Home > Restaurants > La Isla – 11/25/11

La Isla – 11/25/11


Location: 2320 NW Market St


Mon-Sun: 11:30am-2am

Happy Hour:

Mon-Sat: 3pm-6pm, 10pm-12am

Sunday: 3pm-6pm

La Isla is another unexpected and interesting ethnic restaurant in Ballard. It opened a few years ago just off the corner of Market and 24th, next door to Kitchen and Things. La Isla serves Puerto Rican cuisine in a fairly large space that once housed two retail stores. Someone I know said its location, surrounded by retail spaces as it is, reminded him of a restaurant in a strip mall. The interior is painted with bright colors and decorated with a Caribbean flair. The night we went it was nearly at full capacity.

La Isla’s menu is filled with unique appetizers and entrees that lean heavily towards garlic, meat, and plantains. I wouldn’t say it was really suitable for vegetarians. Many of the offerings probably can’t be found anywhere else in Seattle. The drink menu consists of a number of Caribbean inspired cocktails and an extensive rum selection.

The Service:

Our server was friendly and took our orders quite quickly. Unlike many places we’ve been to, they gave a longer than normal space of time between our appetizers and entrees. This may have just been a product of being rather busy that night but it was quite nice regardless.

The Drinks:

J ordered the Caribbean Crush, dark, coconut, and 151 rum mixed with a splash of Kahlua and fruit juices. Tasty with a strong coconut flavor that completely masked the considerable amount of liquor in the drink.

I had a Mojito, light rum with muddled mint and a splash of soda. It had a different flavor than other mojitos I’ve had. Very minty but it didn’t seem to have a lot of rum in it. I think they must’ve used club soda rather than Sprite for the splash of soda, which gave the drink an odd flavor.

The Food:

Since the menu was so interesting, we decided to order a couple of appetizers along with our entrees.

A friend suggested the Carne Frita, bone-in pork “wings” marinated in adobo, flash fried, and topped with sautéed onions and served with caldo sauce. Very moist and flavorful pork chunks. J said if they’d added a couple more pieces, the Carne Frita would have made a good entrée. The only thing that was a bit off was the caldo sauce. It was far too mild to go up against the meaty flavor of the pork.

We also ordered the Gandules Dip, a blend of onions, garlic, red pepper, green pigeon beans, olive oil, vinegar, and spices served with tostones cups. Interesting, in a good way. The dip had a strong olive oil flavor with hints of vinegar and citrus. A neat little do-it-yourself appetizer. The starchy tostones cups held up nicely to the dip without getting soggy.

For his entrée, J chose the Bisteca Encebollado, an 8 oz cut of churrasco steak, marinated in olive oil, garlic, and vinegar sauce, topped with sautéed onion and served with beans, rice, tostones, and al ajillo sauce. A huge amount of food. After trying a bit of the steak, J wished he’d spent the extra $1 for the spicier option because it was just a little bland. He ended up eating the steak with the super-garlicky al ajillo sauce for the extra flavor boost. He also felt the steak was a bit tough. J loved the beans and rice so much that he left some of the steak in order to finish them. The sides were so good that he wondered if La Isla served the beans and rice on their own on their lunch menu.

I ordered the Chuletas a la Criolla, two 6 oz pork chops, marinated in lemon and adobo, pan sizzled and smothered in red Creole sauce with beans, rice, tostones, and al ajillo sauce. Another portion of food so large, it couldn’t be finished. Oddly, the pork chops were moist and a little tough at the same time. The chops had just a faint hint of lemon to them. The red Creole sauce, made of onions and red peppers, was a little bland and overcooked for my taste. I like a bit more crunch to my veggies. The tostones and bright al ajillo sauce made a nice little side dish to the rest of the meal.

The Price:

Caribbean Crush: 8.50

Mojito: 7.50

Carne Frita: 7.50

Gandules Dip: 7.00

Bisteca Encebollado: 15.50

Chuletas a la Criolla: 15.00

The Verdict:

La Isla serves good food with a very unique flavor profile. The ingredients were fresh, the portions huge, and the super garlicky al ajillo sauce stole the show. I think our only issue was that the food was really heavy. The appetizers alone can fill you up and adding an entrée to that caused us to still feel stuffed the next morning. I would definitely suggest ordering drinks and a few appetizers or drinks and an entree rather than having both. Also if you go in expecting spicy, Latin American style food, you’ll be disappointed. The Puerto Rican cuisine at La Isla has a more sweet and sour taste with large hints of citrus and garlic. We are both intrigued enough about their menu to go back for more.

  1. December 5, 2011 at 7:44 am

    La Isla is one one of my Ballard favorites. I completely agree with your drinks and appetizer strategy, but will had that you haven’t had the true La Isla happy hour experience until you’ve sat outside on their patio during the summer- its tough to beat. Also, the bar in the back might be the best place (not called Market Arms) in Ballard to watch a Sounders game.

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