Islander is a casual family-friendly restaurant on Coronado Island, about two blocks from the only white sand beach in San Diego. The owners drew inspiration from the Pacific Northwest seafood restaurant Red Fish Blue Fish in Puget Sound while on a family vacation. They were so enamored with the fresh take on fish that they decided to share the unique dining experience with their San Diego hometown. They experimented with an urban location in the Gaslamp Quarter before deciding that a fish restaurant that celebrates the bounty of the Pacific Ocean deserves an island home. You’re welcome, Coronado.
Islander will never be accused of being pretentious. They let their incredible food speak for itself in this casual and unassuming restaurant located on busy Orange Avenue a few doors down from popular Lamb’s Players Theater. When you step inside Islander from the small sidewalk patio, it has a modern fishing village feel with wood-plank floors, dusty blue walls, and a navy-colored ceiling. Old fishing and sailing photos, fish paintings, giant swordfish mounts, and a rustic boat’s wheel adorn the restaurant’s interior. Casual bistro tables and chairs fill the dining space, and large floor-to-ceiling windows overlook Orange Avenue. This is where you come casually dressed, meet your closest friends, share local craft beer, and eat the most incredible tacones you’ve never heard of.
If you want to start with tapas at Islander, try the Tempura Pickles with a spicy double horseradish tartar sauce, or spicy Alaska pollock ceviche for tasty choices. The house soup, a chipotle coconut seafood chowder with fried Alaska pollock, celery, carrots, and corn, is another great starter, or even a meal in itself for the light eater. You won’t find just any old fries at Islander either; the Kennebec twice cooked fries have a subtle nutty taste and a firm texture; they’re served with a house-made curry ketchup.
There are essentially four different main dishes on the menu at Islander. When ordering, you choose the style of meal you’re in the mood for: a grilled fish plate, a tacone, tempura fish ‘n’ chips, or a seafood salad. Once you decide on that, you choose your type of fish – local California sea bass, local halibut, local yellowtail, swordfish, salmon, or shrimp. You also get to choose your seasoning – lemon dill butter, Cajun spice, teriyaki, or salt and pepper – if you ordered a grilled fish plate. If you ordered a seafood salad, you’d choose from Dijon vinaigrette, spicy sesame ginger, spiked torgarashi Caesar, or spicy Thai coconut milk dressing.
All that deliciousness bound into one simple menu may have your taste buds spinning, but if this is your first time at Islanders, it’s almost an obligation to order their signature tacones, they’re that good. They take a soft grilled flour tortilla and hand wrap it in a cone shape around your choice of any fish or shrimp, house-made chipotle avocado sauce, roasted pumpkin seed slaw, lime pickled jicama and onions, and cilantro. It’s served with house-made pickles and Mexican spicy carrots. Of course, you can add a side of Kennebec fries to top it off.
There is no specific children’s menu, but the Tempura Fish ‘N’ Chips or burger, with a side of Kennebec fries, will satisfy any kid’s hungry tummy. Tacones are also a big hit with kids. Complement dining out with a lemonade or Barq’s Root Beer, and you’ll have happy campers.
Islander is open daily from late morning to late evening. The family-friendly restaurant is ADA accessible, and dogs are welcome. At Islander, you order and pay for your food at the counter, take a corresponding number to place on your table, and have a seat to wait for the table service delivery of your food. Lunchtime can get crowded, especially during summer. They serve beer and wine only, and alcohol is not permitted on their limited-seating sidewalk dining space. Outdoor seating can be noisy, as it is adjacent to Coronado Island’s busiest street. There is no designated parking; street parking only. They provide take-out and catering, but no delivery service.
When you eat at Islander, you are a few doors down from Lamb’s Players Theater, so this would be a great place for a light dinner or drinks before a show. The restaurant is also close to Hotel del Coronado where you can take a tour of the island’s iconic hotel. There are several boutique shops that share the historic Spreckel’s building with the restaurant and theater, so shopping is another nearby attraction.
If you spent the day at Coronado’s premier Central Beach, Islander’s is a great choice for happy hour or dinner after a day of sun and sand. Coronado Yacht Club, tennis courts, and municipal golf course are all located about two blocks from the restaurant at Glorietta Bay. You can also rent an assortment of water sports equipment at the bay. If you’re spending the night, La Avenida Inn, Hotel Marisol Coronado, and El Cordova Hotel are all close to Islander.
The Coronado Historical Association and Coronado Museum are about a block from the restaurant in the opposite direction at Orange Avenue and Park Place. They offer a tour of Hotel del Coronado, a Coronado Historic Home Tour, and a Historic Coronado walking tour. There are events, collections, and exhibitions at the museum. You can also check out the museum store.