Featured Restaurant: Firehouse Subs

Going in with the goal of improving upon an already successful food business, the idea behind Firehouse Subs was born on a scribbled napkin in a competitors parking lot.  The submarine sandwich shop was a popular concept that was growing but as everyone knows, competition can bring the best out of an already successful idea.  Brothers, Robin and Chris Sorensen founded Firehouse Subs with the passion to provide customers with something a bit better than what they are probably used to. The entrepreneurial spirit of the place has got to be respected when you figure they are going up against Subway and Quiznos.  This place will make it’s mark, trust me.  Slowly but surely, the expansion might show up in your neighborhood so keep a look out for it.

When you walk in you are greeted by a friendly staff yelping, “Welcome to Firehouse Subs”.  It is the basic set up of an old time sub shop with the exception that the theme is that of a firehouse.  Everything is decorated in red, black and white.  The tabletops are done in a dalmation print.  Scattered throughout the place, you will see firehats and coats hanging on the walls along with pictures and signs related to firehouses, firetrucks etc.

So I’m sure you’re wondering…Why the firehouse theme?

Find a theme that people can relate to, and that is authentic. Our mom’s family has decades of service on the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department (JFRD), and her relatives inspired our father to join the fire department. Our dad retired in 2004 with 43 years of service as a Combat Captain, and our family has more than 200 years of public service as firefighters. It is a theme that is personal to us, but is appealing to people of all ages, and is embraced in every community.


Now to the food.  The menu consists of several Hot Specialty Subs, “From the Steamer” Subs, Cold Subs, Hot Sub Combos, salads and chili.  They also have a kid menu and party platters.  You won’t see all of your normal sub names listed on their menu.  You will come across some “firehouse” inspired sandwich names such as “Hook and Ladder” (Smoked Turkey Breast and Virginia Honey Ham smothered with Monterey Jack and served “Fully Involved”), “Engineer” (Smoked Turkey Breast with sauteed Mushrooms and melted Open-Eyed Swiss served “Fully Involved”) and “Firehouse Hero” (This 3-meat combo, Premium Roast Beef, Smoked Turkey Breast, and Virginia Honey Ham, comes topped with melted Provolone “Fully Involved”).  If you couldn’t figure it out already, “Fully Involved” equals Loaded…complete with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and a dill spear on the side.

Firehouse Subs recently won Best Sub/Sandwich Shop in our Grub Battle Royal South Division (founded in Jacksonville, Florida), so what better time to post this right?  Sure Subway has over 30,000 restaurants but Firehouse Subs may just win some appetites with their upstart charms and strive for quality over quantity.  This place is worth a look and on my most recent visit, a friend and I indulged in the Firehouse Steak and Cheese and The Engineer.  Take a peak.

Firehouse Subs Steak and Cheese

Firehouse Steak and Cheese: Tender slices of sauteed Sirloin Steak smothered with melted Provolone, sauteed Onions and Bell Peppers, Mayo and Mustard

FIrehouse Subs The Engineer

The Engineer: Smoked Turkey Breast with sauteed Mushrooms and melted Open-Eyed Swiss served “Fully Involved”

See the Hook and Ladder and the Club on a Sub on the GrubGrade flickr page.

  • Recommendations: Smokehouse Beef and Cheddar Brisket, Steak and Cheese, Firehouse Hero
  • Food: 8.25/10
  • Menu Variety: 7.00/10
  • Atmosphere: Fast Casual/Take-Out/Sub Shop
  • Price: $-Inexpensive= $7 or less
  • GrubGrade:  8.25/10 (Very Good)

Check them out:

Firehouse Subs on Urbanspoon

33 comments on “Featured Restaurant: Firehouse Subs

  1. That looks awesome and the food looks really good. I think it’s great the they honor firemen! Often times they don’t get enough recognition for risking their lives everyday.
    I love how creative it is with the Dalmatian table tops. It’s about time we got a sub shop where people care about customer service.

  2. stezton says:

    Firehouse is awesome! After I had their meatball sub, I haven’t been back to Subway.

  3. I love this place. I’ve only been a few times when I was in Florida last but everytime I got something different and every time it was exciting. I think I remember them having some good sauces too but I can’t think of the specifics (that’s one good thing about Quiznos).

    This place just had character and charm…unlike a Subway. I felt like I was more in a really hip Mom & Pop rather than a chain. Yum Yum! I wish they were more widespread but I guess in due time 🙂

  4. Justin says:

    I’m skeptical, as usual. I’ve never been here, but sub shops are a dime-a-dozen. There really isn’t much any upstarts can do to differentiate themselves from the competition. Quiznos was the best, but they let their greedy franchise policies doom them. Jimmy John’s is surviving because they are(were?) cheap and quality, but they are starting to become another cookie-cutter corporation. Subway is Subway…but I find little reason to visit any other sub places at all.

