BRADENTON -- It's out with the piano and in with a sushi menu for one of downtown Bradenton's bars.
Though the word sushi tends to scare some people, Kevin Maleady, 42, hopes his creations will lure people in rather than repel them. Maleady is the head chef at downtown Bradenton's newest sushi bar, The Fish. He helped open the sushi bar at Mattison's, now Pier 22, when the restaurant opened. He spent 10 years there, six of which he used to craft his sushi skills.
He's already put some of his inventions, such as the Italian Roll, on The Fish's soft opening menu which offers a half off discount on all items. The Italian Roll has mozzarella, basil and roasted red peppers wrapped in soy paper with a Bruschetta topping. The Fish has licenses to serve beer, wine and liquor and added "fishbowl drinks," or cocktails served in large, bulbous glasses. The establishment passed its state-required health inspection on Dec. 11, according to state records.
"We're trying to do a little bit of our own twist on American sushi," Maleady said. Other unique items, including a peanut butter and jelly roll, will arrive on The Fish's menu after their Jan. 22 grand opening. The Fish uses True World Foods, with locations in Tampa and Miami, to bring in most of its seafood. They will use Joe Island Clams out of Palmetto for clams and oysters when the menu expands.
The Fish opened the day before Thanksgiving after a yearlong remodel process. The grand piano, a central focus of the location's former business Pub 88, was removed to allow for more seating. New flooring and paint were part of the remodel as well as an expansion of the back of the bar and the bathrooms. About 500 square feet were added, bringing the total up to 1,500 from 1,000.
Gary Walczak, the owner of The Fish, always wanted to offer sushi at 426 12th St. W. and when he began planning the menu expansion, he realized he could create more space. The expansion allowed for two bathrooms instead of one and left room for a sushi bar for Maleady to work on.
Walczak, 36, said the bar needed the expansion for several reasons.
"It was getting too congested in here and the bathrooms were a major problem," he said. He's hoping the remodel and addition of a sushi menu will bring in a more upscale crowd. He owned a bar in his hometown of Kent, Ohio and also owns the Drive 2Day used car dealership in Bradenton. He also invests money and time into flipping houses as a part of his company, Southwest Investments of Florida LLC.
Walczak noticed sushi was up and coming in the past couple of years and wanted to get a slice of the action. His two daughters, Chelsea, 10 and Cayla, 16 even like sushi now, he said.
Along with bringing in a more upscale crowd, Walczak hopes the menu will entice a lunch and dinner crowd. The pub was always busy during nighttime hours, he said, but traffic became "extremely slow" during the day and evening hours. The Fish plans to offer call-ahead ordering as well as delivery services within a half mile radius after the grand opening weekend.
Walczak enjoys downtown Bradenton and hopes The Fish will take off on the growing Old Main Street.
"I really like downtown," Walczak said. "It's calm, but busy for a little town. And there's always something going on."
Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter@jayohday.