Tastes of Alaska


Waitress Jennifer Mezo checks on Naval Reserve recruiters Roland Jenkins and David Humphrey while they share a meal at Gainesville's new Alaskan seafood eatery, Pole Benders. The restaurant opened Tuesday.

(ANDRA PARRISH/Special to The Sun)
Published: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 1:44 a.m.

Downtown Gainesville is getting a taste of the Alaskan cold, not from the recent freezing temperatures but from a new restaurant that is introducing Alaskan seafood to the area.

Pole Benders, which opened Tuesday, specializes in Alaskan seafood dishes such as halibut nachos but also serves steak, chicken, burgers and vegetarian dishes.

"We wanted a place that would appeal to people working downtown and students," said Brandon Held, the University of Florida graduate student who manages the restaurant. Held's father, Randy, owns the restaurant, which is modeled after the seafood restaurant his father owns in Juneau, Alaska. Held said that he and his father wanted to see how well it would work in a place besides Alaska.

"Alaskan seafood is a completely new meal concept for this area," he said.

The options include salmon, shrimp, clams, halibut, homemade clam chowder and soon, king crab.

Held described halibut as an all-white meat that could be mistaken for chicken if it weren't moist and flaky.

"Even if you don't like fish, you'll like halibut," he said.

Chef Matt Conway said the lunch menu features more items for patrons on the go, while the dinner menu offers meals meant for diners looking to relax.

Lunch prices average about $6 and dinner meals range from about $9 to $15. Pole Benders is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday-Saturday.

Pole Benders, located on SE 2nd Avenue and Main Street, is the moniker deep-sea fishermen use for halibut so large that they bend the fishing pole.

The seafood at the Gainesville restaurant is flown in from Alaska using the same supplier his father uses, Held said.

The eatery's decor is based on that of an Alaskan cabin, with a decking floor, an Alaskan nature mural and other decorations that bring "a feel of Alaskan culture."

Meanwhile, across town, the owners of Daniela's Ristorante have completed its move. Daniela's, known for its wine and Italian cuisine, closed its location on Highway 441 in late September and recently reopened in Thornebrook Village at 2441 NW 43rd St.

"We've completely renovated the space toward our needs," said Leigh Love, a co-owner of the restaurant.

Love said the move to Thornebrook allowed the restaurant to add a wine bar and increase seating capacity.

Daniela's is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

In other restaurant news, Semolina International Pasta in The Oaks Plaza has closed.

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