This is the Place
Killer Pastrami and Italian, Double Meat, and Sauces that Kill
I had noticed Firehouse Subs several times driving by, but had not stopped, because I always seemed to be going the wrong direction to turn in, due to the island blocking my path of entry off State Street. But I couldn't deny that, each time I passed, it looked like there were plenty of cars out front, even though the place had not been in the location long. (It used to be the home of Togo's and Baskin Robbins, till the road construction put one out of business, then the other.) So I made a point to enter off State Street at the traffic signal about midway down the complex.
Inside, the décor was cool — lots of fireman-themed stuff, starting right out of the gate with "founded by firemen" right on the door. The walls are adorned by axes and other tools for fighting fires, there are fancy, full color menu boards, and small firehats for the kids. All this told me that it was part of a chain, but the only location in Utah, so I didn’t feel so bad.
Also kind of fun, as soon as I entered, someone called out, "Welcome to Firehouse!" And then every employee there repeated it. Which continued the whole time I was eating, but just made me smile.
The tables are simple and, despite that the place was just hopping, every open table (of which there were few) were clean, or in the process of being cleaned. Even better, I didn't notice any with residual oil (something a lot of sandwich places fail at cleaning during the day).
Then things slowed a little bit, dulling the initial positive response I was having. There were two lines at the register and, apparently, I chose the wrong one. The girl at the head of my line was working much more slowly than the other, and seemed to be having trouble entering orders, let alone answering questions. When I finally made it to the front, I had plenty of time to decide on their pastrami sub, and also saw that they had my favorite kind of potato chips: jalapeno. I saw that I could order a combo and that I could have double the meat on my sandwich for an additional $2. I saw that they had their own cookies there at the register, and that they had oatmeal raisin (my favorite kind of cookie). What I wanted to know was if I could substitute the cookie for the chips. And that question seemed to fluster the girl at the register.
Finally, I paid at the counter, left my name, and found a place to sit. There are flip cards on each table with fancy ads for their goods, as well as napkin dispensers that had a nice brushed-metal finish. One of the ads was for their hot sauce, which they also sold by the bottle. This reminded me a bit of Schlotsky's (which has a great Louisiana hot sauce).
When I went over to the beverage bar, I noticed that my cup was printed with a photo of a fireman and the story of something heroic he had done when he wasn't even on the clock. Other cups, I noticed, had different photos and stories. This tugged at me a bit emotionally, and made me feel even more happy to support it with my patronage. At the beverage bar, I then saw that they had their own label on one of the drinks: Cherry Limeade, with a note to add additional fresh lime (there were wedges by the cups). I was all over that … then didn't have a lid for my cup. There were some larger and some smaller. Ugh. But there was an employee nearby, and she immediately took care of it. Then I waited for my food … and it was not the fastest in the world. Jimmy John's they are not.
An employee in a shirt that said "Search and Rescue" on the back came out with a tray and my sandwich on top. He called my name, I waved, and he came over, saying, "Double meat? That's a big sandwich for ya'!" And he was right.
First words out of my mouth: "Wow. That's absolutely beautiful."
The bread is scored on the top, giving it a lit of range in color, and the pastrami and melted provolone cheese was hanging out the sides in every direction, along with the shredded lettuce, tomato, mayo and mustard, and a pickle spear on the side. The pastrami was peppered, sliced very thinly, and I could tell was going to be wonderful. Then I looked up, before the guy left, and asked, "Do you have hot sauce for people to use? Or just for sale?" He said he would get me some, and did. And I was set.
First words out of my mouth after first bite: "Awesome. Just awesome."
The flavor from the pastrami filled my head, rolling through my sinuses, the headiness of the pepper, the richness of the hot meat and cheese, contrasting with the cold, shredded lettuce and tomato. Then I went for the sauce, squirting some on the sandwich for the next bite. At first, it reminded me of the Louisiana hot sauce at Schlotzky's, then it bloomed with more complex flavors poking up their heads from the blend. It had decent heat, which is awesome, enough to make my nose run after a few bites, which says a lot. But the biggest surprise with the sauce was that it finishes sweet. What a great sauce! And the extra meat was absolutely worth the extra $2.
Last words out of my mouth before leaving: "What a great place. Glad to see Firehouse Subs in Utah."
On my second visit, Firehouse Subs was not as busy, nor as enthusiastic. The "Welcome to Firehouse" from the manager was a bit anemic, and the response from the crew was even more so. The call is not required but, if you're going to do something like that at your restaurant, then you need to be consistent, because customers will come to expect it.
There was not a line at the register, so I went right to the front, and ordered their version of an Italian sub. The menu board said it came with ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone, Italian dressing, and the regular fixings. I was a little disappointed that it didn't include capicola or prosciutto, but pushed the thought aside and ordered it anyway. I skipped the mustard, since it comes with Italian dressing, and asked if they had hot peppers. The girl at the register very brightly responded that they had banana peppers. Which was just lovely, so I went with that and also ordered the double meat again (it was certainly worth the extra $2 last time and I am a definite carnivore), and my jalapeno chips.
I paid at the counter, left my name, and found a place to sit. There flip cards from last time were not on my table, but it was clean, and I didn't notice a single table that was not wiped down.
At the beverage bar, I went with the Firehouse Subs-labeled Cherry Limeade, with a note to add additional fresh lime (there were wedges by the cups). This time, they had lids for my cup. Again, the service was not the fastest, but I did not have the same feeling of letdown that I had last time, so the delivery time was consistent with my previous visit. Slower than some, but there have been worse.
First words out of my mouth: "Wow. Looks good!"
The bread is scored on the top, giving it a lit of range in color, and the meat and melted provolone cheese was hanging out the sides, along with the shredded lettuce, tomato, mayo and a pickle spear on the side. The Italian dressing was not pink, more of a golden color, which meant that it was not made with redwine vinegar (like most fast-food sub shops) or balsamic vinegar (like the nicer sandwich joints). So I was wondering how it was going to play out.
First words out of my mouth after first bite: Oh, man, that Italian dressing is awesome."
The Italian dressing definitely hits you first, the tart from the vinegar blending with a definite sweetness, more like some of the better Italian salad dressings, not just the stuff that so many sub shops put on their sandwiches. I hadn't realized that it was going to be served hot, but it didn't hurt anything. And, like my previous visit, the double meat was worthwhile. They didn't just bump up the ham (like too many others put into practice), it really did seem to be twice as much of everything. But I can't say enough about the Italian dressing. In a way, it reminded me of their hot sauce, with that unanticipated sweetness that just made everything else about the blend of flavors stand that much taller.
Last words out of my mouth: "So cool to have another great sandwich shop in the Salt Lake Valley."
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noun. Slang. A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet.