Sun Dog Owners Michael and Barbie Barry Buy La Plancha del MarSun Dog Owners Michael and Barbie Barry Buy La Plancha del Mar


Barry’s new restaurant Virgin Fire will feature spices and flavors inspired by cultures found throughout the Caribbean.

Five years after opening the original doors to La Plancha del Mar, owners Jason Howard and Jonathan Fritts recently sold the popular Cruz Bay restaurant to Sun Dog Cafe owners Michael and Barbie Barry.

Howard and Fritts along with Chef Mike Prout, who died in 2011, opened La Plancha on the second floor of The Marketplace — in what is now Nature’s Way health food store — in January 2009.

With a slick look and zest for adventure, the trio raised the island’s culinary bar and cocktail expectations. Serving up inventive drinks like guava passion fruit sangria and carambola mojitos alongside Prout’s modern cuisine focused on fresh, local ingredients, quickly drew La Plancha a loyal and enduring fan base.

Those fans followed the trio when they moved the restaurant from The Marketplace to Mongoose Junction in the former Paradiso restaurant location. The move allowed the three to expand La Plancha’s food and drink menu as it remained one of the most popular Cruz Bay restaurants.

In addition to running La Plancha, Howard and Fritts opened Zero Sushi in the former Happy Fish location on the second floor of The Marketplace last year and have been serving up fresh rolls and other Asian food to a steady clientele ever since.

 Last week on La Plancha’s Facebook page, a post thanked their supporters for five years of ups and downs.

“Thank you all for your support and your friendship,” according to the post. “We look forward to serving you in our new location. Big thanks to all our friends, family, and friends who have become family, for the amazing support you’ve given us over the last five years.”

“It’s been a roller coaster of incredible fun and unbelievable sadness, and you’ve all been behind us 100 percent,” according to the post on Facebook. “It’s with a heavy heart (although a lightened load) that we are announcing the sale of La Plancha del Mar to Michael Barry.”

Barry and his wife Barbie have been running Sun Dog Cafe at Mongoose Junction — just a few steps away from the entrance to what was La Plancha — since 1994. Barry announced the pair’s new acquisition in an email and Facebook post last week.

“Just wanted to mention that Barbie and I have purchased the La Plancha del Mar restaurant, formerly Paradiso, adjacent to our Sun Dog Cafe operation in beautiful Mongoose Junction,” Barry wrote. “We plan to operate the restaurant as the La Plancha Test Kitchen for just 10 days, in order to get a feel for how it operates. We will then close the restaurant beginning July 11, remodel it and open it with a new concept: Virgin Fire Bar & Grill, in October.”

Barry chose the new name to reflect the new restaurant’s focus on Caribbean spices and culinary influences, he explained.

“We chose the new name based on the idea that what we will be serving will be locally sourced whenever possible and locally inspired when not,” wrote the restaurant owner.

“The region has a very broad culinary tradition, with influences whose roots are African, Amerindian, British, Dutch, French, Indian and Spanish, and was the hub of the spice trade in colonial days. Our menu will reflect the vibrant tastes of those spices, and we are developing spice rubs, chutney, curries and jerk recipes that our guests will be able to use at home.”

Sun Dog Cafe fans can rest assured the restaurant will retain its funky vibe and continue to serve up lunch, dinner and brunch all summer long. The popular Sun Dog Cafe Wednesday night open mic jams are also scheduled to continue through August, Barry explained.

Barry also thanked the Sun Dog Cafe staff for allowing him to expand his Mongoose Junction presence.

“The expansion of our business is very exciting to us personally and we want to thank our Sun Dog Staff for putting us in a position of strength from which we are able to grow,” Barry wrote. “Sun Dog Cafe will retain it’s own quirky identity, be open throughout the off season and do all of the things that we all love it for. Join us for Lunch, Dinner, Brunch and the incredible Wednesday Night Jam, which will run until early August.”

For Howard and Fritts, be sure to stop Zero Sushi at The Marketplace to see what those two creative minds come up with next.