Tasty, informal fun at Islands

When you enter Islands Restaurant, you soak up the full flavor of the islands in an informal decor that features tiki hut-style thatched roofs, native masks, pelicans and colorful toucans.

Huge plants give the place a jungle atmosphere that adds to the effect, and wooden booths offer a cozy feel for dining. Not surprisingly, there are surfboards around and you’ll see surfers in action on the overhead videos. Photographs of the ocean and beaches of Hawaii and other islands surround you on the walls. Of course, the servers wear Hawaiian shirts to complete the picture, and it’s hard to resist Islands’ playful spirit.

The menu features typical soup and sandwich-style fare, although Islands gives everything a name reflecting its island theme. The burgers have names like Big Wave, with onions, pickles, and mustard ($6.75), Hula, with sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese and mayo ($7.85), Hawaiian pineapple, teriyaki sauce, onion, Swiss and mayo ($7.85), and Pipeline, with chili, cheese, onion, pickles and mustard ($7.75).

There are nine burger selections on the menu, including a veggie pattie which can be substituted for any regular burger selection. All burgers are grilled to medium or more and packed into a white or whole wheat bun. They come with lettuce and tomato, but you can add bacon to any burger for another $1.75.

The restaurant has a busy bar area, and the Happy Hour crowd loves the endless tortilla chips and salsa appetizer ($2.49). Add a large guacamole to the order for $2.59.

Among the other popular starters featured on Islands’ appetizer menu are spinach and artichoke dip ($7.59), nachos ($6.99), Tiki Tenders, which are chicken tenders with honey mustard or barbeque sauce ($6.99) and buffalo wings ($8.79.)

There are several salad selections on the menu, served with your choice of Italian, blue cheese, ranch, low-calorie ranch or honey mustard dressing. They include Wiqui Waqui barbequed chicken with tortilla strips, jack and cheddar cheeses, red onion, jicama and lettuce and tomatoes ($9.65), and Jungle Caesar ($9.49). There’s a grilled chicken breast atop this Caesar, and plenty of parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing.

Some people come to Islands Restaurant just for the tortilla soup, which is really a standout on the menu. You can get an “endless bowl” of this rich chicken and vegetable soup buried under a blanket of jack cheese, avocado and tortilla strips for $6.99. Otherwise, try a small bowl for $4.39 or add a small bowl with any entree for $3.29.

Another specialty at this island-inspired eatery is the fries. The potatoes are fresh cut daily from whole potatoes with the skins left on and they come to the table in gigantic baskets that make them perfect for sharing. A dish of fries is priced at $3.29, and now the restaurant uses no trans-fats in the cooking process. The cheddar fries are topped with melted cheese and scallions ($6.29). You can add chili to the fries for another $1.99.

The onion rings are lightly battered and seasoned, and these are made fresh daily as well. Try a basket for $5.75, if you want to put a little crunch in your lunch.

Rotisserie chicken gets a Hawaiian name as well. Moa Eke ($10.49) is marinated with herbs and spices and served with flour tortillas, sour cream, salsa and Islands slaw.

Among the sandwich selections is an albacore tuna salad sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, cheddar and mayo ($5.99). It’s known as Moa Kai at Islands, and served on your choice of a white or whole wheat bun. Likewise for the Birds of Paradise, which are grilled chicken breast sandwiches.

Choose your toppings - they range from Swiss, mayo and pickles to sauteed mushrooms, Swiss and mayo - and the boneless and skinless chicken sandwiches sell for $8.55.

A selection of soft tacos gets a place of honor on the menu. Islands features the Island Fish, three corn tortillas stuffed with fried fish, cabbage, cilantro, chipotle-white sauce, and diced tomatoes ($8.39), Yaki, three flour tortillas filled with marinated chicken, teriyaki sauce, jack cheese, pineapple, lettuce, tomatoes and scallions ($8.19), and Cabo Loco, seasoned pork grilled with carmelized onions, stuffed into three flour tortillas with cilantro-chili sauce, onions and cilantro ($8.25). In fact, there are five different taco selections and you can add guacamole ($1.95) or sour cream ($.79) to any of them.

Naturally, exotic drinks are always popular with Islands diners. They run $6.50 each for a frozen margarita, lava flow, which is rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream and strawberries, pina colada, and Mai Tai among others. Beer and wine are available, and several soft drinks and lemonades are also on the menu.

Islands is at 3351 Nobel Drive. Call (858) 455-9945.