100 Favorite Dishes: Pan Bagnat at Fuel Cafe
Fuel Cafe smokes steelhead trout for its open-face sandwich.
No. 36: Pan Bagnat at Fuel Cafe
A thoughtfully constructed Nicoise salad accompanied by a crusty chunk of bread can make for a perfect lunch. The variety and freshness of the ingredients combine with a filling serving of fish and eggs to create a healthy and nourishing dish — superfood in salad form to get you through until dinner. It's fuel for the body and brain, and where else to top off than Fuel Cafe, chef/owner Bob Blair's outpost on what's still the edgiest edge of the River North district, even after seven years.
Pan bagnat is a traditional Provencal sandwich that's nothing more than a Nicoise salad between bread. Fuel's version is served open-faced on top of a fat slab of hearth-dark country bread from Babette's, the artisan bakery inside the nearby Source. Tradition and ingenuity mingle on the bread, with crisp green beans, cornichons (that's little pickles if your kitchen French is rusty), cucumber and olives glued down with a thick spackle of butter. A generous mound of house-smoked steelhead trout spills onto the plate all around the pan bagnat, unfettered by the need to stay within the bounds of a traditional sandwich. Creamy aioli — a garlic-tinged blend true to Provencal tradition — and a side of lettuce glistening with sherry mustard vinaigrette balance the smoke of the fish with bright lemon and vinegar. Halves of egg, cooked so that the yolks are still gelid, round out the satisfying dish.
Fuel Cafe always feels like a find, even after repeated visits. A table in the sun on the patio, cooled by a breeze, could almost pass for a table at a rural French cafe — but for the industry surrounding the Taxi development on the banks of the Platte River. But whether you're sitting outside or inside the bustling dining room, you'll find the pan bagnat a welcome time-out from the clamorous world beyond.
Although the Best of Denver 2015 edition is out, we'll keep counting down the contenders for the best dishes in the city in advance of Westword's Dish event on September 20, where many of our Best of Denver winners — along with other favorites — will congregate to serve up small plates. If there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section, or shoot us an e-mail at email@example.com.
Hungry for more? All the dishes in our countdown are linked below.
No. 100: Chile Relleno at La Fiesta
No. 99: Gurage Kitfo at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant
No. 98: Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class
No. 97: The Greggers Tongue Sandwich at Olive & Finch
No. 96: Baum Cakes at Glaze by Sasa
No. 95: Goat hot pot from Viet's
No.94: Head cheese from Beast + Bottle
No. 93: Kettle Chips from Amerigo Delicatus
No. 92: Pork Belly Confit at Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar
No. 91: Tacos Campechanos from La Calle Taqueria
No. 90: Biscuits from Denver Biscuit Co.
No. 89: Clams and Chorizo at Gozo
No. 88: Aburi Sushi at Sushi Den and Izakaya Den
No. 87: Kimchi and Sausage Torta at City, O' City
No. 86: Mar y Tierra Molcajete at Paxia
No. 85: Crispy Pork Spare Ribs at Table Top
No. 84: Chips and Dip at Euclid Hall
No. 83: Chile Relleno Burrito at El Taco de Mexico
No. 82: Scallop Crudo at Stoic & Genuine
No. 81: Ceylon Curry Dosa at Khazana
No. 80: The Lambada Torta at La Torteria
No. 79: Pork Bulgogi at Dae Gee
No. 78: the Pulled Pork Pig Pen Sandwich at Boney's
No. 77: IPA Mac & Cheese at Hops & Pie
No. 76: Chiles en Nogada at Chili Verde
No. 75: Udon Noodle Bowl at Bones
No. 74: Cinnamon Rolls at the Duffeyroll Cafe
No. 73: Smoked Turkey Croque-Madame at Acorn
No. 72: Pickled Lake Michigan Perch at Trillium
No. 71: Oysters at Jax Fish House Glendale
No. 70: Venezuelan Tostadas at Empanada Express Grill
No. 69: Tahini Cauliflower from Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
No. 68: The Ham and Cheese Tartita from Maria Empanada
No. 67: Ronnie's Favorite from Rosenberg's Bagels and Deli
No. 66: Shoo-fly Pie from the Long i Pie Shop
No. 65: Czech Potato Pancakes at Sobo 151
No. 64: Fried Chicken at the Post Brewing Co.
No. 63: Braised Brisket Sandwich at Masterpiece Delicatessen
No. 62: The Scotch Egg from Argyll Whisky Beer
No. 61: Butternut Squash Ravioli at DiFranco's
No. 60: Sesame Balls at Vinh Xuong Bakery
No. 59: Curry Puffs at Suvipa Thai Food
No. 58: Diavola Pizza at Pizzeria Locale
No. 57: Chorizo Breakfast Stew at DJ's 9th Avenue Cafe
No. 56: The Rare Beast Sandwich at Salt & Grinder
No. 55: 48-Hour Short Ribs at Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery
No. 54: Marrow Bone Brulee at Mercantile Dining & Provision
No. 53: Prawns and Pork Belly at Blackbelly Market
No. 52: Belgian Waffles from Waffle Up
No. 51: Nashville Hot Chicken at Lou's Food Bar
No. 50: Breakfast Burrito from Chickee's Lil Kitchen
No. 49: Monkfish and Romanesco at TAG
No. 48: Cabeza Tacos at Taqueria El Trompito
No. 47: Pupusas Revueltas at Pupuseria San Salvador
No. 46: Sesame Pockets at Golden Plate II
No. 45: Tuna Mousse at Cart-Driver
No. 44: Tavern Tots at the Highland Tavern
No. 43: Carne Asada Fries at North County
No. 42: Pho at Wonderbowl
No. 41: Shredded Bison at Tocabe
No. 40: Nachos al Pastor from Tony Guacamole
No. 39: Prosciutto Pop Tart from Bakin' Bakery
No. 38: Ham and Egg Congee at Onefold
No 37: Lao Sausage at the Asian Cajun
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Denver dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.