Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Discovering a New Islands at Irvine Marketplace

Islands Fine Burgers and Fries
13762 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92604

No matter how many restaurants we have on our list to try, how many events we go to, or how many road trips we take, we always seem to make it back to Islands. There are a few reasons for this. My Mom always gets us an Islands gift certificate each year for Christmas, so that accounts for two visits. We are out a lot, so when we choose to stay close to home, we walk to the Islands right by our place. Probably the biggest reason we always find our way back to Islands, is because they make some pretty darn good food there.

The reason for this visit? We were recently invited to experience Islands newest restaurant, which is at the Irvine Marketplace. This Island's is kind of off by itself, or at least it seems that way because no one really goes to the On the Border that is next door, for good reason, but that's a blog post for another day. Looking at Google maps, this Islands used to be a furniture gallery. Long gone are the high pressure salesman, the over priced dining sets, and that new carpet smell. Replaced by the sweet aroma of burgers wafting through the air, the sound of a shaker making another drink, and the small cheer of the guy watching hockey at the bar.

Even though this Islands has only been open for just over a month now, people have definitely found this place. We walked in just before 7PM on a recent Friday, and the restaurant was packed, and stayed that way until we left an hour later. Right after we walked in, we could sense that this is a different kind of Islands. Gone are the fake palm fronds, and the high dividers, which create a much more open, and cleaner looking version of an Islands restaurant than we are used to visiting. I counted nine large TVs turned to all sorts of sports throughout the restaurant and bar area. They were very accommodating when people asked for a certain game on a TV near their table, which as a sports fan, I always appreciate.

Both Katie and I always get the same thing when we visit Islands. We start off with the Cheddar Fries, I have the the Kilauea Burger, and Katie gets the Island Fish Tacos. Since we have already blogged about an Islands experience, we made a conscious effort to try other things off of their menu, as hard as it is to stay away from our favorites. Let's see if some of these will become our go to items in the future.

I can not recall the last time I had a drink from the bar at Islands, but this Big Island Iced Tea is making me regret my earlier visits. Drinking this brought to mind the sweet drinks I had on a tiki raft tour in the Bahamas. They may have been sweet, but they packed a punch if you were not careful. This drink was the same. Vodka, rum, tequila, triple sec, pineapple juice, and a strawberry puree combined to make this fruity drink. Having this drink reminded me of the great offerings that Islands has for happy hour. Not only is this drink $5 at happy hour, but they have numerous appetizers, all of their well drinks, and my favorite cheese fries are all five dollars or under. A really great deal that we need to take advantage of soon.

Since we could not get the Cheddar Fries to start, remember we are trying new things here. We got the Spinach and Artichoke Dip and the Fresh Cut Islands Fries to begin our meal. Yes, we were really venturing out. This was our first time having the spinach dip, but it will not be our last. Spinach and artichoke hearts are mixed with garlic and onion in an Alfredo sauce, then served with tortilla chips and salsa. There was lots to like about this spinach dip. It was not overly cheesy, the serving size was more than generous, and it had some good sized chunks of artichoke in it. A very smooth dip, and not overly greasy or heavy. I was also pretty pleased that this dip came with enough chips. It's always a bummer when you run out of chips, and have to wait for more. Of course we have had the fries at Islands before, but they are just too good to pass up. We could tell that they were fresh cut, fried right, and went amazingly with their ranch dressing. If you don't get the fries at Islands, then you have not experienced Islands fully.

Katie substituted her usual taco order with the Maui Burger with a veggie patty and Onion Rings. this used to be her "go to" item at Islands before she discovered the tacos. She likes this veggie burger because it's big on flavor, and the guacamole is great. This was the first time she has had the Onion Rings here. They were fried perfectly, and substantial enough that she could not finish them all. Of course, I helped her out with that.  

Yes it's true, I did not radically change my usual order too much. I did have intentions of getting the tacos or maybe even a sandwich, but when it came to decision time, I caved in and got the Hula Burger with bacon added. This burger comes with a mound of mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and Swiss cheese. This burger had a little bit of everything flavor wise. It had an earthiness from all of the mushrooms on here, the Swiss cheese contributed a creaminess, and the bacon I added made this burger come alive. The patty was juicy, and had a great meatiness to it. The bun should not be overlooked here. It was toasted perfectly, held everything together, while remaining soft. Yes, I got a Caesar salad to go along with my burger, since we had the Island Fires for an appetizer. This is one of my favorite Caesar's that I have had recently. The produce was fresh and crisp, there were plenty of croutons and grated Parmesan, and the dressing was pretty solid, with just the right amount used on this salad. It made me feel pretty good about myself after opting for the salad over the fries. Maybe I'll turn into a health nut soon enough. Probably not though.

By this time we were pretty stuffed, but we soldiered on for you, our readers. We tried the Kona Pie, which consists of mocha almond fudge ice cream, a chocolate cookie crust, hot fudge, whipped cream, almonds and a cherry. I am not a big coffee lover, but there was enough chocolate on here, that even I liked this dessert. We did not have to fight over ice cream, Katie loved the coffee taste, and even though we were full when we ordered this, it did not last too long after it was sat on our table. A very nice finish to our night at Islands.

Even though we stayed away from our favorite foods at Islands on this particular night, we might have found some new favorites. So maybe we will not be creatures of habit anymore, (I probably will stick with my Kilauea burger though). I kind of like this new version of Islands. It's a little more contemporary, but with the same great food that you expect from Islands. I was also surprised with how well run, and smooth things went on this night. Usually when a new restaurant hits the scene, there are some service issues, or kitchen troubles that need to be ironed out. That was not the case at this Islands location. Our server, Fiona was a real pleasure to deal with. Even though she was working behind the bar, she took plenty of time to chat with us. It was just not the employees that we dealt with either. I was eavesdropping on other servers dealing with customers, and they were all very attentive. I would definitely say that they have a great team working at this Islands.

We would like to thank everyone at Islands for making us feel so welcome. First we need to thank General Manager John Ladd. He took the time during the busy dinner rush to explain what's different about this Islands, and answered all of our questions. We also had the pleasure of meeting District Manager Scott, who made sure that everything was great with our visit. A very big thank you goes out to our server Fiona. She was so sweet, kept things moving along, and really made us feel very welcome. We both really enjoyed talking with you Fiona. Lastly, we would like to pass along our thanks to Venice Fahey for coordinating our visit to experience this new Islands restaurant. Everything was great Venice.

If you would like to experience this, or any other Islands restaurant, go to their website to find your nearest Islands restaurant:

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