Salsa Fuego, a critically acclaimed, chef-driven Fort Worth Mexican restaurant that was also a finalist in DFW.com's recent Burger Battle, has closed, says Carlos Rodriguez, the owner and chef of the west side restaurant.
"Just taking a much needed R/R," he said on Twitter.
According to a letter posted on Salsa Fuego's door, the locks to the restaurant have been changed by property owner Ron Blankenship Properties, due to non-payment of rent.
When reached by phone, Rodriguez wouldn't comment, other than to confirm that the restaurant is closed. "I can't say anything right now," he said. He also said there are "no plans yet" to open in another location.
On Oct. 2, the restaurant tweeted that it was closed for "maintenance." It has not been open since then.
During the 2015 Burger Battle, which took place in August and September, readers reported unexpected closures of the restaurant that lasted a few days. Rodriguez told DFW.com at the time that they were due to a family emergency. The restaurant came close to forfeiting a couple of Burger Battle rounds, but was always open by the time the judges made their visits.
Since opening in 2009, Salsa Fuego stood out, in a town saturated with Mexican food, for Rodriguez's imaginative approaches to traditional Mexican dishes. A native of El Paso and former cook at Texas de Brazil, he made burritos stuffed with honey chipotle shrimp, tacos topped with duck confit and mango pico, snapper doused in a housemade Veracruz sauce. In a ridiculously tiny space, originally a Kentucky Fried Chicken, he was doing things no other Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth was doing.
As a result, in 2010, Texas Monthly named Salsa Fuego one of the five "Best Mexican" restaurants in Texas, giving it a major boost in business, so much so that Rodriguez and his wife Christie, who helped him run the restaurant, began to look for bigger spaces.
The closure comes just seven months after they moved into a new location, just a few feet away, in the much larger space once occupied by Peony Chinese Restaurant.
Salsa Fuego was the runner-up in the DFW.com Burger Battle. Judges praised the restaurant's green-chile cheeseburger with its trademark ring of fried cheese, calling it "stunning." It was edged out by Dutch’s Legendary Hamburgers, which will have a victory party from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9.
Burgers were so popular at Salsa Fuego, Rodriguez announced plans to turn the original Salsa Fuego location into a burger joint called Fuego Burger.
But earlier this summer, signage went up for a new restaurant there called The Dive Oyster Bar. It's a new seafood venture from Robbie and Yvonne Turman, owners of nearby Oscar's Pub and The Mule. Josh Rangel, a former sous chef at Waters, Jon Bonnell's seafood restaurant, will be executive chef. It is slated to open Dec. 1.