Palm Springs gets Alaska - with a bit of a twist

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2002

Palm Springs is about to get a taste of Juneau, with a twist.

Juneau restaurateur Murray Damitio is opening a branch of the Twisted Fish in the desert town in October. The new restaurant will feature fresh Alaska seafood and Alaska beer on tap.

"We're calling it the Twisted Fish Co. Alaskan Grill and kind of emphasizing the Alaskan Grill part," said Damitio, who is president of the corporations that own the Twisted Fish and the Hangar on the Wharf. "There's still a little mystique about Alaska."

The new restaurant is in the cultural center of Palm Springs, Calif., a district of galleries, antique stores, museums, performing arts and lots of restaurants.

"It's incredibly competitive; there are restaurants everywhere," Damitio said. "That whole desert area is just filled with steak houses."

He's hoping Alaska seafood will be a big hit in a region where beef dominates the dining scene. Damitio plans to take advantage of Alaska Airlines' several daily flights to Palm Springs to send fresh seafood when it's in season.

"The real issue for us is we're pretty proud of the Alaskan seafood industry," he said. "As far as seafood globally we have always felt it's a superior product and we have a certain amount of pride to be associated with that industry. We think it has a niche market that appeals to the more sophisticated seafood consumer."

The menu will follow the Juneau Twisted Fish menu, with some favorites from Hangar on the Wharf thrown in, and more buffalo entrees to appease carnivores. It also will be the most southern location to get Alaskan Brewing Co. ales on draft, said Christi Monroe, public relations director for Alaskan Brewing Co.

Similar in size to the Juneau restaurant, but with more outdoor seating, the Alaskan Grill will include a retail area selling Taku Smokery and Alaskan Brewery products.

Damitio expects that some of the Palm Springs diners will be coming for a taste of home.

"There are a lot of Alaskans that go to the desert in the winter," said Damitio, who has attended gatherings of more than 100 Alaskans in Palm Springs in previous years.

The Twisted Fish in Juneau stops having regular hours after the cruise ship season ends, opening only for special events. Now some of the staff will be able to work year-round, rotating between "sunshine in the winter and warm rain in the summer," Damitio said.

"It gives us the opportunity to use some of the nucleus of our staff in the wintertime," he said. "It's created a certain amount of excitement in our staff already."

Kristan Hutchison can be reached at khutchison@juneauempire.com.



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