Islands Restaurant is located kitty-corner from Sunsplash Waterpark and across from Tahoe Joe’s Steakhouse, on the corner with the 3 Marriott hotels. There are a bunch of these located in southern California, with a few scattered about Arizona, Nevada and even one in Hawaii. Their primary focus is burgers, but they have a full menu of other options including salads, tacos and sandwiches. This visit is from a couple weeks ago. Other than a very recent visit it had been quite a long time since I had been to Islands, maybe as long as two or three years. I seem to forget about this intersection since I don’t go through it often.
I arrived at about 6:45PM on a Tuesday. It was fairly busy inside, maybe about 3/4ths full. I was with my mom and we were seated immediately in a booth. The menus are at the table, against the wall by the condiments. Just as soon as we had sat down and reached for the menus our server arrived, greeted us and took our drink orders. He immediately noticed my camera and correctly identified the model from the back and we talked photography for a bit before he went to get our drinks. I don’t remember if they had Pibb or Dr Pepper, but that’s what I got. My mom ordered an iced tea. They both arrived in big plastic mugs. My mom did not like the tea, but couldn’t put her finger on the reason. Later she recalled that she had the same experience the last time she was here. She stuck with water after that.
I had been here the weekend prior to this after seeing Total Recall (despite the terrible reviews, and this coming from someone who never saw the original, I loved it) and I already knew I wanted the same burger. I would have just done my review on that visit but it was a spontaneous lunch and I didn’t have my camera. With that, the next time our server came by to take our order, and after some more photography talk in which he now pulled his phone out to show me some cupcake shots he had taken, I ordered the Rincon (guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, swiss, applewood smoked bacon & mayo). Islands only cooks their burgers to medium or higher, which I found a little disappointing when the server on my first visit told me this. There is a choice of a white or wheat bun, I went with the latter. For some reason I feel like I read on the menu there at the table that the fries are unlimited, and the wording at the time did not seem to exclude the other side choices. I cannot however find anything to that effect on their site or printable menu, so maybe I’m just crazy. I suppose it doesn’t matter all that much since the burgers are huge and I always just barely finish everything on my plate. Anyway, I substituted onion rings in place of the fries.
Our server came by at a reasonable frequency although I do feel like I saw other servers stopping by their tables more often, which would have been nice for some quicker refills here and there. It wasn’t all that big of a deal but I suppose it was worth noting. Our burgers took about 10 minutes or so to prepare and come out. This is a big burger, and with guacamole on it it’s also a messy burger. As I mentioned above, the lowest they will cook their burgers is medium. This is actually not bad at all. Their medium is a lot more like other restaurant’s medium-rare. There was still a bit of pink in the center, and overall it was a very juicy burger. Along with the guacamole and juiciness, it became a minor issue in finding a semi-clean spot on my plate/basket to set the burger down without soaking the bun in drippings. Aside from that, it was a fantastic burger with really good bacon. The cheese was mild but nice and melty. The onion rings were excellent, fried to a golden, crunchy perfection that went well with a side of ranch.
Islands is definitely back on my radar after a long stretch of time that I had forgotten about it. They’re always doing good amounts of business though I’ve never had to wait to have a seat. The bar area is a decent place to watch sports with three TVs giving everyone a good view. They have several other TVs around the rest of the dining area which are set to a surf channel and can be an interesting distraction. I’m curious about their deserts but I need to plan ahead and either not order as much or take some food home with me in order to save room. If you haven’t been to Islands but enjoy a solid burger, check it out.