I won a gift certificate to Island's at a company party, so I went.
It wasn't the first time, I used to work in an office building next to an Island's and went three times a week. But this was the first time I went in a long time.
And I have to say, for casual chain restaurant food, Island's is very, very good.
We had a total of five dinners over two meals (great gift certificate). Sampled the Big Wave (the standard burger), and about three others, including the mushroom burger and the chili burger.
All were delicious, juicy and well-flavored. The buns were fresh, we tried both wheat and white. The toppings were just right, enough to enhance the sandwich, but not so much as to overwhelm.
The tortilla soup was spicy and hot with good chicken taste. My wife loved the tuna sandwich (I didn't try it, thought I've had it in the past).
And the fries -- well, the fries were a highlight. Crispy, hot, covered with seasoned salt (and chili on the other night). Huge plateful that three could share -- easily, for under three dollars (IIRC).
Big, refillable sodas and very friendly and attentive service made the meals complete.
Is Island's fantastic. Naaah. But it's reasonable, and a good valuable with fine food for what it is. They also have cold beer in frosted mugs (not a great selection, I settled for a Corona, but they have Heineken and most of the typical domestics, with a few on tap) and full bar, if you're drinking.
I'd go back without a gift certificate. I also think spotting an Island's in some unfamiliar neighborhood populated only by chains would be a nice surprise and a good bet.
Never had an experience like D.U. but car verify the variablility between branchs. I grew up about 8 blocks from the W. L.A. (pico) branch which was one of the first and we loved it. I was in my 20's and we were there all the time. Now I'm in my 40's with two kids and I'm closer to Marina Del Rey and Howard Hughes. MDR is pretty good but Howard Hughes is a train wreck and I was thinking the exact same thing, "Why do we ALWAYS get baskets of the little ends with no fry bigger than the first joint of my little finger?"
I worked there for four and a half years. It was a fun job.
Das Ubergeek, sorry to hear about that experience. If I had been working, that wouldn't have happened. But I don't work there anymore. It infuriated me to see servers do that shit.
"Not my section"...more like "BULLSHIT!"
My mantra was always, "everything is everyone's job"
That's the model for service there...
But again, now I work in places where I'm not expected to do everything and it's a blast.
As for the food there...I'll never eat there again.
Don't need to, ate it six days a week on average for those four years.
But I can assure you all, after thirteen years in the restaurant business, it's the cleanest damned restaurant on earth.
In general, I like Islands. The food is a lot better than might be expected from a large chain, and when the kitchen is "on" it can actually be surprisingly good.
Unfortunately, what kills Islands is the inconsistency between branches. The point of a chain is really consistency, and there are excellent Islands (Glendale, West LA) and absolutely mind-bogglingly bad Islands (Woodland Hills, Encino)... and then there is a special spot in Hell waiting for the staff of the Burbank Islands.
To be more specific: at the Islands in Burbank, you get the "scrapings" of the fry bag more often than not, meaning all the little tiny fries that end up looking like tempura leftovers and are too small to eat without a fork; I've never seen them get a "special order" correct (no tomatoes, extra BBQ sauce, ranch on the side); after they bring your food the waitstaff all disappear somewhere, so that if you wanted something like hot sauce, you get to either suffer without, wait for the food to get cold while the waitstaff ignore you, or go hunt them down.
We used to go quite often to the Glendale Islands, which is one of the shining stars of the chain; when our office moved to Burbank, we naturally gravitated to the Burbank branch, and it took four or five visits (with varying groups of coworkers) before I just couldn't stand it and wrote it off.
The end of my visits to Burbank's Islands came the day of the service nightmare, about six months ago: we were seated at 11:45, and at 12:15 finally body-checked someone into taking our order. ("This isn't my section," said the body-checking victim.) By 12:40, no drinks, no food. I went to the front and asked that the manager come to our table. No manager came, so at 12:50, I went to the front and explained that I was perfectly willing to make a giant scene if the manager didn't come to the front desk right now.
The manager came hurrying forward and said that our waitress had quit, just walked off the job mid-shift and taken her order pad (with our order on it) with her, but she would take care of us and get someone else to take our order immediately.
1:05 (by this point it had become a train-wreck meal, we were staying to see how much worse it could get), a new waiter comes to take our order, gets jostled by somebody walking past, wigs out, and stalks out of the restaurant. (For those counting, that's two servers who have now quit in the space of an hour and a half.)
Back to the front, please go get the manager right now ici chop-chop sur-le-double, and the manager is crying her eyes out. She agrees that we should please have some food -- ANY food -- that could be produced by the kitchen, takes our order (for the third time) by herself, and goes into the kitchen to make sure it gets cooked.
Finally, food was set in front of us at 1:30, one and three-quarters hours after we had been seated.
Needless to say, there was no charge for the food, and in point of fact we were each given gift cards for a return visit -- but we used them at Glendale.