All hail the gastro pub! America’s bastion of cheap but delicious cuisine and too many craft beers to try in one life time. The gastro pub as we know it today originated in the early 1990’s in (you guessed it) the United Kingdom. Once the reinvigorated idea of a pub serving hot food caught on in the land of fish and chips, naturally America “stole” the idea and ran crazy with it. At today’s modern gastro pub, one can find a range of crazy selections like hamburgers injected with cheese or pizzas with smothered with mashed potatoes.
Pittsburgh is definitely a gastro pub lover’s hidden treasure since the city has several unique (if relatively unknown outside of Pittsburgh) pubs to call its own. I will be reviewing a good majority of them in time, but this post is one big shout-out to Oakland’s own Fuel & Fuddle (affectionately called Fuel). For its superb location, killer eats, and spectacular deals, Fuel has Pitt students going in throngs, which is why I sat down with my good friend and roommate Roger SinClair (on his 20th birthday!) to review our other dear friend: Fuel.
Atmosphere and service: In the true style of a gastro pub, Fuel reflects its namesake with a wild, almost whimsical flair for automobiles, truck stops, and fuel pumps. The “traveling” theme works really well, creating a contrastingly relaxed and highly socialized vibe where you can kick back in the non-stuffiest way possible. Fuel is definitely not trying to take itself too seriously, working with, instead of against, the fact that it’s on a college campus. While the seating is a little cramped, it doesn’t take away from the overall atmosphere, which includes the use of subtle light fixtures and several televisions tuned to the sports of the hour. Our service, while definitely not 5-star, is intentionally casual; it reflects the clientele of the venue. Our server wasn’t peppy but yet still very attentive and accommodating with our orders.
Food: What else can be said besides utterly amazing! You should definitely not come here if you are focused on your low calorie diet, but even then when has that ever stopped a college student? We ordered what Fuel calls a “rollafatty” (tiny strombolis), the “kick-gas nachos” (nachos), and the “hog heaven” (pulled pork sandwich) with sweet potato and russet fries. I absolutely loved everything, with Roger giving special props to the nachos and the hog heaven. The rollafatty was crispy yet delicate, and the marinara sauce doesn’t overpower the cheese in the rollafatty like in some strombolis. The nachos are some of the best I’ve had, ever, which is a huge deal considering that’s a good 1/5 of a college person’s diet. Fuel doesn’t skip out on the toppings, and I actually had to dig to find more chips, but that’s just the way I like it. One almost has to eat these nachos with a fork and knife, that’s how dense this plate can be. We both recommend you get the chili with your nachos, it just adds an extra something to what’s already near perfect. Finally, my all-time favorite dish has got to be the hog heaven. I’m not sure if it’s the perfectly crispy sweet potato fries or the house-made chipotle horseradish sauce served on the side, but this pulled pork sandwhich is hard to beat. I always think that it could use more barbeque sauce (as every pulled pork sandwich since the beginning of time could use), but if that’s my only criticism, it’s easily rectified by asking your server for more. Overall, Roger and I were very full and very satisfied by what we had.
(As a side note, I’ve eaten at Fuel on numerous occasions, and although I didn’t sample any of these dishes this time around, I can also personally recommend the fire-baked brie, the smashed potato pizza, and the “hangover helper” hamburger as really good options).
Price: $40 for 2 hog heavens, a rollafatty, and some nachos isn’t bad at all. How could you get any cheaper? Well I’ll tell you! Starting at 11:00 pm, Fuel has a special “Late Night” menu where everything is five dollars. That’s right, only 5 dollars for everything on that menu after 11pm, an insane deal when all you have to do is go to bed a little later. Pitt students frequently take advantage of this deal but remember that seating at this time is first come first serve, no reservations, so be ready to get there early or you wait in line for affordable deliciousness.
The verdict: 8.0/10
Translation: A very solid gastro pub with a large offering of food (and beers, which I didn’t get to try since I was a day from turning 21!) and a very easy going atmosphere. This joint is best for a relaxing evening with friends or a quick late night bite, and while definitely not an elegant establishment, Fuel is among Oakland and Pittsburgh’s beloved for artery-clogging goodness.
Roger’s take: The food is definitely the staple at Fuel: it’s affordable, delicious, and perfect for the college student. The only drawback in my mind is that it’s a little too loud for conversation, but that’s just the atmosphere you get. Fuel is the best when you’re just hanging with friends, a great place for some good college grub.
Roger is a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Finance and minoring in Statistics and hailing from Cornwall, New York. He would like to give a big shout-out to his hometown of Cornwall and could always use a few more Instagram followers: https://www.instagram.com/rsinclair96/?hl=en
Fuel and Fuddle is a “lively little joint” situated in the heart of the Oakland area of Pittsburgh on Oakland Avenue. Fuel serves “great wild fire food and chilled beer on tap” that is second to none in the area. Check it out for a cool and casual night sometime with your peeps: http://fuelandfuddle.com/