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It's a breezy bite of the Windy City

Won't your Windy City friends be impressed? Soon you can tell them where in these parts to get a Chicago beef sandwich.

Moxie's Downtown is scheduled to open March 7 at 514 N Tampa St. This will be the third Moxie's opened by Chicago natives Jim and Sandy Venetos. They've sold their W Kennedy Boulevard and Clearwater locations.

As they've increased their Moxie's moxie, they've found themselves toning down the Chicago references, in both decor and food.

Most of the sandwiches, for example, are served on Ybor City Cuban bread. That goes for the Chicago beef, a shaved roast beef 'wich with au jus and optional sweet peppers or giardinera relish (pickled Greek peppers, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery, red peppers, olives and onions).

But there's still other Chi-town references on the Moxie's sandwich list: North Shore reuben, Bull Market and the Sears Tower.

Salads, wraps and a breakfast menu will also be offered. And, yes, soda buffs, Jim did look into carrying Maine's Moxie soda, but couldn't find a local distributor. That's probably for the best.

The nation's oldest continually produced soft drink has been described by north Tampa soda collector John Lockhart as a mix between "ginger ale, root beer and cherry cough syrup."

Besides, the real reason behind the restaurant's name is because Moxie means "Guts, courage, perseverance," Venetos said. "Those are all the traits you need not only to be self-employed, but to be in the restaurant business."

He can talk. At age 20 he opened his first Subway sandwich shop franchise in downtown Chicago. He opened two more there, plus a pizza deli before fleeing for the Florida sun in 1996.

Venetos said Moxie's Downtown will seat about 86. Hours will be 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

SALAD SHOWDOWN SET: Mama Fu's Noodle House closed last week after a little more than a year at the SouthTown Center shopping plaza.

Business didn't pan out for the pan-Asian fast/casual restaurant, said Guy Campbell of GCF Ventures, the Tampa company that franchised Mama Fu's from Atlanta's Raving Brands.

But Raving Brands apparently hasn't given up on the new retail center at Dale Mabry Highway and Neptune Street.

Campbell said another Raving Brands concept, Doc Green's Gourmet Salads, will soon occupy the former Mama Fu's space.

Doc Green's offers specialty salads, build-your-own salads, flatbread sandwiches and dinner entrees. It will mark the restaurant's first site in the area, and others are planned for Orlando and Viera.

Doc Green's pending arrival sets up a South Tampa salad showdown, as Crispers is under construction across the street next to Publix. The Lakeland chain specializes in salads, soups and sandwiches and is majority-owned by Publix.

Moe's Southwest Grill, another Raving Brands concept franchised in the bay area by GCF Ventures, remains open in SouthTown Center.

Doc Green's has three locations in Georgia, one in Kentucky and one in Alabama.

BETWEEN NEBRASKA, DEEP BLUE SEA: The restaurant scene of Old Seminole Heights was upgraded from landlubber status with the Jan. 26 opening of the Blue Sea Seafood Market and Restaurant.

The 2,500-square-foot space at 7110 N Nebraska Ave. focuses on takeout meals and fresh and frozen seafood. Fried, steamed and broiled fish and shellfish come in sandwiches or packed with fries and hush puppies and cole slaw. Fried rice and fried chicken variations are also offered.

On any given day, you might find mullet, catfish, sand perch, sheep's head, snapper, grouper, catfish, angelfish, tilapia or croaker staring at you from behind the cooler glass. Many of those are also offered in filet, along with frozen shellfish.

Owner Young Ha, who runs the place with his wife, Emily Ha, said, "The community's been really nice and supporting us so far."

Blue Sea's opening coincides with news that the restaurant and entertainment-starved neighborhood is losing a major player, Viva la Frida Cafe y Galleria on Florida Avenue.

Young's parents are 15-year veterans of the seafood business, and used to run Fresh Fish Market Columbus and Tampa.

Blue Sea is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and has seating inside for about 16.

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3382, or e-mail mikecanninghotmail.com.

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