  5. James says:

    @Ryan: Those are some good looking samiches. How is the bread and do they have different varieties to choose from? A sandwich is only as good as the bread it is on.

  6. Ryan says:

    @ James … Traditional white and wheat breads are available. No complaints. The biggest difference between Firehouse and some other places is using a steamer for the heat instead of a microwave. Helps to retain flavor that may be lost in the micro. Helps with moisture, prevent dry out.

  7. rob says:

    I won’t eat at places where they do the “Welcome to ____!” thing.

    It’s the reason I’ve never eaten at a Moe’s. Looks like I will have to add Firehouse to the list.

    • RC says:

      I Agree.
      A Mere Side Corollary Story From 1992.
      I Was Waiting An Hour For A City Bus When I Noticed A Costco Wholesale Store.
      I Was Not A Member.
      In Their Parking Lot A Security Guard Said To Me “Welcome To
      I Walked In To Their “Processing” Desk Which Was Manned By A
      Female Twenty SomeThing worker.
      I Explained To Her I Was Not A Member Also I Was Waiting For A
      Bus Also I Mere Wanted To “Window Shop”.
      She Would Not Allow Me In Without Me Paying The (At The Time) $35 Membership Fee.
      I Declined.
      I Left The Building Before The ‘Welcome’ Guard Took A Pot Shot At Me.
      I Did Not Speak To Him On The Way Out.

  8. My kids love them because they have plastic fireman hats that they get to wear. But to my taste, the sandwiches are just ordinary.

  9. Justin 2 says:

    Maybe Justins are skeptics by name 🙂 . What did the inventors decide to do “a bit better” than existing sub-shops. The take on the philly does look pretty good though

    • Ryan says:

      @ Justin 2 … What I meant by that is really just a direct dig at the Subway/Quiznos of the world… I think if you are an up and comer and are clearly striving to break into that top 3 sub/sandwich chain…a good model to go by is a better tasting ingredients and Firehouse clearly does that in my opinion. I’m not going to go as far as saying Firehouse can top your local mom and pop sub shop but as chains go…Firehouse wins in the taste department over Subway/Quiz. Yeah the Philly is one of my favorites…(not a fan of Subway/Quiznos Philly-esque sandwiches)

  10. brad says:

    I’ve never really eaten a Firehouse Sub because my band’s rival band was kinda the “Firehouse Subs crew”

  11. Ryan says:

    @ brad … Hahahahahahahahahahaa. I understand though.

  12. Justin says:

    Firehouse steams their subs, as opposed to using a “microwave”? I think they’re talking about the Turbochefs, but I don’t see anything wrong with them at all.

    I have yet to try a “steamed” sub. The interest is there for me, but it would likely involve a long car or plane ride.

  13. SkippyMom says:

    I was happy to see that they have made it to my area based on the review. The discussions for/against make me want to give it a try just because the concept is nice [Firemen!] ;D But I hope their quality doesn’t go down now that they have expanded.

    Will definitely check it out tho’.

  14. Raiders757 says:

    I wish one of these would open near me. I think we have one down in Va. Beach, but I’ve never been to it. Of course nothing beat s the mom & pop shops for subs, but still, the corporate shops need some competition.

    Athough it does look really goo, mayo, mustard and bell peppers on a steak and cheese? There would be a riot in Philadelphia if they dare called that a steak and cheese in those parts. I’ll take mine provolone wit’, and my wife will take hers whiz wit’ out. The ways a true steak & cheese should be served. If it’s made right, there is no need for condiments to get in the way of the flavor.

  15. Raiders757 says:

    @ Rob

    That “welcome to ____” mess isstarting to catch on everywhere. Soon you won’t be able to go out ot eat, or shopping. One of my local Food Lions is starting to do it. You get greeted with “Welcome to Food Lion” by all the cashiers and bag boys when walking in the store. They about made me jump out of shoes the first time.

  16. Jon says:


    Doesn’t cheez whiz get in the way of the flavor? People have the same attitude with ketchup and hotdogs, but I’ll put all the damn ketchup I want.

  17. never tired it, but it looks good. I always like a good sub!

  18. Justin says:

    It’s some yuppie garbage. It gets more complaints than anything else. I don’t want to force employees to do it. At many of these places, it gets so old that no one notices or cares anymore if it is done.

  19. Ryan says:

    Haha…about the “Welcome to ____”…I find it kind of annoying myself…I’m sure it’s pretty polarizing. Has anyone ventured into a Coldstone Creamery when all the employees are singing? Sheesh…I turn around and go in the other direction.

