Spit Fire Grille stays off the beaten path

Homer chef offers first-rate fare over fast food
By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

Mike Hiller knows his Spit-Fire Grille is tucked out of the way, but figures once people find him, they won’t soon forget the little café that overlooks both Homer Harbor and Kachemak Bay.
Hiller hitched to Alaska 11 years ago without knowing anyone here. In fact, he’d never even met an Alaskan before. He eventually made his way to Homer and camped out on the Spit.
“The name Spit-Fire meant a lot of things to me,” Hiller explained. “I enjoyed the spit-fires, but it’s really more of an attitude. We like to have fun.”
Spit Fire is also a comic book series, a skateboard brand, an airplane and brewery.
For the past three years, Hiller has operated the Spit-Fire Grille, where people can find Cobb sandwiches and buffalo burgers, fresh-baked goods, locally grown veggies and whatever catch is brought to him that day by fishermen.
“Fresh is very important to me,” Hiller said. “That’s why I don’t keep frozen fish around. I don’t cook the fish because it’s what the tourists want, I do it according to whatever the vendors bring.”
Some local produce-growers keep plots reserved just for the Spit-Fire Grille. With baker Morgan Peters, the small restaurant supplies baked goods for the K-Bay Café, Spit Sisters and Homestead, among others. And all of the fare comes from a small, but efficient, kitchen in the Grille, right next door to El Pescador.
Hiller trained in kitchens from Texas to San Francisco to Alaska, learning new dishes or techniques along the way.  He likes to keep learning, even from his employees.
“And I’ve always surrounded myself with employees who are better than me,” he said.
Spit-Fire Grille employs four additional people during the summer: Svea Olsen, Ryan Lee, Madalyn Barelle and Andrea West.
And while Hiller doesn’t promise fast food, and can’t always provide a place to sit when stools inside begin to overflow to the outside deck, he certainly makes up for an inconvenience with some pretty incredible fare.
“I do promise a cool atmosphere, local stuff and good food,” he said.
Though he’s located on the Spit during the summer, Hiller said he figures about 50 percent of his customers are locals — not tourists. And while it took a while for people to finally find the place, this summer, his business seems to be humming along.
“It’s just really taken off,” he said.
During the winter months, Hiller does in-house, fine-line production work for local artists. He is married to artist Marjorie Scholl. 

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Posted by on Jul 2nd, 2008 and filed under Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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