Castaway Cafe - 16th Street, Gulfport

Grilling is the name of the game at Castaway Cafe in Gulfport. Healthy entrees are in abundance, but there are not-so-healthy dishes to choose from, too. Castaway Cafe is owned and operated by Gail Zander, the original chef for Nola's that opened in downtown Gulfport in 1997.

Zander says, "We closed after 4 years there and have been fortunate to move up into the space here in the strip with Outback and Gene Warrs Men's Store in Mississippi City. I've got 60 seats here and twice the kitchen, four times the kitchen I originally started with."

The extra space has allowed for a large menu expansion. With healthy eating all the rage, Zander prides herself on all the healthy options.

Zander says, "I have 8 or 9 entree salads on the menu. They're all very healthy...some of them do have cheese which fits right into with the low carb element of healthy eating, but I do believe in low fat, myself."

Many of the items are in fact low-fat and can be made vegetarian.

"My first love is vegetarian food that is really tasty where people don't even notice that it's vegetarian. It's just more of a challenge to make it taste really good...I think....if you're doing things a little healthier and without meat," says Zander.

Fresh and healthy are two musts for Zander.

"And then also the homemade soups. They're really filling; they're all vegetarian and made from scratch. They have a lot of vegetable in them. I do not use heavy creams in my soups," says Zander.

One of the specials is a Greek quesadilla, with fresh spinach leaves, freshly sliced tomatoes and red onions and feta cheese on a smoked jalapeno and chipotle tortilla. It's accompanied with a side salad.

"The avacado almond chicken wrap is our number one selling sandwich and shrimp poboys sell well, too," says Zander.

Zander's favorite is the the grilled salmon steak salad.

Zander says, "For all of our salads we use mixed greens with romaine lettuce. I marinate the fish steaks in a marinade with soy and ginger and garlic and a couple of other secret ingredients. And then just grill them to medium. And I make a horseradish cream sauce that's wonderful."

Zander's favorite part of her job is 'just feeding the people. It probably sounds corny, but that's what it's about...feeding the people."

"Castaways is laid back with a beachy kind of feel...with fresh flavorful food that can pretty much please each kind of a palatte from the fried shrimp plates to the burgers and the salads and the homemade soups and homemade desserts," says Zander.

Zander says, "We get a lot of special orders and we're happy to fill 'em."

Castaway Cafe is open for lunch from 10 to three Monday through Friday and 11 to three on Saturday. It's located at the corner of Hwy 90 and Teagarden Road. For more information call 228-863-6223.