THE LONGEST WAIT

From North Port to Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte to Englewood, there are no fewer than 20 new food establishments on the way.

All this activity bears watching ... and waiting. Sometimes for a very, very long time.

No matter what well-meaning owners might say, opening to the public always takes longer than they think.

Drive around to a few of these locations and you’ll see for yourself how close a grand or even a squishy opening is.

One much-anticipated eatery has a mostly empty dumpster parked out front and a few boards piled up, idle, inside. Another has an unfinished interior littered with plywood, insulation and debris. Maybe they’ll open by season if all goes well, but it probably won’t.

Neck and neck in the grand opening race are a couple of new venues that are actively hiring — a good omen for Port Charlotte’s Lime Tequila and Punta Gorda Diner, in the former Burnt Store Grille space at Burnt Store Promenade.

The new diner is completely renovated, from faux driftwood flooring to fresh paint, wall décor, plumbing, electric and kitchen equipment.

Still, our money’s on Lime Tequila to open first.

Owner Vicente Mata, the local restaurateur who seems to believe there’s no such thing as too many Tequilas, already has two others — Blue and Pink Tequila — in North Port. He’d hoped to start serving margaritas and Mex on Nov. 1 at his new, 150-seat Kings Crossing location, but now he’s aiming for sometime in November.

We won’t even touch the question: Why another Mexican restaurant? Though Port Charlotte alone will soon boast eight of them (counting two south-of-the-border food trucks), Mata confidently staked his claim far away from all the competition.

Pink Tequila was recently named winner of the Sarasota Post’s best taco, and Lime will be no exception.

Lime Tequila ($-$$), 1978 Kings Highway (corner of Rampart and Kings Highway), will soon open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 10 p.m., Sunday to 8 p.m.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Not much in the last two years has proven easy for Pamela and Calvin Trout‘s provisionally titled Smuggler’s Cove Tiki Bar & Restaurant, coming to 4043 Duncan Road, on the Peace River and SR 17 in Punta Gorda.

It has endured one of the longest delays in recent restaurant reckoning.

After endless permitting with Charlotte County Stormwater Management, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, and the Florida Department of Transportation, Pamela recently reported “still waiting on the FDOT permit, but everything else has been approved for the final site plan. Hopefully by the time we have our final site plan approval, the building plans will be ready to submit.”

Meanwhile, it’s farewell, Smuggler’s Cove.

Not the place; just its name.

“Apparently,” said Pamela, “someone in California trademarked the name Smuggler’s Cove in 2011. We welcome suggestions, but want to stay with something nautical, keeping away from local pirate and fisherman themes.”

IF IT WEREN’T FOR BAD LUCK

It wasn’t the first near-disaster for Venice’s beloved 30-year-old Yummies Donuts & BBQ.

Four years ago, owners Karen and Allen Tines survived a nail-biter search for a new location, only to find themselves in a three-car fender-bender and have a tornado rip the roof off their new home in Ark Plaza.

Customers stood their ground mid-order during the twister, insisting on their doughnuts while Sarasota County firefighters insisted they evacuate.

At the time, Karen said, prophetically, “We can’t make this stuff up. We’re afraid to ask what’s next.”

Now they know.

Late last Saturday, two teens lost control in a stolen car chase and slammed through the shop’s wall.

Karen reflected, “This is another trial. We don’t know why these things keep happening. It is difficult, challenging and exhausting. Could these be huge signs telling us to close Yummies?”

Apparently not. She began once again counting blessings instead of blows.

No one was injured. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s office nabbed the teens and secured the property. Sarasota County firefighters righted a flattened Coke cooler, removed water and debris. The landlord helped board up a gaping hole.

“They all knew we needed to open at 6 a.m. Sunday morning,” Karen said. “We made it just in time so that our Yummies family could have their Sunday coffee and doughnuts.”

Yummies Donuts & BBQ ($), 941-493-7170, 2001 Tamiami Trail (Ark Plaza), Venice, is still making the doughnuts, Tuesday to Sunday 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

TRUCKS AND TREAT

For more than 20 years, Punta Gorda’s 1st United Methodist Church has hosted a Cars & Candy Halloween festival on church property, drawing 5,000 visitors and 25 vintage automobiles decked out for trunk and treat.

Until now, it was just cars, candy, popcorn and ice cream. This year, you can have a whole Halloween dinner there, from 13 of the area’s swelling convoy of food trucks. The church has invited them to park, fee-free, along McGregor, in what has become the Cars ‘N Candy Food Truck Rally.

Participating mobile vendors are Danny’s Food Truck, Frankly Dogs & More, The Grilling Shack, The Hunger Station, It’s a Hot Dog Day, Kona Ice, Ma Petite Creperie, One Two Tea Bubble Tea, Puerto Rican Spice, The Traveling Noodle, Vesuvius Pizza, Wally’s BBQ and Wonderland Cookie Dough Co.

1st United Methodist Church is at 507 W. Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda. For this year’s event, Thursday, Oct. 31, from 5 to 9 p.m., the city will for the first time close Marion Avenue from U.S. 41 to McGregor Street, as well as side streets from W. Retta Esplanade to W. Olympia Avenue.

Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at suewade47@aol.com

Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage.

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