PHOTOS BY ANNA GOODSON
Imagine a vacation that never ends. That’s the promise made at Islander Seafood and Oyster Bar in Jackson’s Maywood Mart shopping center, where fresh oysters and other seafood are served up seven days a week. Stepping inside the restaurant is like stepping into a beachside oasis. Decorated in watercolors of blues and oranges with large fish on the walls, the interior is definitely “beachy.” In the background, the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett reinforce the island theme. White tablecloths lend a polished feel to the interior, but the overall vibe is pure relaxed casual.
Chris Jacobs is the owner, and Islander is his concept. A veteran on the Jackson restaurant scene, Chris actually began his career at Abner’s in Oxford. He worked with the Amerigo corporation, moving to several different cities including Atlanta and Nashville before leaving to build his own restaurant in Ridgeland. “I designed and built Keegan’s Steakhouse on Old Canton Road, which was great until work began to widen the road in front of my restaurant and really hurt business.” Chris changed the restaurant’s concept and called it Jake’s Seafood Grill before selling the building and moving on to Sportsman’s Lodge. After taking a good long look at the market, he decided to open a seafood restaurant with an oyster bar, and Islander came to be in August 2013.
“I’m big on locally-owned restaurants, and Jackson has plenty of ‘foodies’ who appreciate the extra steps required to present good food prepared with fresh ingredients. We offer fresh Gulf seafood and oysters from Apalachicola. We get our tomatoes and other vegetables at a local farmer’s market and we use grits from Grit Girl in Oxford for our shrimp and grits. We use Gambino’s bread from New Orleans for our po’boys, and we chop our own herbs. We take our food seriously, and we don’t take any short cuts.”
Chef Jessica Furches runs the kitchen and puts her innovative touch on each and every dish. “Jessica is very creative, and we work hand-in-hand on the recipes,” says Chris. “For example, we use wild rice in our red beans and rice and top it with scallions and fried jalapenos. She loves a good New Orleans style brunch, and in addition to putting her own special touch to our Eggs Benedict and three-egg omelets, she has created a shrimp boil cheesecake that has been a major hit.”
The menu is varied, with standout options such as tuna tartar with fried pineapple and crawfish rolls made with wonton wrappers filled with cream cheese, crawfish and roasted red peppers and topped with a fresh pico de gallo. The menu includes seafood and andouille sausage gumbo and a different soup of the day. Lunch is served daily and features both a seafood special as well as a hearty plate lunch, including roast beef on Thursday, for only $8.95.
Chris says he reworks the menu every few months, tweaking it to delight his customers. “I put all my favorite things on it,” he laughs. “And I move around the menu, eating something different each day. I never get tired of anything we serve!”
One thing that stands out at the restaurant is a wait staff who seem to enjoy being there as much as the patrons do. “Our wait staff is excellent,” says Chris. “We believe if they’re happy, the customers will be happy. They dress in button-down starched white shirts, and blue jeans, which reiterates the casual feel of the restaurant. We want to provide excellent service, and we want all of our customers to feel relaxed and comfortable.”
No trip to the islands is complete without a beach drink, and Islander has got several options, all with beachy names such as The Blue Lagoon, Caribbean Romance and A Day at the Beach. There’s a good selection of draft and domestic beers, and several interesting craft beers from which to choose. The wine list has a little something for everyone. Happy hour is Monday through Friday, 4:00 to 6:00pm. And of course, there’s dessert. No extensive list of sweets, but there is the requisite key lime pie, which is a favorite with the customers. o
Islander Seafood and Oyster Bar is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.. Visit their website to see menus for lunch, dinner and brunch at www.islanderoysterhouse.com.