By Maureen Post Special to Published May 29, 2009 at 11:25 AM

Usually, restaurant renovation and redevelopment adds high end features, fine art and expensive trim. But to create the authentic southern fish house look of Molly Cool's Seafood Tavern, owners did just the opposite.

Located at 1110 N. Old World 3rd St., Molly Cool's Seafood Tavern recently opened in the space formerly occupied by high end steakhouses Kincaid's and Third Street Pier. Serving the same culinary specialty of seafood and steak, Molly Cool's takes it down a notch with a much more casual, southern style atmosphere.

When Kincaid's closed in March, Molly Cool's Fish Café waited only days before scooping up the space and envisioning a new look for the Riverwalk Restaurant.

Modeled after Stella's Fish Café in Minneapolis, Molly Cool's traded fine dining aesthetic for an ambiance of catchy phrases, family photos and paper placemat dining in just six weeks. Swapping hard wood floors for speckled linoleum flooring and traditional formal dining for high top bar style seating, Molly Cool's is looking to break the typical seafood stop trend.

"We replaced the formal seating and installed all high tops. Now every seat in the house has a view of the river," Regional Executive Chef Chad Rassmussen says.

The menu is extensive. Focused on fresh seafood, the menu lists several "catch of the day" items, mussels, lobster, fish fry and seafood sandwich. But seafood isn't the only thing coming out of the kitchen. Steaks and burgers are available as well as salads, pastas and stews.

Transforming the existing lower bar along the river into a raw bar serving oysters and sushi, Molly Cool's added a long bar to the upper level.

"Milwaukeeans want somewhere that's comfortable with plenty of room for a good happy hour. We just didn't think the existing bar was enough space," Rassmussen says.

In the kitchen as well, Molly Cool's is redefining the "chain" restaurant image. Although owned in conglomeration with restaurants in Austin, Miami and Minneapolis, Molly Cool's opts for preparation and cooking techniques typically practiced by independently owned establishments. From stuffing grouper with a homemade brie mixture to individually breading coconut shrimp, the kitchen at Molly Cool's preps everything in-house.

"Everything we do is fresh, that's what we do. Either make it fresh and right or don't make it at all," says Chad Rassmussen, regional executive chef.

"Stella's Fish Café, our Minneapolis restaurant, started with a very southern style menu. We used to even have chicken and waffles on the menu. But now, we still do creoles in the winter and we have fried green tomatoes cooked in bacon fat year round," says Rassmussen.

Rassmussen believes the jambalaya is their signature dish. Not hesitating to rate it with the best of New Orleans, Molly Cool's version uses 26 ingredients including Pritzlaff Andouille sausage, shrimp, chicken, Tasso spice cured ham and ground beef and pork dirty rice.

"It's impossible for us to get 100% organic seafood and still have a good selection due to American regulations. But what I am is smart about sustainability; I really consider the type, age and location of the fish we order. It's what the customers want," Rassmussen says.

"Molly Cool's is based around the same idea that is Stella's but here we've combined Stella's lunch and dinner menus into one all day menu to allow a slightly lower price point," Rassmussen says.

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.