By Lorna Luniewski
Castaway Bar & Grill
310 Bay Walk (at Cottage Walk)
Ocean Beach, NY
In between heat waves on a recent Tuesday, my husband, Tom, and I boarded the ferry from Bay Shore and headed to Fire Island for dinner. Our destination: Castaway Bar & Grill in Ocean Beach, a first for us.
My editor told me that after a previous popular restaurant that inhabited this space had closed in the late 1990s, incarnations that followed were unsuccessful. The curse was broken when young entrepreneur Jonathan Randazzo opened Castaway in 2007. Twelve years strong, Jon has made this sidewalk spot all his own, and the restaurant was packed!
We were lucky enough to get the last table before a line formed out the door, and people were still coming when we left.
Our waitress, Genevieve, was there promptly to take our drink orders and explain the day’s specials. It was Taco Tuesday ($3 each), from 5-10 p.m., and four choices were available: slow cooked pork shoulder, chili lime shrimp, seasoned ground beef and fire braised chicken breast, all served in a corn tortilla with lettuce, tomato and mixed cheese. In keeping with the theme, Corona ($5), margaritas ($6) and frozen margaritas and Corona limonas ($9) were the drink specials, available all day long. If tacos don’t tempt your palate, you can order from the regular menu.
I am not an adventurous diner by any definition, but I decided to be a little more daring, so I chose one of the appetizer specials, Pineapple Gazpacho. It was thick, cool, delicious and filling; I knew I would be in trouble when my dinner came. Tom selected the other appetizer special, Sweet Chili Mussels. The portion was substantial and the sauce so tasty he borrowed my soup spoon to enjoy every last drop.
I stuck with the daily special menu and ordered the Jerk Chicken and Shrimp for my entree. It came with coconut rice, beans, vegetable medley and cilantro aioli – and the cool part – it was served in half a fresh pineapple!
While the presentation is noteworthy, the taste is what makes this dish memorable. The shrimp were cooked to perfection and the rice, buried deep in the pineapple, took on some of the fruity flavor. As predicted, I couldn’t finish it. Tom chose the Atlantic Salmon, pan seared with a brown butter bacon quinoa, heirloom tomato confit and grilled asparagus.
It too got a thumbs up.
Appetizers feature Ahi Tuna Nachos, Chicken Fingers, Mahi Tacos, Buffalo Wings and a Vegan Quesadilla to name but a few. There is a selection of salads and a Raw Bar with clams on the half shell, Blue Point Oysters and Ockers Oyster Co. “Stallions,” both on the half shell. Other entree choices on the extensive menu include Sea Scallops with Long Island corn and shrimp risotto; Fra Diavlo, Little Neck clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp over linguine in a spicy marina; Penne Ala Vodka; Skirt Steak over goat cheese mashed potatoes and fried shoestring onions; and Baby Back Ribs served with corn on the cob and Castaway fries. Sandwich selections are Grilled Mahi and Pulled Pork, a Burger Deluxe and the Castaway Steak Dip.
There is a Clam Jam Happy Hour every day, from 4-7 p.m., with clams on the half shell for $1.25; oysters on the half shell and clams casino, $1.50; and Oysters Rockefeller and fried buffalo oysters, $2. Drinks include Narragansett ($3), Coors Light ($4), Twisted Tea ($5) and Dark and Stormy ($6).
As mentioned, every table was taken, always the sign of good restaurant. Genevieve was the only waitress, but she, Jake, the busboy, and Remy, the food runner, kept things moving smoothly. Tables were cleared and reset in record time and all the food was delivered hot from the kitchen. The bar was busy too, but Sam was quick and efficient with the drinks. By the way, we enjoyed the margaritas, tangy and perfectly refreshing on a warm evening.
While most of Ocean Beach’s eateries shut down after Columbus Day, Castaway remains open until November, and reopens earlier than most too, in March. Looking around, it seems to attract both locals (again a good sign) and day trippers alike. We saw many of our fellow diners on the return ferry home, all looking as satisfied as we were.
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