By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 10, 2019 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

It’s almost time for North Shore residents to put on their oyster-eating pants on.

That’s because, after a brief soft opening period, St. Paul Fish Company will officially open its doors to the public at 6200 W. Mequon Rd. on Saturday, May 18.

The seafood market and restaurant, which was established at the Milwaukee Public Market in 2005, will be the first tenant to open for business at Spur 16, the mixed-use development project which includes the Mequon Public Market and a combination of luxury apartments and townhomes.

We were fortunate enough to have a sneak peek at the new venue, which is located inside an historic building, which was part of the Mequon River Cannery, an operation which processed and packaged string beans and lima beans under the Donald Duck brand in the 1950s.

The layout and design of the space – which combines a mix of modern industrial elements with the feel of the North Atlantic coast – was executed with the help of Jake Knox and the folks at 5253 Design Collective and Lucky Star Workshop

The market, bar and restaurant

Upon entry, folks will happen first upon the fish market, which features a rotating selection of seasonal seafood from shrimp and grouper to scallops, whitefish, walleye and salmon, all of which is flown in fresh daily from suppliers all over the world.

Step a bit farther inside and you’ll happen upon a hallway guarded by an overhead octopus.

The restaurant bar, which combines rich blue hues with pops of brass and a variety of nautical decor. Meanwhile, a charcoal grey brick wall painted with white lettering offers a nod to the hand-painted signs of yore.

Meanwhile, on the opposite wall, you'll find playful illustrations inspired by the iconic look of Sailor Jerry tattoos. Knox says the illustrations will eventually be accompanied by informative plaques which offer information about each design as well as bits of tattoo history.

Belly up to the bar and you can enjoy.cocktails, wine and a selection of tap beers, along with food from the St. Paul menu. In the weeks ahead, a portion of the bar will also feature a fresh oyster shucking station from which bar-goers can obtain fresh oysters on the half shell.

The hallway between the bar and dining room is filled with random fish art along with historical photos, one of which depicts the site of the Milwaukee Public Market ages before St. Paul Fish Co. was even a glimmer in Owner Tim Collins' eye.

Meanwhile, the main dining room, which seats just over 100 guests, features a bright airy feel with both booth and table seating and a variety of points of visual interest.

The walls hold a combination of old photos, vintage signage and modern pops of fish-themed art. Meanwhile, lend your eyes toward the ceiling and you'll note wooden slats reminiscent of those along a lake pier ... you might spy a stray boat ... or these vibrantly hued fish made from upcycled burlap coffee bags.

There's much to be found in the little touches. That includes the booths, which were designed to mimic the look of seafood shipping crates (they'll soon be decked out with red padded seats). 

... and also the overhead lighting made from East Coast lobster traps.

There's also whimsy aplenty in elements like the collection of "Victorian mermaids" designed by Oak Creek artist Jan Massie.

Oh, yeah. There are also these fun two-tops augmented by (comfy) boat seats.

On the menu

Menu options mimic much of what's available at the Milwaukee Public Market, plus a few additions. That includes starters like oyster shooters ($3); fried oysters ($8.95); steamed mussels and Manila clams ($8.95/$9.95); shrimp cocktail ($14.95/lb); crab cakes ($9.95) and herring ($5.95).

There are also po'boys (beef, shrimp, tilapia, oyster, clam and catfish, $10.95-$11.95) and East Coast rolls (lobster or King crab, $15.95 each) along with a long list of sandwiches from tuna salad croissants to fried grouper and blackened salmon ($9.95-$13.95).

Entrees include St. Paul's famous grilled fish dinners, with a choice fish including halibut, swordfish, salmon, walleye or mahi mahi served grilled or blackened with jasmine rice, vegetables and a choice of sauces ($14.95-$24.95). Specialty entrees include a live Maine lobster dinner for $17.95, bouillabaisse ($21.95) or a St. Paul  Steak dinner featuring twin 4-ounce petite filets grilled or blackened with rice, vegetables and steak butter ($25.95).

Private dining

St. Paul Fish Co. also boasts a private dining area called the Grouper Room, which can be reserved for special events. The area features flexible banquette and table seating, as well as a large glass garage door which opens onto an outdoor patio. In the weeks ahead, it will also feature an impressive collaborative art installation created with multi-media fish art created by students from the Mequon and Cedarburg school districts.

The capacity of the private room is 20-40 inside (depending on the seating arrangement) and a maximum of 120 with the addition of outdoor patio space.

St. Paul Fish Co. will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.