Dr. Ink | Come On, Get Happy!
Surfer Tony DeGrazier spends his days riding the waves off Oahu. He frequents the beach-side eateries afterwards for burgers and cold drinks. Years later, nostalgia drives him to open a restaurant on the mainland that typifies the casual dining vibe he came to love in Hawaii.
He names the place Islands, which opened in 1982 in Los Angeles before branching out to dozens of other locales in California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada. The company eventually set up headquarters in Carlsbad, where management camps and employee trainings are held.
Today, Islands is a corporate chain. And it feels as such. But the restaurant shouldn’t be struck from your list of happy hour possibilities. The food and drinks are decent, and the price breaks are liberal.
Known for its assorted burgers and the 2-ounce liquor pours that land in most of its cocktails, the beach theme is unmistakable. A surfboard with promotions written on it is perched near the entrance. Inside, videos of surfers maneuvering blue, curly waves play on several flat-screens while glowing sunlight shines through skylights that are built into an angled hut-shaped ceiling.
Planting my caboose at a high-top table within the central bar area in Mission Valley’s Fenton Marketplace location, it was rather easy to forget I had just stepped off the large, asphalt parking lot shared by Costco.
The faux tropical atmosphere called for a mai tai, made here with 2 ounces of Castillo dark rum, pineapple and orange juices, a little grenadine, and a float of molasses-kissed Myers’s Rum. The regular price is $9.65. During happy hour, it’s $5.25. And on Tuesdays all day, you pay only $5.
Filled with just the right amount of crushed ice, the drink was quenching and delivered a fast-acting buzz — almost as potent as the mai tais at Bali Hai in Shelter Island, which don’t contain any fruit juice. This was more preferable.
The happy hour offerings at the Mission Valley location were recently revised with the additions of several new wines, including a dark, red blend by Apothic in California and a few labels from Washington state. Glasses are all $3 off.
A handful of new food items were introduced as well, such as a ravishing quesadilla topped with succulent kalua pork for $6.
There’s also the $7 carb-loaded “chili mac,” which features a formidable pile of french fries mixed with macaroni and cheese and covered in house-made beef chili and chipotle white sauce.
The company’s famous burgers are available in three different types of sliders in addition to Buffalo wings, nachos, craft beer and more.
Nearly everything is priced well below $10, which puts the experience in the shrinking category of truly affordable, non-gimmicky happy hours.