Surf over to Islands Restaurant for summer fun and eats

Phillip Brents

Fri July 29, 2016 10:43am

If you haven’t yet eaten at Islands restaurant’s Eastake location (2255 Otay Lakes Road, Chula Vista), you’re missing out on great atmosphere, friendly service and delicious food.
Befitting the restaurant’s name, the décor is Hawaiian-themed. Surf videos play on overhead flat screen monitors; the overall beach setting is conducive to a relaxing meal.
There are also perks to dining at Islands. The restaurant will award a free beach cruiser bicycle to a lucky diner on Aug. 18, so there’s extra incentive to visit and fill out an entry card.
“People have their favorites here,” manager Robyn Riedel explained. “We have an amazing tortilla soup. Even if it’s 100 degrees outside, people still order that tortilla soup.”
There are few new items on the summer menu, most notably the Heat Wave burger and the Left Coast Hula Bay craft beer. Both are doing well with customers since their introduction.
As the name suggests, the Heat Wave burger is on the spicy side. But don’t be put off by the name, it’s not flame-thrower hot. It’s spicy, with jalapeno slaw and a spicy mayo lathered on the patty; do be aware that it’s also made with Serrano chili peppers. Serrano chiles have a biting flavor and are notably hotter than jalapeño peppers.
Craft beers have become popular with dine-in restaurants. The micro-brews are available locally and have a distinct local appeal for many guests.
Popular IPA beers at Islands include the Ballast Point Sculpin (very hoppy and smooth with a seven percent alcohol by volume content) and the Stone IPA (6.9 percent alcohol by volume). The Hula Bay IPA is a stronger brew (six percent alcohol by volume) with a bit of a citrus flavor.
The tortilla soup is indeed quite tasty. In fact, one member of our review staff called it the best tortilla soup he had ever tasted. The hearty chicken soup includes fresh vegetables topped with jack cheese, avocado and tortilla strips. Tortilla chips also come on the side for dipping if desired. A small bowl is $5.09 and a large bowl is $8.79. The small bowl is quite substantial and filling by itself. However, it’s also possible to order free refills with the purchase of a larger bowl.
There’s a large array of menu items — appetizers, burgers, tacos, sandwiches, wraps, rice bowls, salads, desserts, shakes and smoothies.
All burgers, sandwiches and wraps are served with a side of fresh cut fries, though onion rings or sweet potato fries can be substituted for an extra charge. It is also now possible to order a burger with a fried egg (99 cents extra).
The fries (salted with onion and garlic powder) are not overcooked; they’re cooked hot all the way through but are not burnt.
The Kilauea burger ($12.65) is popular, featuring a jalapeño and black pepper crusted burger with pepper jack cheese, Islands Reds (crispy fried onions), chipotle aioli, lettuce and tomato.
Want a beach bowl? The hoisin bowl includes fresh grilled pineapple, red bell peppers, snow peas, water chestnuts, red onions, broccoli and diced scallions with hoisin sauce served over brown rice. The bowl can be ordered with grilled chicken for $10.75 or with grilled mahi mahi for $13.55. It is also available with teriyaki sauce.
The Baja tacos ($10.45) are also quite tasty. Two tacos come with grilled chicken spiced with fajita seasoning, grilled onions, peppers and fresh lime juice stuffed into two flour tortillas with sides of pico de gallo and ranchero beans. Guacamole and sour cream are extra.
Not into meat? There’s plenty of vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free dishes on the menu. Turkey burgers are also available.
If you still have room for dessert, don’t pass up the kona pie ($6.75). The slice of frozen mocha almond ice cream topped with chocolate fudge and whipped cream is large enough for two to share. The chocolate lava fudge brownie ($6.75) is also popular (and can be shared too). A smaller fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream ($3.35) is available on the kids menu.
The Eastlake location is not only appreciated for its cuisine but also the long-term commitment by the parent company to its employees. More than 10 employees who opened with the store in 2003 are still with the company.
“The customers really appreciate the trust,” explained server/bartender Pamela Caswell, who has worked at the Eastlake store since 2004. “Everyone is like a family. We have all become friends. We’re best friends, not just employees.”
Happy hour is 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with drink and appetizer specials, including bartender playbook discounts on selected spirits.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call the Eastlake location at (619) 397-2643. Online ordering is available at www.islandsrestaurants.com.