Feb. 6 2015 02:52 PM

If you haven't been to this Mission Hills staple, be ready for no-frills eating

Blue Water’s halibut sandwich and tilapia salad
Photo by Mina Riazi

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.

Write to minar@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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