Beachside restaurant prepares fresh fish in a variety of creative ways

Merely steps away from Indialantic’s Boardwalk beach, Islands Fish Grill on Fifth Avenue has been a local favorite since its opening in 1999. The restaurant is intimate and casual with, appropriately, a Caribbean air. Tiki torches, tropical artwork, mounted surfboards, as well as whimsical fish, starfish and coral accent pieces blend together to convey an island oasis, encouraging each diner to “eat, drink and be yourself.”

Islands Fish Grill was originally started by Ian Greenwood, a local chef and restaurateur who is known for launching restaurants from Cocoa Beach to Vero Beach. Just over a year into business, Karen Maltese, who refers to Greenwood as a “genius,” took over operations of Islands Fish Grill. Not wanting to mess with a good thing, Maltese chose not to alter Greenwood’s original menu – a decision that was made much to the delight of discerning seafood lovers.

Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, the menu at Islands Fish Grill is focused on what the restaurant is known for: Serving up high-quality fresh fish, mainly caught off the shores of Florida, prepared in a variety of unique and creative ways.

Entrées are simple and straightforward, yet offer many options for diners to enjoy a fresh catch. Nightly choices include mahi-mahi, snapper, yellow fin tuna and many more that can be grilled and served with either a creamy dill sauce or tangy mango salsa; blackened with nut butter; Jamaican jerked with a spicy beurre blanc sauce; or prepared in parchment paper. Each dish is served with potatoes and a medley of vegetables.

“We concentrate on fish. That’s our niche,” says Maltese. “But our steaks (Filet Mignon and Pepper-Crusted New York Strip), shellfish and pasta dishes are good too.”

Many imaginative specials of chef Kyle Williams, who has worked for Maltese for about two years, are offered as well, and Onion-Crusted Grouper is hands-down the restaurant’s most popular special item. Starting with a fresh fillet of grouper topped with fried onions, it is then oven-baked and served over homemade caramelized citrus sauce. “The citrus sauce is sweet. I think it’s the combination of the sweet and salty flavors that people really love,” says Maltese, who adds that Onion-Crusted Grouper is offered by request at any time.

Other favorites patrons may encounter on special include the creamy Seafood Chowder Soup or the Crab Crust Triple Tail served with key lime beurre blanc sauce and a sweet balsamic drizzle.

The restaurant also offers a large selection of wines (over 90 flavors), as well a selection of iced-cold bottle beer and chilled premium sake.

When it comes to the staff, Maltese, who has lived on the Space Coast for 33 years, says they’re truly an extended family, not only figuratively, but literally as well, referring to the fact that each of her five children has worked at the restaurant at some point in time.

“I constantly get compliments on our friendly staff,” she says. “Everyone is happy here.”