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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Tue–Thu 3:30pm–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 3:30pm–11:30pm
Sun 3:30pm–11:00pm

Features Live music, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Accepted


U Street
1201 U St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 234-4955
The Islander Caribbean
The food at this Caribbean joint tends to start with a bang and end with a whimper

Expect to eat copiously here. The Islander does not skimp on portions; even the “side dish”-sized rations of the main offerings are extremely generous—nearly half a chicken, or over a pound of meat. The interior of the Islander does not exactly conjure the open-air dining rooms and ocean-side cafes of the Caribbean (it’s more “Royal Carribbean”), but the attempt is endearing. The restaurant features potted palms and a few posters of beach scenes, but if you happen to be seated by the window overlooking U Street traffic, a glance outside may ruin the mood. The tables feature cheap, pale-colored coverings, and the chairs can be rickety.

The flavors, like the décor, also fail to be wholly transporting. Although meats and seafoods are well-prepared, there seems to be something lumbering and heavy about the recipes: each dish hits you with one punch, without subtlety or attention to complementing one element with another. Pineapple shrimp, for example, is completely bathed in sweet fruit juices, and served with additional chunks of pineapple and a few garnishing vegetables. The shrimp itself tends to be a little oily, and the juice of the pineapple is only interesting for so long: after a short while, the dish begins to taste saccharine. Likewise, “Calypso Chicken” is roasted in a blackened crust, but the flavor is only skin deep: half an inch in, the juices and spices have not penetrated, and the meat tastes completely unaffiliated with Caribbean cooking.

Each main dish comes with a choice of plain rice or rice and peas (i.e. beans): the first is unremarkable, the second is mushy and good, though not interesting enough to enliven the meats. Some of the vegetable offerings, however, will redeem the lagging mains; try, for example, the simmering curried chickpeas. The vegetable of the day that accompanies main courses—broccoli, at one visit—is often disappointing. Ours was steamed and limp, a northerner who strayed too close to the equator. After fighting your way through one of the Islander’s vast portions, you’ll know how it feels.

The Islander’s service is nothing to write home about, and the staff will get itchy if you sit too long even if the room is empty. This ain’t exactly mini umbrellas on the beach, folks. Unless you’re looking for a change of pace (literally, as the service can be slow), you’d do better to stick to the mainland.

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