Viva, Muerta, Viva

Viva la Frida in flux; Dagwood's to debut in Palm Harbor.

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Viva la Frida on again, off again, on again

Last week, it looked like Seminole Heights landmark Viva la Frida Café y Galeria had hosted its last supper. Reader Eric Sturm told the Weekly Planet that he and his girlfriend, Kimberly Finn, ate there Wednesday night and were told by waiters that the art gallery/ concert venue/ restaurant was closing its doors. The walls were bare of the distinctive art that was a large part of Viva's charm, the couple drank out of plastic and not glass, and kitchen staff were spotted tossing the inventory of food at the end of the night.

"It's kind of sad," Sturm said. "I'm glad we went. We had no idea it was their last night."

As we wrote earlier this year, one of Viva la Frida's owners, Angelica Diaz, wanted out, while the other, John Ames, was searching for a way to keep the restaurant open. Last we heard, he was vowing to keep the restaurant open "until further notice."

By afternoon on June 1, however, the story had changed, and the restaurant was still open. Ames explained by telephone that he had lined up a buyer — a sports bar operator with a Colorado investor. At the last minute, though, the buyer changed his mind. He didn't like the neighborhood.

"I'm open indefinitely right now. I'm cooking," Ames said. "I'm bringing the art back in."

Ames is continuing to seek a buyer. In the meantime, he's hoping his loyal fans will turn out for food, Thursday night jazz jams and the many concerts that he had canceled and will now have to re-book. —Wayne Garcia

The Sandwich Generation?

"Blondie" comic strip creator Dean Young has decided to take his popular comic strip character Dagwood Bumstead into the restaurant business. Young and Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppes LLC announced in May that they will be opening the first franchise location in mid-August in Tampa Bay.

Young, who took over the 75-year-old comic strip from his father in 1973, has his studio in Clearwater. He considers Dagwood, the sandwich-loving husband of Blondie, to be his alter ego, with a "PhD in sandwiches." According to a press release, he has been collecting sandwich recipes for years "and storing them away in a secret vault" for his themed restaurant.

Dagwood's will offer a range of sandwiches, including the skyscraper sandwich The Dagwood, deli-style corned beef and New Orleans po-boys, as well as soups and salads.

With more than 250 million "Blondie" readers in more than 55 countries, Young and his team are hoping to capitalize on the fame of the comic strip to create a chain of thousands of restaurants throughout the United States and abroad by 2008.

Lamar Berry, co-founder and CEO of Dagwood's, said in the release that "Baby Boomers — which we think of as the Sandwich Generation — are looking for a change, and we believe they're going to love what Dagwood's has to offer."

The first location will be located at the Coral Landing shopping center at the corner of U.S. 19 and Nebraska Avenue in Palm Harbor. For more information, visit

Publix v. Sweetbay in SoHo

The supermarket wars are on in the South Howard area. The Kash n' Karry at 2100 W. Swann Ave. is currently being converted into one of the chain's newer, more upscale Sweetbay stores. On Sunday, the market will open its new expanded produce section, although the transformation won't be officially complete until December. Also, Publix Supermarkets has proposed to open a new location a couple of blocks away on S. Armenia Avenue, between Platt and Swann streets. Publix has submitted its zoning request to the City Council for approval.

Know of restaurants opening or closing? Have news of new chefs, dishes or other culinary gossip? E-mail [email protected].

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