Sunday, August 6, 2017

Getting Away from It All by Staying Close to Home at Islands

799 The Shops at Mission Viejo Suite A
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

When Katie and I are not out finding new restaurants, we are homebodies. We curl up on the couch and watch the four plus shows we are currently watching on Netflix. I love trying new restaurants, but sometimes you just need a break. On these rare nights, we usually stay close to home. One of the places we find ourselves at probably once a month or so is the new Islands at the Shops at Mission Viejo.

It's hard to believe that this Islands location escaped the cursed Kaleidoscope center nearly a year ago. Now with plenty of parking, no more broken escalators, a much more open floor plan, and a wonderful patio to take advantage of outdoor dining, Islands has seemed to have hit its stride at this almost always packed restaurant, which is situated next door to P..F. Chang's and the entrance to the food court.

It's also kind of hard to believe that Islands has been around for 35 years. That's when Islands founder Tony DeGrazier opened his first location in West Hollywood, bringing a little bit of Hawaii to Southern California. He wanted a place where you could get a burger, fresh hot fries, and drinks after a long day. My first Islands experience was in the mid-eighties and has continued to the present day.

We were lucky enough to have been invited to our local Islands to try their limited time menu items. That's one of the things I admire most about Islands, is the fact that they always have some limited menu items, keeping things fresh for those of us that visit their restaurants frequently. I look forward to every year when their spicy Nalu Nalu Burger is available as a limited time item.

We arrived at half past six on a recent Thursday evening and the restaurant was humming with activity. We were seated right away and perused the menu not out of necessity, but more out of habit since Katie pretty much always get the same thing, and I already knew I'd be trying their limited time items. Let's see how everything turned out for us on this evening.

The first of the two limited time items offered was this Islands Golden Ale ($8.55). Since it's been so hot and humid lately, this brew, which is exclusively crafted for Islands by Karl Strauss Brewing Company really hit the spot. I was afraid this was going to be too hoppy for my taste, but it had just the right amount of bite to it and a very clean finish. They say this pairs well with their Waimea Burger, but I could see this pairing well with just about anything.

Can't come to Islands and not get their Cheddar Fries ($8.65). Looking back on it, I think Islands was the very first place that I ever had fries with cheese on them. They are still as good now as they were back in the 80's. These fresh cut fries are fried crisp and then topped with plenty of melted cheese and scallions. Yes, you can have these with chili and bacon added, but they are perfect this way, with just a little ranch to dip them in.

I always think it's a little odd that Katie gets these Northshore Tacos ($9.79) at Islands because I always think of this place as a burger spot, but this is her, "go to" item here. These chicken tacos are filled with plenty of cheese, lettuce, and come with sour cream and salsa to round things out. Katie also always orders a small side of guacamole to complete her meal. She loves the tender, slightly spicy chicken, and the ranchero beans that accompany this.

Alright, it was burger time, and this Waimea Burger ($11.75) is available for a limited time. This burger features some Kalua pulled pork, caramelized onions, teriyaki glaze, pineapple, and Swiss cheese. This burger screamed Hawaii and really fit in perfectly with the Islands vibe A little on the sweet side, I'd probably ask for the teriyaki on the side when I have this burger again. Since I had the cheddar fries as a starter, I decided to forgo the endless fries option and get a Caesar side salad instead. This was the right call. The Caesar salad at Islands is very underrated and came with some flavorful dressing, crunchy croutons, and a little parmesan.

Maybe because I had a big lunch, this meal really seemed to fill me up, but I would not be deterred from getting a little something for dessert. Katie and I split this individually sized Fudge Brownie ($2.69), which really hit the spot. The small brownie was topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some chocolate sauce. Simple, yet delicious and a great end to our visit to Islands.

As usual, it was another stellar visit to our local Islands restaurant. Both of the limited time items I tried were a nice change of pace and something I would totally get again. Manager Hector and his entire staff did a great job of meeting not only our needs but also making sure that all of their guests were having a great dining experience. We consider ourselves pretty lucky to have this Islands location situated right across the street from where we live for those rare nights we stick close to home.

For more information about Islands, and to find your nearest location head over to their website here:

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