The Castaways

Former Masthead employees, friends and family, even a former customer, have been pitching in to help get the old Casa Rodriguez ready to open anew as The Castaways.

Bill Wagner, The Daily News

It takes a crew to sail a ship, and though the old Masthead Restaurant is gone, its crew will sail on with a new seafood and burger restaurant set to open in two weeks.

Nearly all 20 employees of the old Masthead will move to a new sea-themed restaurant called The Castaways at 1124 Washington Way inside the former Casa Rodriguez building. The Mexican restaurant closed last week because the owner, Rene Rodriguez, wanted to focus his efforts on his Portland location. Rodriguez will sublease the Longview space to Barb Turner-Bell, former Masthead manager and new owner of The Castaways. She hopes to open the newly-remodeled restaurant by mid-December.

The Masthead, a popular Longview eatery that catered to two generations of customers, closed in late October because its owners, Rick Carns and Don Maki, retired after 46 years on Ocean Beach Highway. The lot was sold to an Oregon developer who plans to build a Carl’s Jr.

Turner-Bell, 56, said she was tempted to retire when Carns and Maki announced the Masthead’s closure.

“But then I have everybody working — all my friends I’ve worked with for 20 years — they all needed a job. … Everyone just wanted to keep doing the Masthead,” she said.

She checked with the Masthead’s longtime chef, Rosa Rodriguez, who agreed to help run a new restaurant. Plus, Turner-Bell’s own 21-year-old granddaughter, Kiesha, loved working as a server at the Masthead. A desire to keep her friends and her granddaughter employed eventually pushed Turner-Bell to pursue a new restaurant.

“They just wanted to make sure we kept it going. So then it turned into the Castaways,” she said.

The restaurant’s new name retains the sea theme of the Masthead but suggests that it’s a new business with the same people, she said.

“We all kind of got “cast away,” and we’re all just kind of like Masthead castaways,” she said with a chuckle.

The Castaways’ menu will feature several favorites from the Masthead, such as fish and chips, chowder, hand-dipped milkshakes, very-berry cobbler, California BLT sandwiches with avocado, clubhouse sandwiches, salmon filet, halibut and prime rib. The menu will also bring back some popular items missing from the Masthead menu for years – such as potato skins (deep-fried stuffed potatoes with bacon and Mexican crema) and “wing zings” (spicy, crunchy chicken bites).

Chef Rodriguez will also offer some authentic Mexican food dishes and several new salad options with dressings such as blood orange vinaigrette and blackberry vinaigrette. There will also be more gluten-free and vegetarian options, such as quinoa salad with blackened beans and peppers; garden burgers with blue cheese crumbles; and gluten-free burger buns that can be swapped out for any regular bun. Libations include 13 beers on tap with several Pacific Northwest brews.

Eventually, several tables at the Castaways will also be embellished with antique old-world maps so customers can see the seven seas while munching on fish and chips.

To give The Castaways a familiar feel, Turner-Bell purchased many of the Masthead’s decorative items and other pieces. And the paper-mache mermaids that hung in the Masthead will migrate to the new spot, too. The mermaids were made by a former longtime employee, Pam Saxon, who died in 2011. So Turner-Bell said incorporating the mermaids was a way to honor Saxon’s memory.

Turner-Bell said it may take several months or years for the restaurant to be fully decorated the way she hopes. Right now, her focus is in on getting the doors open in a few weeks so she can start generating income.

“It’s going to be a work in progress. …We’re doing this on a shoestring budget,” she said.

On Friday, fresh paint and plaster fumes wafted from inside the old Casa Rodriguez building as volunteers in T-shirts and rolled-up jeans painted and spruced up the place. Many employees are volunteering time to get the restaurant open.

The inside of the restaurant will be completely repainted, though Turner-Bell is leaving most of the Mexican-style tiling intact because she thinks it’s beautiful. The kitchen had to be thoroughly cleaned, and it will be equipped with new stoves and other equipment. New signage will be installed as well. Turner-Bell is still finalizing a logo, but it will likely incorporate an anchor.

Longtime Masthead customers have eagerly awaited news of The Castaways opening. Turner-Bell said some customers have told her they drove up and down Washington Way trying to find the new location before it was announced. Last Saturday, one former Masthead customer, Jim, wandered into the Casa Rodriguez building, put on an apron and got to scrubbing the kitchen.

“He was here for like 10 hours that day cleaning the kitchen. Didn’t ask if he could help or nothing. And I’m like ‘Oh my god,” Turner-Bell said.

That’s why Turner-Bell is excited to get all hands back on deck.

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