Quiznos, Subway and Jimmy John’s have company: There’s a new chain sub shop in town, and this one has a firefighter theme.
Firehouse Subs was opened in Eastgate Plaza at Kellogg and Rock Road in December by franchisees Megan and Andrew Reece. The shop is part of a Florida-based chain that has more than 700 restaurants across the country. Franchisees Dana and Troy Todd plan to open another one in a new strip center in front of SuperTarget in NewMarket Square late this year.
The restaurant serves subs – most of them hot – and the walls are decorated with firefighter paraphernalia. The chain also collects donations for the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which provides equipment to emergency services personnel and money for fire safety education.• ON THE MENU: Firehouse Subs’ customers can build their own sandwiches starting with turkey breast, honey ham, pastrami, corned beef brisket, roast beef or grilled chicken breast. (Cold tuna salad, chicken salad and veggie subs also are available.) Or they can choose from a list of hot specialty subs, including a meatball sub, Hero, Philly, club and beef and cheddar sandwiches. The subs are served on toasted bread, and unless otherwise specified, they come “fully involved,” a fire term defined by the restaurant as loaded with mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomato and onion. Subs are available in medium or large (medium is a standard 6 inches) on white or wheat bread.
Firehouse also has a list of sandwiches under 500 calories, all served on wheat rolls with light mayo, including a Sriacha beef, a turkey and cranberry and a turkey salsa verde. Calorie-responsible diners also can choose from four chopped salads that include romaine, tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, mozzarella, pepperoncini, Kalamata olives, a variety of deli meats and a light Italian dressing.
The restaurant also offers a shelf full of dozens of hot sauces, arranged from hot to hottest, that customers can add to their food themselves. It also has chili, chips, cookies and brownies and offers a kids menu and a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, which allows customers to customize their sodas with various flavorings.• DON’T-MISS DISHES: The subs we sampled were all good, served on toasty bread with melted cheese and good-quality meats. The Italian, topped with Genoa salami, pepperoni, honey ham, provolone and Italian dressing, was tasty, though the Italian dressing had a sweetness I found a little overpowering. The New York Steamer also was delicious, piled with corned beef brisket, pastrami, provolone, mustard, mayo and Italian dressing. The provolone was perfectly melted and glued the creation together. Both sandwiches were mediums and were $5.89. For $2 more, customers can get a large.
Usually, I avoid the light menus in restaurants, but the turkey salsa verde from the under-500-calories menu sounded good, and it was. The sandwich featured smoked turkey breast, Monterey Jack cheese, a salsa verde sauce, plus lettuce, tomato and onion. It was $5.89 and had only 430 calories. It had a nice Southwestern flair, and we liked it just as well as its more calorie-laden counterparts.
The Firehouse Salad with smoked turkey ($7.59) also was fine and was filled with fresh, crunchy vegetables. The dressing, which is included in the under-400-calorie count, was a bit bland, but salt helped. The salad was the most expensive thing we ordered, but the portion size was the smallest.• AMBIENCE: The dining room is sunny and clean, with a red, black and white color palette. It’s spacious and is furnished with a mixture of short and tall tables
• PRICE RANGE: Subs are reasonable. Most mediums are $5.89, and none is more expensive than $6.19. Large sandwiches are $2 more, and adding chips or a cookie plus a fountain drink costs $2.20 more with a medium sandwich, $2.54 more with a large. Salads are $7.59 with meat, $5.59 without. Kids combos are $3.99 and come with a plastic fire hat.
• SERVICE: At least seven people were working behind the counter at Firehouse Subs during the lunch rush, and a manager was cheerfully delivering sandwiches to tables. Service was pretty fast, and although the girl taking our order seemed a little confused, she was able to get everything right.
One small pet peeve: The staff obviously has been instructed to greet each customer that walks in the door with a chorus of “Welcome to Firehouse Subs!” But when the busy workers say it so often, the greeting eventually becomes unenthusiastic, monotone and a tad annoying.