Blue Water Bay worth the drive

The Blue Water Bay Restaurant in Melrose reopened in February after the building was destroyed by fire. The unique menu is bringing the customers back.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, August 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 1, 2003 at 3:01 a.m.
Melrose Blue Water Bay has been a well-known restaurant for about 30 years. But it's only been open since February.
A fire claimed this longtime Melrose landmark on Oct. 28, 2001. It took 15 months for Byron Terwillegar and his father, Clyde, to rebuild it, but Blue Water Bay re-opened on Feb. 13.
It was worth the wait. The dining room, paneled in cypress, is eclectically comfortable with stained glass, white linen and high-backed leather arm chairs (procured from the now-defunct Heritage Club in Gainesville). The menu is wide-ranging, featuring fresh fish, seafood, steaks and a couple of Cajun-Creole entrées for good measure. The wine list is surprisingly good, too.
It all adds up to quite a treat, one the people of Melrose and visitors to Lake Santa Fe should embrace. You'll feel comfortable dressed up, or down, with children or without.
Everything, from the herb garden growing in front, to appetizers, entrees and desserts, is a little out of the ordinary. That's what makes Blue Water Bay worth the 25-minute trip from downtown Gainesville.
Among the appetizers, it's hard to find a loser. The portobello mushrooms stuffed with sautéed crayfish tails (and sometimes asparagus, too) are hard to beat ($9.95), and for lovers of escargot, the "baker's dozen" sautéed with wine, mushrooms and roasted garlic are a cut above the usual ($7.95). Portobello pommes frites (fried potatoes) and a mango and brie quesadilla with herb salsa ($7.95 each) sound good, too.
I was astonished by the most unusual entree on the menu: crawfish etouffee served over rice pilaf ($15.95). I tried it on the server's recommendation and was pleasantly surprised. It was everything etouffee should be - a thick, spicy stew of crayfish and vegetables made flavorful by an earthy, dark roux. Beware, though, the menu says it's mild, but ours was fairly spicy.
Blue Water Bay serves great fried shrimp. They are luscious, lightly breaded and quickly fried ($12.95). Or try the BWB Combo, a char-grilled sirloin and fried shrimp ($15.95) or fried oysters ($14.95).
The restaurant has a popular (and gigantic) seafood platter, broiled or fried. The $25.95 version will serve two easily, and the $39.95 version will satisfy most parties of four. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is a seafood buffet.
Entree prices range from $12.95 to around $22. Each is served with a good house salad and choice of baked potato French fries, red or black beans and rice or herb pasta.
Don't miss dessert. There are only three on the menu - Key lime pie, carrot cake and brownies ($3.95 each) - but you won't go wrong. And if you're lucky, there might be some sour orange pie on hand.
David Carlson has been writing about food, wine and restaurants for more than a decade. He can be reached at

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