Peering into a glass counter filled with seafood, I start talking like I might try the local swordfish. But the fishmonger has a better idea. “That halibut was caught this morning,” he tells me, “right out there.” He points outside, not to the horizon, but somewhere short of it. To a patch of Pacific Ocean, just a bit north of the Ocean Beach pier.
5083 Santa Monica Ave Ste 1B, Ocean Beach
I’m standing in the new O.B. location of Blue Water Seafood, the fish counter restaurant made nationally famous by the Food Network, after becoming locally famous for making seafood sandwiches, salads, and tacos, from fresh fish customers may examine within its glass counters, while waiting to order. Unlike the original Mission Hills location, which at best has views of the freeway and airport, this fish counter has a direct view of the blue ocean water it’s named for. From where the fishmonger points, I can see the beach and lifeguard tower across the street, and the Pacific behind it. He explains today’s halibut was fished from a skiff a short distance from the very spot we stand, “Caught within view of the [Belmont Park] roller coaster, for sure.”
Rare is the opportunity to eat fish this immediately local and fresh. Like the halibut only hours earlier, I bite. For $22.95, I order a plate of it: grilled with a bourbon butter glaze, served over jasmine rice with a green salad loaded with julienned carrots, diced tomatoes, and capers. All of blue Water’s made-to-order fish plates offer a choice of sauce and seasoning, and I’ve usually opted for blackened fish, garlic butter, or chipotle. But the bourbon butter nails this halibut, and I can’t get enough of it. The white fish sits somewhere between flaky and steaky, and couldn’t taste cleaner if I’d grilled it right there on the boat.
I’m no stranger to the Blue Water experience, nor its deserved attentions. Its fish has always been fresh, including daily catch; but it’s never been this good. Perhaps the psychological influence of being so close to mother ocean makes it better. Or maybe the salt-scented air boosts my enjoyment.
It’s no knock on the Mission Hills restaurant, but this new Blue Water, which opened in February, is objectively better. It’s a larger and more polished restaurant space, with stylish wood booths, community tables, and window seats. Even better on a sunny beach day is the large covered patio out front, which sits above Abbott Street, within view of pier and beach.
This used to be the location of the old Tower Two Beach Café. Obecians are notoriously sentimental about their regular haunts, and I’m sure there’s a contingent of locals who bemoaned the closing and replacement of Tower Two. But I’ve complained for years that it short-changed the neighborhood by serving subpar ingredients and mediocre food, and only got away with it due to the beach-adjacent location. Introducing Blue Water to this spot changes everything. Don’t look now, Ocean Beach, but in this case progress and change have made your beach community better.