Finally, followers of Leroy’s, a Coronado dining institution for more than 10 years, and the short-lived Boardwalk Beach Club, can sample some of their favorite dishes, and many new dishes, at the all-new Islander.
I had the opportunity to ask David Spatafore, Manager of Blue Bridge Hospitality (BBH), about the changes, given Leroy’s popularity with the local crowd.
Spatafore noted that Leroy’s, at the time of its opening, was innovative and different, with many local suppliers supplying the carefully selected meats and produce used by the restaurant.
With many of these sustainable farms closing due to lockdown, sourcing quality local ingredients has become more and more of a challenge, and so as things have reopened, Spatafore and the team of BBH realized it was the perfect time for a currency.
When asked why the remodel took so long, Spatafore explained that after the usual complications of opening any new business, the biggest culprit was supply chain issues. The Cantina’s main doors are a key part of the breezy feel of the place, and with the supply issues, the doors were delivered nearly 7 months after they were ordered.
The Islander’s tropical vibe isn’t exactly new to BBH or Coronado, as many of the menu items and drinks are similar to the Boardwalk Beach Club, which opened just 2 months before closing and was hugely popular with of the locals as a fun, family-friendly place before the pandemic.
The Islander is fun and very family-friendly, but the focus here is on the food and lively beach vibe, rather than the games and entertainment aspect. The space is open, welcoming and airy, with plenty of room for indoor and outdoor dining.
Arrived on a Sunday evening, we were warmly welcomed by the staff, who showed us to our table. The space was bustling with patrons young and old – families, a few singles at the bar, small groups, and several couples all enjoying Reggae music, tiki-style drinks, and island-style fare such as crispy prawns, Rangoon crab and kalua pork sliders.
The first order of business was to select our drinks from a wide variety of rum drinks, tiki style classics and tequila drinks south of the border. Many beer and wine selections, as well as a number of zero-proof drinks round out the drink selections well.
My companion opted for the Mai Tai, and I stuck with my tried-and-true Tajin onboard Margarita. Both were perfect, with the Lime Margarita, bright and not too sweet.
Selecting our starters was a bit more difficult. So many choices just in the pupu section (small plates usually served hot), but we finally settled on the pupu platter for two which provided us with a perfect tasting assortment. Served on a large wooden platter, we enjoyed a small sampling of many appetizers – light and crispy spring rolls, chicken satay skewers, sticky ribs and their black sand hummus. The ribs were tender, meaty, chewy and filled with that sweet spicy flavor that makes them irresistible. Don’t hesitate to ask for extra towels, and it’s completely normal to lick your fingers! The hummus was luxuriously creamy and the added bonus of a few raw vegetables in the form of carrots, peppers and cucumbers was a refreshing accompaniment. A small serving of tangy pickled vegetables was the perfect foil for the sweeter, more substantial elements of the platter.
I wanted to try either a ceviche or the poke tacos, and opted for the Tahitian ceviche, which turned out to be the perfect mix of both. Made with ahi tuna, coconut milk, and chunks of mango and pineapple, it’s less tart than your traditional lime ceviches, but still bright, with the ahi flavor coming through beautifully.
Choosing our entrees from the variety of offerings was no easier than deciding on our entrees. The Islander, to my delight, not only offers the OG Leroy burger, but also the Drive Thru burger, which was my favorite item from the old Boardwalk Beach Club. Having had both of these items several times, I opted to try something new so opted for the grilled skirt steak. My dinner date chose the chili crunch fried chicken, and we agreed we both chose wisely.
My generous portion of skirt steak was tossed with lo mein noodles, scallions, garlic and napa cabbage in an amazing and fragrant sauce. Maximum umami.
When I tried my friend’s chicken I was worried it was all hot, but the level of spice couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a lukewarm heat that grew a little in the mouth, but never overwhelmed. The flavors and mild/moderate heat of the Fresno peppers mixed with the seasonings of the mochiko (sweetened rice flour) batter, and the result was surprisingly delicious. And again, totally okay with finger licking! To complement the generous portion of chicken there was the traditional steamed rice and the legit and well done macaroni salad. The creamy, tangy, slightly sweet mac made the chicken even more outrageously good.
We ended the evening with a shared dessert, and opted for the ube cheesecake. Ube is a purple sweet potato and is a staple in Filipino cuisine. Used in cheesecake, it provides a beautiful lavender-colored swirl that adds depth and even more creaminess to cheesecake.
Spatafore suggests that there are always improvements to be made and issues to be resolved when opening a new space, but the level of care taken in the design of the space, as well as the creation of the menu , is a strong indicator that The Islander will be a hit for years to come.
The Islander is located at 1015 Orange Avenue, and in addition to lunch and dinner offerings, breakfast will also be available on weekends. At this time, reservations are not being accepted.
FLIGHT. 112, NO. August 31 – 3, 2022