As much as I admire the work of firefighters, I’m not certain that rescue photos are the best choice for decoration
in a dining establishment.
That is, however, one of few criticisms after my first visit to Firehouse Subs, a Jacksonville, Fla.-born national chain making a push into the Indy market. Founded by firefighting brothers with a family history in this dangerous service, Firehouse Subs mostly succeeds in its effort to introduce hook-and-ladder spirit and real-life-action-hero portions to a crowded sandwich market. I sampled the goods at the Pyramid Place location (3516 W. 86th St., 334-1471) but there’s another in Avon and, if management is to be believed, many more on the way.
The emphasis here is on steamed sandwiches (without microwaving) and the highlight of my visit was the Firehouse Meatball
(like all the hot specialty subs, $5.49 for an 8-inch medium, $7.89 for a 12-inch large). I don’t often order meatball
sandwiches at fast-food eateries—even those I trust with hamburgers. But I may change that rule thanks to this combo
of hearty, flavorful meat, sweet Marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, cheese that’s duly melted, and a sub role that’s
up to the job. I sided it with a cup of Firehouse Chili ($3.49), which was miraculously still steaming even after I devoured
half of my sandwich. One of the Firehouse gimmicks is a wide array of hot sauces available for supplementing (including its
own, available for takeout in hydrant-shaped plastic, $5.99). This chili didn’t need the accenting.
You’d expect a place with a name like this to give some gimmicky monikers to its goods. The Engine Company stacked smoked turkey breast and roast beef under a blanket of melted Monterey jack cheese. The Engineer Sub replaces the roast beef and Jack with Swiss and sautéed mushrooms. And the Hook & Ladder Sub features turkey breast, honey ham and Monterey Jack. Getting a sandwich “Fully involved” means adding mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato and onion and siding it with a dill pickle spear. Our order didn’t quite make it out to the table as initially ordered, but the friendly staff was quick to put together a redo.
Chain sandwich shops usually don’t show a lot of variety in the beverage department, but here there’s the non-carbonated choice of Firehouse’s original Cherry Lime-Aid. A little thing, perhaps, but one that helps Firehouse step out from the rest. And this is the only place where $2 buys you a five-gallon pickle bucket. Proceeds benefit the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, which helps emergency services.•
Third in our month-long series of “elemental” restaurant reviews.