By Maureen Post Special to Published Jan 02, 2009 at 12:21 PM Photography: Maureen Post

Generally, Downtown Milwaukeeans are skeptical of chain restaurants. Supporting dozens of local independents, Downtown Milwaukeeans reserve chains for the outskirts of the city and those diners looking for ease in consistency and simplicity.

However, there is one chain Downtown challenging the stereotype with a locally run corporate approach. Thanks to Chef Jason Cole, a Wisconsin native, Kincaid's Fish, Chop and Steakhouse successfully bridges the gap between corporate and local with incredible views of Milwaukee, personalized menus and local staff.

"We are a chain but there's also an independent element. The entire restaurant is run locally by individuals who have worked in the Milwaukee service industry for years," Cole says.

A native of La Crosse, Cole attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis before heading kitchens in Indianapolis, Dallas and St. Louis.

"When I was 15, I started in the dish pit, moved up onto the line and really enjoyed it. I went to school to be a police officer but decided cooking was really what I love," Cole says.

Most recently, Cole opened a Kincaid's location in Indianapolis before moving back to Wisconsin to set up the Milwaukee location.

Having come to Milwaukee just over a year ago, Cole resides in Bay View and is nothing but optimistic about Kincaid's place in Milwaukee's development.

"In the next several years, plans for hotels and restaurants in this part of Downtown will really increase the city's potential.  It's exciting to be a part of that. We're definitely in this for the long haul and I really feel Milwaukee is catching up to culinary levels in the rest of the country," Cole says.

Cole has been with Restaurants Unlimited Inc., Kincaid's parent company, for seven years.

"I was excited to hear Kincaid's was opening a restaurant in Milwaukee. My family is all here and I love to do the outdoor thing, so I was excited to come back home," Cole explains.

Any assumption that Kincaid's is a classic steak and seafood house downplays the complexity and New American influence of Cole's creations. Carefully choosing the highest quality seafood from Alaska, Hawaii and the coastal United States, Cole reinvents corporate recipes with local flavor.

"We try to put a modern twist on classics. I have a fresh sheet menu that I change every couple weeks with my own stuff," Cole says. "So maybe we'll do braised short ribs but maybe a twist with an Asian style."

Appetizers like warm brie with macadamia nuts, teriyaki tenderloin served with pickled ginger and sticky rice and tiger prawns with gazpacho salsa graft an ethnic element onto classic steakhouse traditions.

Sea scallops crusted with an almond Asiago combination, king crab and artichoke dip and chicken breast stuffed with wild mushrooms, goat cheese, almonds and caramelized onions elevate diners beyond the typical steak and potato tradition.

Completely renovating the old Third Street Pier space on Old World 3rd Street, Kincaid's is strikingly beautiful with comfortable booths staggered on two levels to provide optimal views of the Milwaukee River. The floor to ceiling windows expose evening views of Downtown Milwaukee lit up by the glowing colors of the Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.

"We're right next to the Bradley Center, the Rep, theaters; we're kind of in the middle of everything going on in Milwaukee," Cole explains.

Cole's signature dish? It's a struggle for him to choose his signature favorites, but...

"There is one item on my fresh sheet that I never change, because I think it's that perfect. That's the salmon with artichoke tartar sauce. It's a nice piece of Alaskan salmon basted with garlic vermouth butter, grilled and served over a nice spring green salad with raspberry vinaigrette and some blue cheese crumbles with a little mash potatoes," Cole says.

"It is one of those things I like to call a perfect pairing."

Maureen Post Special to staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.

After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.

Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.