Santa Catalina Island locals and visitors now have a spectacular new destination for the freshest sustainable seafood. And while the new, 6,900-square-foot restaurant has been completely rebuilt from the ground up, everything else about the place is grounded in history.
Bluewater Avalon officially opens June 24 in the historic Avalon waterfront building that once served as the arrival and departure point for the SS Avalon and SS Catalina steamers. The building has been extensively remodeled by the Santa Catalina Island Company (SCICO) as part of an ongoing renaissance of the Island that includes new hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions
A contemporary Catalina take on the classic New England seafood house, Bluewater Avalon represents a homecoming of sorts for local seafood restaurant owner-operators Jim Ulcickas and Rick Staunton who have been fishing the waters off Avalon for years supplying fresh seafood for Catalina Island restaurants as well as Bluewater Grill locations in Southern California and Phoenix.
“We’ve been fishing off Avalon for years and as avid boaters, we see the move to the Island is a natural,” Ulcickas says. “We look forward to working closely with the Santa Catalina Island Company to become an even closer part of the local community.”
Bluewater Avalon guests will find a distinctive indoor/outdoor space combining Bluewater’s trademark modern fishhouse architecture with a casual Island style. Consistent with the Island’s emphasis on outdoor living, more than half the restaurant’s 250 seats are on the 3,000-square-foot waterfront patio. A working clock tower, historic black-and-white photos of the local fishing and boating scene and other touches pay homage to the Terminal Building and vintage Catalina.
Inside, executive chef Randy Savoie, formerly of Avalon’s Descanso Beach, oversees a menu of up to 25 varieties of fresh seafood and shellfish plus salads, pastas, chicken, and steaks. Specialties include Bluewater’s signature Cioppinno, fish and chips, and homemade chowders plus sanddabs, white seabass, California spiny lobster and other locally caught fish not as readily available on the mainland.
Bluewater Avalon posts a daily chalkboard of freshly caught seafood and shellfish available for lunch and dinner.
“I’m exciting to show Catalina local and visitors just how amazing the absolute freshest, sustainable seafood and shellfish can be – either simply grilled or as part of a signature Bluewater recipe,” says Savoie, a seven-year Island resident who used to serve banquets in the Catalina Casino and even lived for time in an apartment on the Casino’s top floor.
Bluewater Avalon’s intimate, 21-seat bar offers spectacular views of Avalon Bay as well as a full bar menu and specialty cocktails in signature liter jugs. Other restaurant highlights include a kid’s and small-plates menu, retail fish market and offseason weekday happy hours.
Launching with a New England Lobster and Clambake in July, the restaurant’s annual calendar of seasonal seafood specials and monthly tasting and wine-pairing events is expected to cultivate a local following.
To date, more than 90 percent of Bluewater’s seafood offerings are sustainably caught or farmed – among the highest of any seafood restaurant in California. Every seafood item purchased is audited to verify its “sustainability/environmental status” by either the Aquarium of the Pacific Seafood for the Future program or Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, or is sourced from approved fisheries of the World Wildlife Fund’s Marine Stewardship Council.
As part of the commitment to sustainability, Staunton operates the fishing vessel, Pilikia, in the waters off Avalon. Pilikia Captain Sean Burke targets only mature fish without the use of nets or long lines, harpooning the freshest most humanely harvested local swordfish.
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