Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks is a temple of California kitsch, featuring a refreshingly dumbed down menu of tropical-themed burgers, bar snacks, and Tiki drinks. When creating the Islands Restaurants chain, founder Tony DeGrazier sought to recreate the dining experiences he had in the 1960’s while stationed in Oahu with his navy buddies. DeGraizer opened his first Islands Restaurant in West Los Angeles in 1982, and has since opened 50 more throughout Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada.
Islands’ Maui burger with guacamole, Swiss cheese, and mayo is so wrong it’s right, and the Mai Tai is a stellar version of the lethal drink featuring a Meyer’s Rum float. But it’s the cheesy fries—spread in an even layer on a platter the size of a trash can lid, covered with gooey melted Cheddar and sliced scallions—that make me want to get up and Hula dance. The fries are cut fresh daily from whole potatoes with the skins left on, then quickly blanched and fried so they are perfectly golden brown with a crispy exterior. A dusting of special seasoning and a generous sheath of molten Cheddar elevates the golden beauties to cheese-and-fry perfection.
As a native Angeleno now living in NYC, I dearly miss Islands’ approachability, happy-go-lucky beach bum vibe, and faux-Polynesian décor. Tony DeGrazier, if you’re out there, please bring Islands to the East Coast (and to the rest of the country for that matter)—I reckon we could all use some good vibrations along with a plate of impeccable cheesy fries.
Note: Islands’ cheesy fries are even more delicious when dipped in ranch dressing. When ordering, ask for a side of ranch.