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Bar Sun Mar 29 2009

Only half a tank at Fuel

FuelFuel, opening officially this Wednesday in the old Blend space on Division, is sleek and pretty, but like a teenager sneaking a joy ride with daddy's vintage wheels, doesn't seem entirely sure where it wants to go. Pulling a double-shift as a coffee shop by day, loungey bar by night, Fuel seems to be trying to be all things to all people who might be strolling through east Wicker Park. High-gloss molded plastic tables and chairs evoke a kind of 50's car hop feel, as do the converted gas pumps showing off the liquid goods, while plasma screens and a DJ booth are as contemporary as the baffling but still unchecked upscale sports bar trend. (Hub 51, I'm looking at you.) An online menu promises such luxe libations as an Apple Cucumber mojito and Lavazza espresso infused cocktail, though no drink list was available or even mentioned when I visited. No beers are on tap, and $5 or more for a beer always makes me cringe when Gold Star or Rainbo are but a hop, skip and a sip away.

While I always appreciate a bar with a food menu, the eats at Fuel seemed only half baked. Unremarkable but nicely sized fried chicken sliders come three to a plate, an awkward number to share, served with a single slice of tomato, leaf of lettuce, pickle slice and dab of coleslaw on the side. Guacamole is remarkably flavorful, studded with tomato and jalepenos, but served with the most bland and industrial tortilla chips I've seen since my central Wisconsin school lunch nachos. Crispy crab wontons boast a creative filling favoring vegetables and crab to cream cheese, with a bright lime note against the sweet and saltiness. But an unbalanced sticky-sweet chili sauce and undercooked dough make for an uninspiring appetizer overall.

In the end, the unadventurous food didn't much live up to the sleeker surroundings, expect perhaps in its unevenness. Fuel is new, and I remain optimistic about all coffee-shop openings in the neighborhood -- particularly those that can spike their espresso with other bar offerings. But as it is, Fuel seems like it could use a better-focused and thought out tune-up to really make it.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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About Drive-Thru

Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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