If you love seafood, you probably love Bluewater Grill. The Newport Beach location in Cannery Village is the 26-year-old flagship of the eight-restaurant chain, although I hesitate to use the word “chain” because each location is owned and operated by partners Jim Ulcickas and Rick Staunton.
I’ve dined at several of the Bluewater Grill locations, including the one on Catalina Island that juts out on the harbor, but the Newport restaurant is my favorite—and not far from home!
I’ve dined on the patio and watched the Bluewater fishing boat bring a huge catch up the plank and into the kitchen, I’ve enjoyed many dinners in the dining room, and I have sipped and dined for happy hour in the lounge.
But all of those were off-limits for several months while Bluewater Grill had a complete multimillion-dollar renovation and reinvestment in its future, its servers and the Orange County economy.
The restaurant that has served more than seven million guests since 1996 reopened April 21 after a three-month closure to create a redesigned dining destination featuring new booths, tables and chairs; new cocktail and Oyster bars; and a colorful new exterior.
Why April 21? It was the day before Earth Day, and the owners wanted to emphasize Bluewater’s commitment to serving only sustainable seafood approved by local certifying organizations.
The official ribbon-cutting was attended by Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Rosansky, Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon (who presented a proclamation from the city), and the California State Legislature.
I had lunch at Bluewater Grill the day before the official reopening, and was delighted to see the refreshed interior—although the day was so nice I opted for a patio table.
The menu is as extensive as ever. As always, a loaf of warm sourdough bread appears at your table soon after you sit down.
I ordered the calamari friti with sweet chili sauce and Cajun remoulade to start, followed by one of their seasonal specials: shrimp and chicken gumbo with sausage, okra, peppers and celery, with a scoop of rice.
The steaming bowl of goodness arrived piping hot. This is a hearty dish, but not heavy, and enough spice to make you think for a moment you might be in New Orleans. The portion is generous, and oh so tasty.
I’m going back soon for the bouillabaisse special, and a bowl of their legendary clam chowder.
Bluewater Grill Newport Beach is at 630 Lido Park Drive.