I’m in the Florida Keys in the small fishing town of Marathon and I’m waiting for my ride. I’m staying at the Tranquility Bay Beach Resort with a small group of Canadian journalists and we’re all excited to be going to dinner at Castaways Waterfront Restaurant & Sushi Bar.
We’d never been to Castaways, a short 2-minute drive down the Overseas Highway and we’re going in style; in a shiny, white, stretch limousine. We pile into the limo, drive down the highway and turn onto Ocean View Avenue. The fully lit up limousine surprisingly drives through a rough looking trailer park and stops in front of a dark, casual building right next to a fishmonger and on the edge of a pier. This is Castaways.
We emerge from the limo up-dressed for a fancy dinner. As we parade into the restaurant the patrons stop, put down their drinks and stare. We look a little out of place.
Castaway is a typical American saloon-type bar. It’s a casual eatery where the eclectic mix of locals frequent. The men looked a little leathered from the sun and multi-tattooed and the few women sat at the bar picking at the labels on their beer bottles. The walls and counters are covered with surplus memorabilia, a milky fish tank sat in the entrance and the room was filled with dark, heavy furniture. It somehow feels like we’re the reluctant ‘extras’ on a movie set, or perhaps ‘doubles’ for the main characters, cast without a script.
We’re presented with white, laminated menus that offer up no less than hundreds of dinner options from raw seafood selections to sushi, pasta and sautéed alligator. In spite of where we are, I remember the fishmonger next door and I begin to crave oysters. I ask our waitress about them. Her name is Stormy and she explains they’re Florida Apalachicola Bay oysters, warm water oysters. I’ve never heard of these before so I order them.
We ask her more questions from the hundred-item menu and surprisingly she takes a seat at our table suggesting it may take a while. She makes no qualms about making herself comfortable with the rest of us and we’re all rather liking our new friend. Stormy begins to describe the dishes using poetic words out of a hypnotic food book. She describes each one based on its multifaceted flavours and talks of seductive presentations and palate pleasures. We’re all sold on everything she suggests. Some of the group orders sushi. I’m thinking sushi at Castaways seems as out of place as fresh oysters from a beer hall.
Stormy is a cute, young girl, a little stocky with a tight, blue muscle shirt branded with the name of the restaurant across her breasts and a plunging neckline revealing her youthful cleavage. Stormy takes the rest of the orders and bounces away, pony tail swinging from side to side. Despite her youth, she has the build, confidence and no-nonsense attitude to handle herself easily in a joint like this. I admire her spunk.
We eat our dinner from paper lined, red plastic baskets and our mojitos from thick plastic tumblers. Castaways is hidden from the main road in a dark backstreet on the edge of a pier. Not a place you’d stumble upon by accident nor a place you’d go to intentionally if you were up-dressed and riding in a shiny white limousine. But here we are in the Florida Keys following the direction of our host and discovering the most unexpected and most unlikely. Florida is definitely a place of discovery. Just sit back, relax and explore it all.
Castaway’s Waterfront Restaurant & Sushi Bar
1406 Ocean View Ave