  20. Justin 2 says:

    @ Ryan, I wasn’t going after you with my comment. I was more wondering what precisely they wrote down on the napkin. I’ll give them a try if I’m ever around one.

  21. Ryan says:

    @ Justin 2 … Yeah dude I know…no worries. Not sure exactly what was written down on that napkin but it was basically the original blueprint for Firehouse…I’d assume it was a mixture of giving props to Subway because how can you deny 33,000 restaurants…and then just using higher quality products, a cool theme and an improved method of food prep….I guess the only proof is in the taste…All I know for sure is that it’s good stuff 😀

  22. Justin says:

    @ Justin 2 and @ Ryan, I bet the idea for steaming subs was stolen from someone. That’s how it’s usually done. The napkin stuff was probably just a bunch of buys brainstorming about how they would design the store and all that. I don’t believe the steaming part was their idea. Firemen are supposed to be good cooks, it’s possible this was their idea, but look at a lot of these franchises, especially Raising Cane’s. Familiar with that place? They stole their signature sauce from Zaxby’s…god knows who Zaxby’s stole it from, if they did.

  23. Raiders757 says:

    @ Jon

    Maybe for some, Cheeze Whiz does get in the way, but if you ask anyone in the city of Brotherly Love, they’ll tell you that once you go beyond the ingredients I mentioned, it no longer remains a true cheesesteak and shouldn’t be called as such. It then becomes a cheesesteak hoagie, which is frowned upon by cheesesteak purist. They’ll also tell you to avoid anything that calls itself a Philly Cheesesteak, and I have found their reasoning to be correct. Don’t mess with perfection.

    I have to admit, there are a few things that I am food snob about. Cheesesteaks and BBQ are the main two. Far too many people confuse or F-up the two on a constant basis. (Don’t even get me started on Yanks calling a cook out a BBQ, when all they’re making is hot dogs and hamburgers.)

    Oh, and put all the ketchup you want on your hot dog. I like mine with onions and mustard. I like ketchup on my burgers, yet there are those who frown upon that as well. Still, it’s not the same sort of blasphemy as putting mayo on a cheesesteak. People should be lined up an shot for that.


  24. Will says:

    Firehouse is great! Steamed subs are really popular where I live (Knoxville/East TN). In fact, when I was growing up I didn’t realize that outside of Knoxville people DIDN’T steam their sandwiches. I always just assumed that all deli sandwiches were steamed. Even with all the competition for steamed sandwiches, Firehouse holds their own and is very popular.

  25. Ryan2 says:

    I love Firehouse! The Italian is my favorite. Plus, their meatball is very good. To me, Subway is no contest, the sandwiches there usually don’t have much meat and are sometimes a bit soggy. I like Quizno’s too, but more often than not, I pass the Quizno’s on my way to Firehouse.

    Oh, and they don’t do the “Welcome to Firehouse” thing at mine.

  26. Steve Rao says:

    I’ve eaten at Firehouse Subs and was impressed. I own my own cheese steak shop in South Florida and give a 50% discount to all fire fighters no matter what.

  27. Jennie says:

    I went to Firehouse Sub and ordered steak and cheese with all the works. Got back to work to eat it and it had meat and cheese only on it after waiting a long time to get it. Very disappointed and probably will not go back. I spent the better part of a ten dollar bill for a combo expecting a sandwich that looked like the picture but it was far from it.

  28. Amanda says:

    this is a great place to eat. the food is good and the service is great and the employees are friendly. i work there and love to eat there all the time.

  29. Jim E says:

    The subs are good at Firehouse but the price and sandwich size are the problems for me. If you get just a regular sub it will cost you nearly $7 and they are relatively tiny. I have never been filled up after eating one and I’m not a huge eater. I’ll only go to Firehouse if I have some extra cash to burn, but even then it always stings when I realize how much money I spent for a small sandwich. Make it a combo and you’re paying about $10. You could eat and an actual restaurant for that price.

  30. cami u says:

    We have been to our local Firehouse subs 3 times now…..folks they are the best ever!!!!! homemade yummy taste, the meat tastes like it has been simmering on grandma’s stove just waiting for you to come by!!!! We have loved every variety we have tried and no interest in going back to the old sub shops……as for the greeting, nice to see some friendly people in this world we live in!!!! Love it all<<<<2 THUMBS UP!!!!!!!

  31. Bz says:

    These are even better than Quizno’s.. The highest quality meat you can buy, toasted bread, steamed meat and cheese makes all the difference. ALL THE DIFFERENCE. I was skeptical at first, took me forever to try one, but when I did I really see what the hype was about. I eat there all the time, never touch another sub shop. In fact I’m looking into franchising myself, there’s really no other place like it, and with Quiznos disappearing, this is a sorely needed sub..

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