No sooner had we lamented the loss of ten of our favorite bars and restaurants in 2015 than another forerunner in Denver's homegrown food scene pulled up stakes. Fuel Cafe, one of the pioneers of the River North district, is now closed in the TAXI development on Ringsby Court.
Chef/owner Bob Blair opened Fuel in 2008 in the hinterland of what is now one of Denver's hottest culinary neighborhoods. But even now, the TAXI development feels isolated, on the wrong side of the Platte River for easy access — which is fine for residents who want a home near the heart of the action but with enough of a remove to maintain peace and quiet, but not so good for an eatery trying to attract business.
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Still, those with a taste for straightforward, ingredient-driven grub were drawn to Blair's seasonal menu that never strained with pretension or took liberties with forced flavor combinations. Fuel seemed both cutting-edge and timeless, where a simple open-faced, smoked-trout sandwich at lunch could satisfy as much as perfect polenta and pillowy gnocchi on the dinner menu.
The plug has also been pulled on sibling breakfast stop Refuel in the same development. We'll miss Fuel for its sun-drenched open patio, its excellent wine list and its focus on food first rather than fanfare. But we still have our memories of many meals there, and one particularly noteworthy Westword Christmas party.