Monday, August 03, 2015

A Food Adventure in San Diego

Eric and I usually rush home after conventions to get back to work. This year, after I got very sick right after Anglicon, we planned a little better and decided to fly back on Monday. We will probably head back over the mountains on Tuesday, then I'll have an entire day to rest and decompress before going back to work. Hopefully this will prevent me from coming down with "con crud" or any other problem, particularly those related to traveling.

However, this did leave us with a dilemma. The convention hotel this year has extremely limited food options, and frankly, every food choice is either overpriced or crappy, and often both. So for dinner Sunday night we decided to have a food adventure. We've been watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for awhile and Eric has wanted to try Hodad's after seeing it on the show. We made an attempt last year, but the timing didn't work out (and I was too exhausted after the kayak trip). So this year we brought along Karyl, Eric's co-author and the co-chair of next year's Oz con, and made the attempt again.

Eric worked out that the 120 bus line would take us to the restaurant. After assuring us it would drop us off right in front of the place, we headed out from the Town and Country to the transit center that's basically across the street. I was a little nervous, because I haven't been feeling well when I walk and Karyl is walking with a cane, but hey, it was a fairly short walk to the bus stop and a friendly native told us which stop we needed to be at.

The bus was on time and we hopped on and rode downtown, watching the San Diegans in their native habitat and discussing next year's Oz convention. We got to a stop on Fourth Street and everyone else got off... then the driver said, "This is the end of the line." Uh-oh. We asked where Broadway was from there, and she pointed us two blocks down. Then we asked where Hodad's was... she said "Tenth street, to the left." *sigh*

There was no point to going back, and there weren't any transfers for the bus fare, so it was a nice long walk. It was unpleasant, and I got grumpier and grumpier as I walked. I wanted to get a swim in before going to bed, and the later we were at dinner, the less likely it was I would get my swim due to exhaustion/darkness/cold. Thus when we arrived at Hodad's and got in the outdoor line, I was in a foul mood.

A sign! I see a sign!
The line was not too long. We were second or third, it was hard to tell, behind either a very large group or two slightly less large groups. I think it was two. I was grateful for the chance to rest against a wall, but it was hot out in the sunlight and I wasn't happy to have had to walk. I gave Eric a bit of a hard time for his bus route reading skills, and he was grumpy about the wait. But Guy Fieri claimed this is the best hamburger in the nation, so I was willing to wait to try it.

Finally a waiter dressed as a hipster or a surfer, not sure which, brought us in to sit at a booth that the group in front of us couldn't fit at, and we got a chance to look at the funky interior of the place.

Interior, restaurant... is it a diner? A drive-in? A dive?

Not a lot of space in this restaurant. No wonder there was a line.
The wall next to us was covered in license plates and stickers, and the seats were covered in "Hodad's" stickers as well. The music was playing a little too loud for easy conversation, but there were a lot of families and loud noises, so it was just overall a loud place. We had a quick look at our menus and the server came over almost immediately. Fortunately, we made up our minds quick and so he took our order right away. Eric and I both ordered single bacon cheeseburgers, me with onion rings and him with fries. We also got chocolate malts to drink.

The server got our water quickly, which was good because both Karyl and I needed the water after the walk. It took longer for the malts to arrive, but when they did... whoa. I wish I'd stopped to snap a photo of them, they were something else entirely. Some restaurants give you the mixing container with your shake or malt... this place served the malt in the mixing container, garnished with a giant chunk of chocolate ice cream. In fact, we had to get to work eating them quickly before they made a huge mess of the table. And even so, we got a lot of chocolate on the table.

While we were still in shock over the size and quality of the malts, the food came. I looked upon my burger in despair, for I wasn't at all sure how I could possibly fit my mouth around all the stacked levels. I tried, and got most of the taste in my first nibble. Oh man oh man. It was really very good. I'm not convinced it is the best burger I've ever had, but it was close. The onion rings were perfect. Between the burger and the rings, I was extremely satisfied with the food. (Edited to add: Both Eric and I were glad we hadn't gone for the doubles. I almost wished I'd opted for a "mini")

I was less satisfied with the service. The lax dress code is clearly a quirk of the place, but I would have liked some better indication of who was a server and who was the customer. It was hard to tell at times. In addition, the servers weren't exactly attentive to what was happening at the table. We had a split ticket, but Eric and I got our bill before Karyl. Then when we put the money on the table, they didn't notice it until we waved to get their attention. Not a deal-breaker, but definitely not what we're used to at restaurants. The food pretty much made up for it. I would definitely go there again to try something else.

After finishing, we waddled out of the place and back down to see if we could find and catch the same bus back to the Town and Country. There were spots of activity, but other places were kind of quiet. I did enjoy the sidewalk advertisements, and snapped photos of some of them. I'll put those after the cut.

What a great place for a bus stop!
Fortunately, Karyl had noticed that Fourth Street was a one way, so we went up Fifth Street to look for the 120. We found the bus stop in front of the House of Blues, and enjoyed a high police presence, several shouty homeless people and a guy handing out free tickets to a battle of the bands. Eventually the bus came, although we looked at the possibility of trying Uber to get back in case the bus didn't run where we expected it to run. I'm afraid I was getting a little paranoid about the buses by then.

However, we got back safely. The only odd thing was a very giggly girl sitting in the seat behind me. She started giggling and I glanced back at her and she giggled more when she saw me look, then is escalated into a beautiful evil cackle that was hilarious but loud and slightly frightening. She and her mother, who was talking on her cell phone the entire time, got off before we got on the freeway back to the hotel.

After returning to the hotel, despite the fact that it was getting dark, I got my swim in. It was somewhat cooler than I'd hoped so I didn't stay in long, but oh man it felt so good to swim again. I really need to find a way to swim regularly at home. I know the racquetball club has a swimming pool. However, before I do that I need to get a new swimming suit. I nearly lost mine while swimming a couple of times because it's slightly too large for me. The shoulder straps kept falling off.

After my swim we retired to our room, which is finally beginning to not be as damp and clammy, and I wrote up the final convention report and then this post. I'll schedule it for the morning in case I have any thoughts I want to add at the last minute... and so to bed.

That really sounds like a challenge to me...

Waiter! My drink is talking to me!

The little drawing of the phone with text messages just makes this sign.

This one goes out to all my friends in wine country.