It’s a blustery day in Lake County. The wind whips the palm fronds stretched across the restaurant’s facade and across the highway, the lake, muddy brown, froths and splashes against the bulkhead of Lucerne Harbor Park. It’s cold, rainy, and miserable outside. But inside Grillagan’s island, it’s sunny, warm, and tropical. Calypso music plays on the speakers, tropical prints spread across the walls, and fishing nets hang from the ceiling. It’s the perfect place to get away on a short vacation and enjoy some great food.
Cold, wet weather calls for grilled cheese and tomato soup; we all know that. And there’s no better place to enjoy it than at Grillagan’s Island. They specialize in grilled cheese and offer multiple ways to enjoy that delightful sandwich. Of course, you can always get the Grillagan’s Original, created with their signature three-cheese blend, but if you’re feeling adventurous, try one of their specialty sandwiches. There’s The Millionaire, a delight stuffed with grilled onions, a burger patty, and plenty of cheese. Or, if you want it all, try The Professor, complete with bacon, mac and cheese, and, for good measure, the three-cheese blend. You know, just in case it wasn’t cheesy enough. If you’re in the mood for a grilled cheese breakfast, dive into The Morning Sunrise, filled with ham, eggs, and lots of cheese. But that’s just a few of her numerous selections. There’s also The Liferaft, The Skipper, The Shipwreck, and the tasty grilled PB&J. All of these sandwiches come grilled to perfection on chewy sourdough bread and with a four-ounce cup of owner and chef Nicole Gentry’s spectacular tomato bisque.
We ordered the Mary Ann, an impressive grilled cheese with ham and pineapple. Nicole does something special with the sandwiches, and they all turn out perfectly melted, gooey, and with just the right amount of crispy fried cheese at the edges. The Mary Ann feels like an indulgence; the ham and cheese bring in the salty and creamy notes, beautifully cut by the acidity and sweetness of the pineapple. And when the sandwich gets a dip in Nicole’s tomato bisque, it’s perfection. This bisque is special. It’s sweet, savory, and goes down easy. With notes of basil and perfectly sized chunks of tomato, it’s meant for more than just dipping. Each grilled cheese sandwich comes with a four-ounce dipper, but it goes too fast, so be sure to upgrade to at least an eight-ounce portion. You won’t regret it.
But Grillagan’s Island does more than just grilled cheese. If you’re in the mood, they also serve incredible burgers. If you get a chance, be sure to try the Blue Moon burger, an impressively juicy eating experience. Served on a ciabatta roll and topped with bacon, blue cheese, and all the trimmings, it’s impossible to eat without using at least three (or more) napkins. The blue cheese drips off the sides and down your fingers, and even if you’re full halfway through, it’s so good you’ll finish it anyways.
It’s impossible to leave Grillagan’s Island hungry. But, no matter how stuffed you are, you have to try the Dole Whip. For those of you who have visited Disneyland, it’s like taking a trip to the Tiki Room. Part sorbet, part sherbert, and all tropical, it’s filled with pineapple flavors and perfectly completes the dining experience. Don’t worry. Go ahead and enjoy all of it; it won’t fill you up any more.
It doesn’t matter the weather; if you haven’t already, you’ve got to give Grillagan’s Island a try. With hundreds of 5-star reviews, you’ll certain to leave stuffed and happy. Plus, Nicole recently purchased a tent to take Grillagan’s Island on the road, so you may see them at a local event. If you do, be sure to get something. You’ll be glad you did.
6232 State Hwy 20, Lucerne, CA 95458
Hours: 11-8 Tuesday- Saturday