When Ping Aplin opened the first Bluewater Seafood restaurant with her husband, Brad Aplin, in 1996, it had been just two years since she moved to the U.S. from China.
In China, Ping said she lived in a small fishing village, while her husband was a third-generation commercial fisherman. Many members of Brad’s extended family now operate fishing boats along the Gulf Coast, including Galveston and parts of Louisiana, Ping said. Ping herself has made multiple trips on crab boats and shrimp boats where she helped as a deck hand.
As a result, she said Bluewater Seafood has direct connections to fish, oysters, shrimp and crawfish fresh off the boat. The eatery regularly has seafood brought in from the Gulf of Mexico and ready to serve to customers the next day, she said.
“We like to say that if the fish was any fresher, it would still be swimming,” Ping said.
The original Bluewater location is still going strong in the Champions area, Ping said, and two more have opened since. A Cy-Fair location opened in 2010 on FM 1960, the walls of which are covered with nautical-themed decor and photos from Ping’s trips on fishing boats.
For the first 12 years or so of Bluewater’s existence, Ping said she served as the lead chef. Over time, she took on a more active role in managing the restaurants but she said she still maintains a presence in the kitchen to this day.
Doug Stewart, the director of operations for Bluewater, said the freshness of the food stands out in the flavor.
“It’s light and airy and tastes like the actual fish,” he said. “You really don’t even have to cover it with sauces. A lot of people will just eat it blackened.”
Ping said it is not unusual for her to move from one restaurant to the next on any given day to check in on the staff and oversee shipments of fresh fish.
“I love my employees, and I love my customers,” she said. “Anytime I come over here, I’m happy.”
12914 FM 1960, Houston
Hours: Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.