There's something fishy about Blue Water Grill. Maybe it's because the seafood market and grill only doles out fish. You won't find a token cheeseburger or pork chop on the menu. Order anything from soft-shell crab or tilapia to shark, then decide whether you want it served on a salad, in a sandwich, as tacos or alongside rice and salad.
Blue Water (3667 India St. in Mission Hills) sits closer to Interstate 5 than the deep blue, but the seafood is consistently fresh. The no-frills restaurant has been a San Diego establishment for roughly 10 years. Rather annoyingly, your food will be served on plastic plates—my clam chowder was spooned into a Styrofoam cup. Forking a $10 slab of seared Ahi with a plastic utensil might seem strange, but it also contributes to Blue Water's low-key, relaxed vibe.
On a recent Saturday, I was craving grilled fish and knew my freezer's offerings wouldn't hit the spot. Unsurprisingly, Blue Water was comfortably busy, with a few tables still available for the taking.
I appreciate the quick, no-nonsense approach the kitchen staff seems to embrace. Waiting for my food, I couldn't help but take interest in the restaurant's behind-the-scene workings.
Guy Fieri visited Blue Water in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. One of the owner-brothers was shown slapping a 40-pound halibut onto a counter before applying clean, surgeon-like incisions. The halibut was soon reduced to a careful stack of fish slabs.
The menu's soups-from-scratch include lobster bisque, seafood soup and New England clam chowder, which is glorious, especially on a cold day. The chowder was hot and nearly steaming in its cup. All it required was a sprinkling of saltines to break up the creaminess and adjust the flavors.
Other menu standouts include the sashimi appetizers, served with avocado and teriyaki sauce. A cioppino plate is also an instant attention-grabber: Fresh mussels and clams join scallops, shrimp and red snapper. The lot is sautéed in a homemade marinara and served with toasted sourdough.
Sometimes, though, the dishes that reveal the most about a restaurant are the most basic. I surveyed the specials list during my last Blue Water visit and decided on the halibut flavored with a lemon-butter marinade and served in a sandwich.
A chubby, toasted bolillo roll slathered with homemade tartar sauce arrived minutes later, stuffed with a flaky, buttery slab of halibut. Avocado slices, chopped lettuce, red onion and tomatoes completed the first-class sandwich. My only complaint? The lemon-butter marinade did nothing to enhance the halibut's flavors—in fact, I could barely even taste it. The mild fish would have definitely benefited from a firm kick of acid.
The grilled tilapia arrived next, gracing a simple salad. Not as resplendent as the halibut, the tilapia's lemon-garlic-butter marinade had not done much for its flavor. The generously portioned, 6-ounce piece of fish was also rather dry. But I consider these minor slipups in the grand scheme of things—Blue Water is still one of the city's most reliable spots when you're craving fresh fish.