Upon entering the Blue Water Grille, guests are greeted by a well-dressed, smiling maître d — and if you're a regular he probably knows your name; if not, then he will be happy to learn it.
THE BLUE WATER GRILLE and its sister restaurant, The Blue Iguana, are different from most of the eateries around. They're both owned locally by Bill Loukas and Tom Chakeres. As an owner since July 19, 1995, the date Blue Iguana opened, Loukas has spent many hours making the restaurants unique and friendly places to dine.
"We try really hard to get involved in the community. On any given night I can name half the customers in here. I've seen their kids grow up. I've hired some of them," said Loukas.
That is what separates the Blue Iguana and the Blue Water Grille from the chains, says Loukas. "We've been really trying to serve the community."
The restaurant sponsors local charities and groups on a regular basis.
"Right now I have stack of donation requests for local groups and I'd love to give to all of them if I could," he said.
Loukas' focus not only pertains to outside the restaurant but inside too. "If you take care of your customers and your staff, then the rest falls into place," he said.
The employees look happy, working and joking around before the opening and chatting with the regular lunch-goers as they come in the door and order their favorite foods.
"The staff really works hard. Most of the credit for any success goes to these guys," Loukas says.
THE BLUE WATER GRILLE'S walls are decorated with Art Deco posters, pictures of the Rat Pack, and crooners from Sinatra to Sammy Davis Jr. play in the background.
There are also photos of Loukas' father who was a professional chef and cooked at State Department dinners in the District. "I picked out every picture and every color scheme. A lot of the pictures are friends and family," Loukas said.
Half of the restaurant is dedicated to fine dining while the other half has a sports bar section. Outside is a patio that is opened during warmer weather.
"We usually have a big happy hour on the weekend," Loukas said. "We do some big-bar business."
Loukas says his menu is different from the larger chains. "I've tailored the menu to the community," he said. "Sort of an upscale, fine-dining restaurant that is also a fun place."
It consists of a variety of foods — from hamburgers to steaks. Loukas says he likes to keep the food creative.
"It's basic contemporary-American cuisine with a little creativity thrown in for good measure. We give our chefs an outline of what we want and let them create around that," Loukas said. "We also make our salads and dressings from scratch."
The lunch menu has a variety of offerings — Blue Water Buffalo Wings ($6) with Blue Cheese, grilled 8 oz. N.Y. Strip Steak ($10) with roasted potato and mushroom ragout, finished with wilted spinach, and a ½ Pound Black Angus Beef Burger ($7.75).
The dinner menu includes Steamed Mussels with White Wine, Kalamata Olives, Shallots, and Baby Tomatoes ($8), Sautéed Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Sundried Tomato and Basil Polenta, Baby Carrots, Green Beans, and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce ($21), Braised Lamb Shank Oven Slow Cooked, Berlotti Beans, Topped with Wilted Spinach and Onion Fig Compote ($18) and a Caesar salad ($9 with chicken).
The Blue Water Grille and the Blue Iguana are just a few of the locally operated restaurants left in the area, says Loukas.
"We are making a commitment to the community. We've been here for a while and love seeing the area grow and prosper."
The Blue Iguana is located at 12727 Shops Lane, Fairfax. Call 703-502-8108.
The Blue Water Grille is located at 5127 Westfields Blvd., Centreville. Call 703-803-1040.