As someone who writes about food, I often find myself eating the same type of dish dozens of times, and it can get wearisome. But then a chef comes along and pulls me out of my stupor by elevating a classic menu item to new heights. Such is the case at Fuel Cafe, the industrial-hip spot inside the TAXI development, near the River North Art District.

In the creative hands of chef-owner Bob Blair, antipasto and pork belly becomes something entirely new. Instead of a basic meat-cheese-bread plate, the antipasto is transformed into a full-on sensory experience. The menu changes frequently, but when I stopped in for a recent dinner, I dug into slices of chewy and aromatic rosemary focaccia; a trio of salami, ranging from spicy to savory; a runny, rind-on cheese, for a touch of creaminess; and a small bowl of pickled radishes and sweet blueberries that added a refreshing zing to the dish. The pork belly small plate was similarly stimulating thanks to the addition of juicy, jalapeño-spiked watermelon ‘slaw and ultra-thin corn crêpes.

Though my dining companion and I eagerly followed these with entrees, the starters had already satisfied every possible craving.

3455 Ringsby Court #105, 303-296-4642