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Fuel & Fuddle reopens, with menu changes, after fire

The popular Oakland Avenue restaurant closed for renovations after a fire April 28 and reopened Aug. 5. (credit: Braden Kelner/Editor-in-Chief) The popular Oakland Avenue restaurant closed for renovations after a fire April 28 and reopened Aug. 5. (credit: Braden Kelner/Editor-in-Chief)

For students who lived in Pittsburgh for the summer, it was a long-awaited event; for students returning to campus in the fall, the reopening of Fuel & Fuddle is just in time for the beginning of the new semester.

The Oakland restaurant and bar reopened Aug. 5 after a chimney fire caused it to close for a three-month restoration process.

The fire occurred April 28 and prompted kitchen repairs, as well as a transfer in ownership to returning manager Brandon Smith, who worked at Fuel for 13 years before leaving to start his own establishment nearly a year ago.

Aside from physical alterations, Smith also introduced menu and pricing changes to the popular student destination. While Smith kept two-thirds of the menu items from before the restaurant’s closing, he also added many new options.

Among the menu additions are expanded wing options, hanger steak, fried pork chops, and a new cocktail menu.

Existing menu items also come with a few ingredient enhancements, including a custom ground burger blend and a homemade marinara sauce for the restaurant’s pizzas.

Importantly, Fuel’s long-standing tradition of half-price food on weeknights after 11 p.m. has changed.

Instead, Fuel will offer a $5 menu after 11 p.m. on weeknights different from the regular full-price menu. With this change, Smith intends to eliminate confusion over which items are covered under the week- night deal and which are not.

In addition to menu changes, the physical space has also seen minor touch-ups, including new lighting and a fresh paint job.

“We took advantage of the time we were closed to make the place look better,” Smith said.

Regarding his reasons for taking over Fuel, Smith ex- plained that former owners Mike Hanley and Jerry Dilembo arranged a private sale, choosing to focus efforts on their three Burgatory restaurant locations.

“Fuel just needed someone to be here to take care of it,” Smith said. “It takes a lot to run it.”

Aside from the business opportunity, the decision to come back to Fuel was also a personal one for Smith. His most recent venture is The Korner Pub, a Mt. Lebanon craft beer and hard cider den — but Smith was drawn back to Fuel because of its distinctive character.

“Our food is better, and we kind of have more of a restaurant atmosphere more than we have a bar atmosphere,” Smith said. “It never hits really loud in here.”

“We try to make sure everyone feels welcome, young or old,” Smith said. “It’s all about the environment.”
Smith assured future visitors that Fuel is the same place as it was before the fire, with a few adjustments.

We’re ready to go,” he said.