Hawaiian burger at Islands Restaurant
2441 Fenton Parkway, San Diego
My family and went on vacation to Kauai this summer.
Loved it, but the whole time I was craving a decent teriyaki burger — and never found one.
When we got back, I was still jonesing for a teriyaki burger. They really are one of life’s pleasures: A beef patty glazed with teriyaki sauce with a red onion slice, and a pineapple slice and a soft sesame seed bun.
The best one I’ve had is at the Corvette Diner, but circumstances prevented us from going to Liberty Station the night I finally convinced my wife to let me have my way.
So we decided to try Islands. It’s a chain, yeah, but I vaguely remembered having a decent teriyaki burger one time when we were on the way home from Legoland.
Mojito at Islands Restaurant
And when you want a teriyaki burger, it’s any port in a storm.
We went to the Mission Valley location, but with chain restaurants, one place is pretty similar to the others — and that’s by design.
Islands is set up to have sort of a tropical vibe. It’s set up to look like a charmingly rustic exterior but with decent restroom facilities. It is also family friendly while still serving up fruity alcoholic drinks.
We sat down and immediately had efficient chain restaurant service. My wife ordered a mojito and I ordered a wheat beer and we got onion rings to share.
They were good rings: Crispy, but tender and not over-fried.
The wheat beer from Coronado Brewing Company was a perfect hot weather drink, but my wife’s mojito tasted like it had been poured out of a mix bottle. Not good at all.
But I reminded her of the big picture: We were here to get my teriyaki burger, the one that had haunted my dreams while in Kauai.
My wife ordered a regular burger with a vegan patty with fries. She said it was one of the better vegan burgers she had eaten.
Onion rings at Islands Restaurant
My son ordered a kids burger and was happy that it came as ordered: Nothing but meat and bun.
Islands Hawaiian burger comes with teriyaki sauce, fresh grilled pineapple, swiss, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo.
It came to my plate and it was just OK. It seemed like the glaze didn’t make it on every part of the burger.
It didn’t satisfy my weeks of cravings. Even worse, though, were the fries. They were cold.
To be fair, I didn’t specify that my fries be served hot and crispy, but I didn’t think I needed to. No one that likes cold fries.
Yes, the well-trained waitress brought new, hot fries to me when I complained, but the fact that someone thought that anyone would accept cold fries made me wonder about the attention of other details.
I like Sriracha on fries. If you do as well, be aware that Islands prefers to have Sriracha in little packets rather than bottles. Problem is, the Sriracha packets have a more metallic taste to them than normal.
The Kona Pie, a pie made with Mocha almond fudge ice cream with a cookie crust topped wwith chocolate fudge, whipped cream, roasted almonds, and a cherry, made up for a lot of the mild irritation from earlier.
We enjoyed it — especially my son, who got a lot of it on his face.
Kona Pie at Islands Restaurant
I wonder if my craving for a good teriyaki burger built up the anticipation more than was reasonable. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re reading this and saying, “Dude, you went to a freaking chain restaurant. What did you expect?”
Hey, like I said, chain restaurants rarely knock your socks off, but they are supposed to be consistent.
Perhaps my slightly disappointing experience is actually karma on my part. When my wife and I were first dating, there were at least a couple of occasions when we went to Islands and ordered one bowl of their all-you-can-eat tortilla soup — which was very good — and would just switch off eating it.
It was pretty cheap of us, so maybe this meal was a way of paying me back for a past sin.
Or it could have been a sign of a lazy staff and lack of quality control on the part of the management. You make the call.