Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill is an unpretentious seafood restaurant, which makes perfect sense; it is a reflection of the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego that prides itself on embracing the simple life. The restaurant is on the ground floor of a two-story brown building with an industrial persona, except for its bright blue awning and a single gaslamp-style street light out front. Make no mistake about what lies within this restaurant. Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill has been voted one of America’s Top Restaurants by Zagat.com, and has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, hosted by Guy Fieri.
Blue Water Seafood Ambiance
Inside Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill, the restaurant has a fishing village vibe. Mounted trophy fish adorn white walls, along with framed photos of anglers proudly holding their catches, arms outstretched toward the camera. Other framed photos display underwater shots of fish gliding through the water. You half expect to see a lighthouse on a cliff outside the window, and you get the feel that everyone is from the neighborhood and knows each other.
A large, gleaming stainless steel and glass fish counter, like you’d see in a grocery store, displays fresh fish in neat rows. As you proceed straight ahead to a counter where you place your order cafeteria style, you’ll notice a giant swordfish mounted on the wall behind it. Diners can choose to sit at shiny varnished wood tables with wood chairs inside, or at glass-topped patio tables with plastic chairs in the enclosed patio. Twinkling lights above the windows that separate indoor and outdoor dining spaces soften the industrial feel of the restaurant. The atmosphere is casual and no-nonsense, with food and conversation taking center stage.
Blue Water Seafood’s Food
Blue Water has devised a straightforward method for ordering your perfect seafood dinner with a three-step process. If you’re ordering your fish “on the grill,” which most people do, you choose your catch from a menu of 16 kinds of fish and seafood as your first step. Next, you choose your favorite marinade in step two. Your choices are bourbon butter, bronzed (meaning blackened with brown sugar), lemon butter, lemon-garlic butter, blackened, teriyaki, or chipotle. In step three, you choose your method of presentation for your grilled fish, either as a sandwich, on a salad, as a full dinner with salad and rice sides, as tacos, or a la carte.
Blue water sandwiches serve your grilled fish on a soft boleo roll with fresh chopped lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and a homemade tartar sauce. You can ask for your roll to be toasted, and can add extras like avocado, or pepperjack, Swiss, or cheddar cheese. If you choose a Blue water salad, your grilled fish is laid over fresh chopped mixed greens, cucumbers, purple cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, red onion, and capers with your choice of dressing, ranch, blue cheese, thousand island, or vinaigrette.
Blue Water Plates are served as a full dinner. Your grilled fish is served with a fresh Blue Water side salad and jasmine rice. Blue Water Tacos are served on warm tortillas, handmade at El Indio Mexican restaurant across the street. Tortillas are stacked with grilled fish marinated in spicy chipotle sauce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, onions, and cabbage, then topped with homemade white sauce.
If you prefer your fish or seafood off the grill, you can order shrimp, crab, smoked fish, or a combination of those as either a sandwich or salad. Soups are made from scratch and include lobster bisque, New England clam chowder, or a hearty seafood soup. You can also order oysters on the half shell, seafood cocktails, or sashimi appetizers. Blue Water offers a wide array of specials. Try the classic fish n’ chips – Calico Amber beer battered cod or tilapia over fries with a side of coleslaw, and tartar sauce.
There is a small beer and wine menu, a limited number of dessert choices, and a short kids’ menu. Blue Water knows kids may not have developed their fish-eating palates just yet, so the restaurant’s only non-fish or seafood items are found on the kids’ menu, which includes chicken options and grilled cheese. For the mini fish lover in your family, they offer a kids’ size fish n’ chips.
If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to ask about local and exotic seasonal catches.
Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill is open every day for lunch and dinner. They do not take reservations, and there is often a line out the door during peak hours and on weekends. Try to arrive before 7:00 p.m. to minimize your wait time, since the restaurant only seats 40 guests at a time. The restaurant is ADA accessible, does not provide Wi-Fi or have televisions, and has street and bike parking.
Although the restaurant is set up to serve cafeteria style, patrons are asked not to seat themselves. Once you’ve placed your order, a staff member will find you a table to ensure everyone ordering is able to have a table when their food arrives. If you have someone in your party sit at a table while someone else orders, you will be asked to move – best to avoid the awkwardness and go with the flow.
Mission Hills is an affluent residential community with an old-time Brooklyn, New York, sense of neighborhood. They’re family-oriented, protective of their neighborhood history, and appreciative of the simple life. This is where you go for family bike rides, long walks in the park, or free live jazz at dusk. Check out Cinema Under the Stars at 4040 Goldfinch Street where you can watch a classic movie in a zero gravity recliner or a loveseat cabana. Another neighborhood favorite is Pioneer Park where you’ll find children playing, couples enjoying picnics, and others practicing tai chi or walking their dogs. Pioneer Park also hosts Summertime Concerts in the Park every Friday during summer. The neighborhood is next door to Hillcrest and Old Town if you’re looking for a little more action.