I have this quirky relationship with some restaurants. I dont, due to various circumstances, get to visit them for a while and then all of sudden make multiple trips within a very brief period of time. It happened with Balaji Bhavan and it happened the past week with Islands.
Islands is a new location for the Hawaiian themed burger, fries and shakes chain in Cupertino. They opened in the second of December last year. For the first few weeks, I tried to get in twice but it was so crowded and the waitlist for lunch was a page long, I gave up on it. Last Friday, a few of us walked down to the place and surprisingly got in. I came back that night and uploaded photos of the place to this blog, hoping to write the review that night. I didnt get to it. This afternoon, due to an unplanned lunch meeting, I bailed out on my wonderful home cooked lunch and ended up making a trip to Islands. Again. So I have the experience of having consumed two different shakes, two different kinds of fries and two different burgers on the menu. So here is my review of the place.
The ambiance in Islands is very surfer friendly and very Hawaiian. As someone who recently made his first trip to the Hawaii, I welcomed it warmly just as they did. The place is airy and cheerful, thanks to the open setting and fairly large dining area. They offer some items on their menu for lunch at a cheaper price while the full menu is also available to order. Typical burgers range from $8-$13. They offer milk shakes and smoothies with coconut cream. During my first visit, I tried a Cool Breeze smoothie with coconut cream, banana and strawberries. Loved it. Today, I tried the Mango Strawberry smoothie. Liked it.
For vegetarians, they offer the veggie burger on all their burger menu selections. It is your typical Gardenburger (unlike Counter Burger where they make their veggie burger in house). Thankfully, the packaging of the burgers with interesting sauces and cheese elevates the burger from being mundane to good. The first time, I ordered the Kilauea which was excellent thanks to the spice kick the cheese and the chipotle aioli offered. The second time, I went with the Hawaiian which again turned out very tasty courtesy the teriyaki sauce and pineapple.
An assortment of sides are available for free with burger orders. These include endless portions of Islands fries, onion rings, boiled veggies, or a small salad. Sweet potato fries are available for an additional charge of $1.49. I went with the onion rings the first time and it was good. Today, I had the sweet potato fries. Good again.
Overall, I liked my food. Unfortunately, it is not the healthiest lunch to be had. So I will have to calibrate the frequency at which I visit Islands. But with reasonable control in visit frequency, Islands is a good place for lunch or a family and friends dinner.
Ambiance: 8.5/10. The place is large, pleasant and inviting. The TVs show surfers almost all the time. I woundn’t mind them showing me parts of Hawaii.
Service: 8.5/10. Service was quick, easy and pleasant. No complaints.
Food: 8.25/10. The veggie burger is the same everytime I go there. So I am bound to get bored eventually. Also, it is not mindblowingly good. Nothing to complain about but nothing to scream from the top of my voice either.
Price: 8/10. I wouldnt call Islands cheap. But they are about the same price as TGIF or Chilis.
Overall: 8.25/10 Worth atleast one visit if you are into fries, burgers and a good milkshake or smoothie. Just make sure you go with an appetite. Portion sizes are significant.