of Southern California in the sixties, I knew the term was a near slur for those who identified with the beach culture, meaning a fake surfer basically.

“Sure,” he said, “back then, they were fighting words.” We both laughed at the irony.

Mike described how he would flip burgers at the beach site right next to the sand and the little grassy park at the foot of Saratoga, “We used to sell burgers for 25 cents.  We had 10 rolled tacos for a buck.”  They lived near by in apartments on Saratoga, not far from Abbott.  …  Finally, [when the landlord]  doubled their rent.  That’s when, Mike recounted, they moved to Voltaire.  …

Curious, I asked him whether his other siblings worked at his parents’ burger places. No, he said, he was the baby, and by time his parents got into the restaurant business, his 2 brothers and 2 sisters had moved on.

His family has known tragedy. Both brothers died when they were 49. Phil from a massive heart attack, and Steve – who was permanently disabled – took his own life a couple years later.

Mike’s sisters are still living; Dody was 18 when Mike was born so “she was like an aunt to me,” he said.  Patricia, the other sister, lives in San Marcos. Her son Brook, Mike said, his nephew, is going into business with him in opening up the second Hodads in Carlsbad later this year. …

The Voltaire Restaurant: Where the Hodad Burger Became One

In 1979 Bryon and Virginia moved the business to a site on Voltaire – that’s where Hodads became a real restaurant. “That’s where we made the burger,” Mike said, talking about his famous concoction, that now has made it within the top national five.

The place on Voltaire had a “J” shaped counter with stools and a row of booths, in the same old wooden building where Jim Bell has his establishment.

“Dad was good about making ends meet, about being efficient.” Mike said. He is a little sad – to think that his parents, Bryon and Virginia,  never really “made it” like he has.

Back then, back on Voltaire – Mike was starting to learn to surf and was going to Point Loma High School, but he only worked at the restaurant part-time. When he would come in and cook, he would make these giants for his buddies.

I remember them, back in the days I ate burgers. You’d go into Hodads for lunch and come out satisfied with the meal, a tad over-priced, but not feeling over-greased, as you might coming out of Boll-Weevil, and definitely still not feeling hungry, as you might coming out of MacDonalds.

Byron Harlin died in 1984. Mike then began working full-time at the restaurant, and he and his mom continued to run the place. They had been joined by Terry Rhodes – the later partner – who started in ’82.

For the remainder of my interview, see this.


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle February 6, 2015 at 6:54 am

Gone too soon. Condolences to his family and friends. This loss will be felt through our whole community.


AJ February 6, 2015 at 8:40 am

Always great to my boys that are growing up in OB and Point Loma. My boys will miss your hospitality and good humor!


stu February 6, 2015 at 8:46 am

Pleasant Memories of Mike ran across him in traven in Borrego springs once with an out of town guest. Didn’t make the connection for a few minutes our kids went to school together. He ended up giving us a gift cert for burgers at Hodads which my out of town friend fell in love with. great guy RIP Mike


Nathalie McKnight February 6, 2015 at 8:57 am

A tragic shame and way too soon. My heart is sad for his family and friends. I met Mike back in the early 90’s when I had lunch at Hodad’s. His personality was full of light; a light that filled a room and spilled into the streets. He adored his kids named a star for each of them long ago. Mike, a star – a big, bright glorious star – is up there with your name on it, as you shine upon the rest of us.


Geoff Page February 6, 2015 at 8:59 am

My family has known Mike since my daughter and his daughter went to school at Dana. We weren’t close friends but my daughter and his were so we saw Mike pretty often for a while. He was one of the nicest, friendliest people I’ve met in my long years. He was one of those people who seemed to always have a smile on his face, something I envied because it is a wonderful trait. Some people looked at Mike with all his ink and the earrings and the facial hair and judged him completely incorrectly. All you had to do was meet him and see him smile and say hello and all that outerwear didn’t matter.

As you age, you unfortunately have to see people slip away. The ones that always make me the saddest are the young and the funny people, the comedians. Mike was some of both, he was too young to go, from my perspective, and he had a great sense of humor. The world needs people like Mike. This is very sad. I feel for his two children.


Gary Gilmore February 8, 2015 at 9:45 pm

Well said Geoff.


Christo February 6, 2015 at 9:02 am

RIP Bossman. You are the unofficial Mayor of OB. The humble generosity you shared with everyone you were around has left an indelible shine on their souls. Thanks.


Gary Gilmore February 8, 2015 at 9:46 pm



Frankie February 6, 2015 at 9:32 am

My 10-yr old son loved Mike, when we went to Petco we always made an effort to try to find time to talk to him!! We would traverse back & forth between their two locations hoping to run into him and when we did, he always had a crowd of kids around him as if he we was Padres Friar!! After watching him & Guy Fieri interact on Triple-D it was pretty clear these guys were good buddies!! He will be missed..


Audz February 6, 2015 at 9:53 am

Mike you will never be forgotten! You were one of a kind I wish the world had more of you. RIP Bossman.


Bil February 6, 2015 at 9:57 am

Mike performed our wedding ceremony 18 1/2 years ago. I knew him as Minister Mike. RIP. A good guy.


editordude February 6, 2015 at 10:36 am

Dear readers: just could not publish anything else today after hearing about Mike’s death. OB is in mourning and so is the OB Rag. RIP Michael


Eve February 6, 2015 at 11:28 am

Bossman! You will be missed. You were always willing to give a helping hand to whoever needed it. RIP


barb February 6, 2015 at 12:35 pm

I miss you Mike so sad. We have the same birthday and I ordered all your elp’s for your vehicles. So sorry to your family.


Margaret Bauman February 6, 2015 at 7:12 pm

Just in the last few years our family found Mike (he was my fathers first cousin). We planned a reunion, and so for the first time we all met Mike. He knew nothing of us but the family resemblence was amazing! It was so much fun to spend time with him and Shane. We were family!! We will miss the future times we could have shared with him. Our condolences go to his family.


Matt Briggs February 6, 2015 at 7:41 pm



Wendy Wesley February 7, 2015 at 2:50 am

Very sad news! RIP! Prayers for his family.


Mark M February 7, 2015 at 7:16 am

Mike and I spent a lot of time a Saratoga Park playing Frisbee in the late 70s. He was a good friend. His mom always gave me a sack of fries.

Because of my military service, I only saw him a few times over the past few decades.
Many folks may not know that Hodads was briefly in Scrimshaw Square on Santa Monica before going to Voltaire.

RIP Mike


Bill Schneider February 7, 2015 at 11:30 am

I lived in OB in the late 70’s and early 80’s
Like a lot of people I was always broke. I’d stop in to Hodads mikes parents always made my order larger than others. I just loved them! I moved back to Michigan but made sure to stop in when in town. Mike was a great guy and his patents would be proud of what Hodads became. OB is still like home to me and I can’t wait to return and hang with pat James and other OB friends. We can have a burger at Hodads and talk about friends and those we lost too early. Long live his memory in our hearts!


Vance February 17, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Just got word here in India about Mike’s death.
Very sad.
I first knew Mike when he flipped burgers on Voltaire. I remember we both used to laugh when people would try to open the screen door to come in as he had put the handle on the opposite side of the door. And the quarter glued to the concrete just outside. And the stools at the counter with the alternate signs reading “Smoking, Non Smoking, Smoking…”
A most generous man who I will deeply miss.
R.I.P. Mike


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