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The Castaway, Burbank, CA (restaurant)

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Name:The Castaway
Street:1250 Harvard Rd.

I picked up this menu from The Castaway in Burbank "Nestled in the Verdugo Hills overlooking Burbank". A nautical themed restaurant that served an array of traditional Tiki drinks from their Scrimshaw bar.

The restaurant was quite popular and included celebrity regulars like Bob Hope and others from the nearby studios. The Castaway opened in 1963 and had become a Burbank landmark well into the 90s when one early June morning in 1993... a suspicious fire burned the Castaway to the ground. The Castaway was part of Specialty Restaurants Corp. that owned 55 restaurant nationwide including such LA Tiki/nautical themed landmark restaurants The Ports o'call, the Reef, and the Pieces of Eight. Interestingly, just a few months after the fire Specialty Restaurants Corp. filed for bankruptcy (after they got their insurance settlement I wonder). Here's a great 1994 LA Times article talking about the history of the restaurant and the "future plans."

Landmark Restaurant Prepares to Rise From the Ashes of Arson

BURBANK — Comedian Bob Hope could often be found sitting at the bar. Other locals loved it for its sweeping vista of the northeast San Fernando Valley. The Castaway restaurant, a 31-year-old, city-owned landmark perched high up in the Verdugo Hills, also drew Burbank-based companies such as the Walt Disney Co., NBC and Lockheed for get-togethers in nearby banquet rooms.

"People would come and sip a pina colada, listen to a song and warm their hands on a furnace," recalled Rod Westmaas, director of catering for The Castaway's banquet center. "More than a restaurant, it was an institution. When the fire went up, many said many dreams and memories went up in smoke."

Today, meeting rooms and a fenced-off pile of debris surrounded by palm trees are all that remain of the restaurant, which was destroyed last summer by an arsonist still at large. But the restaurant's operators hope to begin rebuilding in July with about $2.2 million in insurance proceeds and to reopen for business in December. In the meantime, two large banquet rooms next to the restaurant are still functional, serving as the sites for weddings, company parties and high school proms.

"We're not up to our former strength yet, but we've come back strong," Westmaas said.

When it is resurrected, the hilltop restaurant will look much as it did before from the inside--an island retreat. This time, however, there will be a sprinkler system, an indoor waterfall, a higher ceiling, larger bathrooms, an exterior made of rough cedar and a lobby three times the original size.

"To me, it needed a face lift badly. The toilets were an embarrassment as far as I was concerned," said Ron Weil, director of design for Specialty Restaurants Corp., an Anaheim-based company which leases The Castaway from the city.

The company hoped to expand from about 14,000 square feet to about 18,000. But complaints from nearby residents who worry about increased driving to and from the hilltop have forced corporation President David Tallichet to consider a more limited expansion. Plans to expand the restaurant by 1,100 square feet were presented Tuesday to the Burbank City Council but council members, still uncertain of the environmental impacts on neighbors, voted 4-0 to continue a public hearing on the issue to June 21. The June 29 fire resulted in more than $1 million in damage to the site. There still have been no suspects caught, despite a $10,000 reward offered by Specialty Restaurants Corp.

Some people living near The Castaway, such as Esther Christoffersen, have been grateful for the decreased noise and traffic ever since.

"Since The Castaway has gone in, the traffic has been horrendous," said Christoffersen, 74, who has lived on Harvard Road since 1949. "We can't sleep in our front bedroom because of the noise. It has just destroyed a quiet neighborhood.

"If I had my druthers, I'd like to not see it rebuilt. We have enjoyed having the quietness of our street back again."

The fire forced most of the 200 people who worked at The Castaway restaurant and banquet center into the job market again. Some have coped well; others have not.

"I guess I felt the pain of many employees who lost their job," Westmaas said. "One individual, a cocktail server, said her whole life was shot. Her whole psyche is out of whack.

"I'd prefer not to believe it was an employee or a former employee (who started the fire). But you can never rule anything out."


Since then the Castaway has been rebuilt as a traditional fairly high end restaurant but still keeping the Castaway name.


I haven't been there (yet) but it's supposed to be a breathtaking view and well worth going.


Nice menu, have not seen that one before. I have menus from the other Specialty Restaurants in the chain.

Here is the postcard from the Burbank Castaway.


It once boasted a pretty impressive entrance...

Nowadays it is completely generified, with only a few shell lamps as reminders of the theme. The outdoor patio fire pits are pretty cool, but the rest is 80s hotel blandness, just like the other surviving Polynesian examples of the SpecialtyRestaurants/Talichet chain (Ports O' Call, The Reef, Shanghai Red's aka Pieces of Eight). They are functioning "function" destinations for corporate parties and weddings and such, with their customers having no inkling what the name once related to.

...or the exotic sounds that emanated from them :)

Saw these on eBay .. didn't get them, but here are the photos for reference

From the Los Angeles Public Library photo archives.

"Photograph article dated July 18, 1962 partially reads, "Burbank resident John Hogg is a young man who has more knowledge of food than many housewives acquire in a lifetime. His most ardent fan is his wife, Nita, who is quite happy that John prefers to do the cooking at home...John studied foods and wines in England and in Europe before becoming manager of London's Dorchester Hotel restaurant...The couple moved to Burbank several months ago and John opened the Castaway Restaurant, overlooking DeBell Golf Course in the Verdugo Mountains." John Hogg serves his Polynesian dish, Chicken Kona Kai."

There was one in Dana Point from at least 1973 until at least 1976. Here's a scan of their take-home menu.

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