Bluewater Grill’s Jim Ulcickas maintains a strong commitment to sustainable seafood.
It’s easy to refer to Bluewater Grill restaurateur Jim Ulcickas as a sustainability pioneer. His passion for sustainability exceeds his reputation and has allowed him to make connections beyond purveyors and clientele. And now, he and his partner Rick Staunton have teamed with the Catalina Island Conservancy to launch Toyon Grill, a restaurant and event space on the island.
Consistent with the commitment to sustainability, Toyon Grill will certainly offer seafood but will be more of a mainstream farm-to-table, fast-casual concept. If you’re an adventurer exploring the island, grab-and-go picnic boxes will be available, along with breakfast, lunch and dinner for dine-in patrons. “For us, it’s always been about doing the right thing,” Ulcickas notes. “We’ve been avid fishermen all our lives, so we know how crucial it is to source locally and sustainably.”
Toyon Grill’s sweeping panoramic views of the Avalon shoreline and the historic Casino capture the island’s chill vibe at its breezy apex. “It’s a view that goes great with a cold beer,” Ulcickas quips. It also gives him the ability to book corporate events and weddings, gigs that his Avalon space is too busy to handle. As excited as he is about the expansion, he’s quick to point out that the venture was chiefly made possible because of the conservancy’s own philosophies. “ The Conservancy’s also firmly committed to the mission of sustainability and eco-consciousness,” he says. “Their beliefs fit right in our wheelhouse.”
As any good fisherman should, Ulcickas has stories about the seafood gracing the plates at each of Bluewater Grill’s nine locations. Every tale carefully traces the menu item’s water-to-diner journey, from information on where it was harvested to where it rates on sustainability advisory boards like Seafood Watch. Sometimes, the stories write themselves: The restaurant’s exclusive swordfish harpoon boat owned by Staunton, the Pilikia, trolls the waters off the Channel Islands in search of the Gladiator fish when it’s in season. Regardless of the story origins, the delicious endings are what keep patrons hooked. “People know what we do from a sustainability standpoint, which we appreciate,” he explains. “They also know us as an enjoyable culinary commodity, which is just as important.”
Fine words from a fisherman, indeed.