If I didn't know any better, I would just walk by Firehouse Subs thinking it's just another fast-food sandwich shop. But after having dinner with co-founder Robin Sorensen, I do know better. Firehouse Subs is a sandwich shop with values, community interest, and high-quality subs. Robin and his brother opened the first shop in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1994, and there are now more than 600 locations. During the dinner Robin shared Firehouse Subs' mission with us.
To carry on our commitment and passion for: hearty and flavorful food, heartfelt service, and public safety.
And then he shared some of that hearty and flavorful food with us.
We started with the Hook & Ladder Sub, which has smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, and melted Monterey Jack all piled on a soft roll. The sub is served Fully Involved, which means loaded with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and onion and served with a dill spear on the side. The Hook & Ladder surprised me. I wasn't expecting such a tasty sandwich from such basic components. The bread was soft and toasty, the cheese was perfectly melted, and the honey ham was so intensely flavored.
One of the things that differentiates Firehouse Subs from other sub shops is the quantity (specialty subs boast 1/2 pound) and quality of the meat they put on their subs. (Pictured below is only a third of each kind of sub.) And also, all of the meat is steamed, making it super-moist and flavorful. Oh, and those dill pickle spears are from a place in the Bronx that Robin loves. The pickles are incredibly fresh and crisp, not the kind you toss to the side after one bite. (We all kept looking for more pickle spears served with each sandwich we sampled.)
Next, we tried the New York Steamer Sub, which has corned beef brisket, pastrami, melted provolone, mustard, mayo, and Italian dressing. This was another fantastic combination. I love pastrami and corned beef and liked seeing them together on one sandwich. The mustard is a must with this combo!
The Italian is the sort of sandwich I would normally get at a sub shop, but it was actually my least favorite out of all the subs we tried, though still very good. I think the others were just a lot more interesting and different for me. The Italian is piled high with Genoa salami, pepperoni, ham, melted provolone, Italian dressing, and seasonings and is served Fully Involved.
Robin saved his favorite sub for last: the Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket. He explained how he was apprehensive about serving barbecue without having a smoker on site, but he actually found a place called Sadler's that makes a smoked brisket with hickory wood. He was impressed with the product and created a sandwich with it. It's the most expensive meat Firehouse Subs uses. Robin opened up a package of the brisket and showed us the smoked meat. It had a nice bit of fat running through it, which he explained melts when the meat is steamed, giving the sandwich incredible flavor.
The sandwich features that USDA choice beef brisket, which is smoked for more than 10 hours, melted cheddar, and special sauces. It was incredibly rich and pleasantly smoky, and I could see instantly why it is Robin's favorite.
So that's the first part of the mission statement: hearty and flavorful food.
The next part, heartfelt service, was evident from the moment I walked in the door. I was greeted warmly and welcomed to Firehouse Subs, and I saw this go on all night. I could tell that the people working at Firehouse Subs were proud of the business and happy to be a part of it. Robin and his brother personally hire all franchise owners and make sure that they're getting good people who get what Firehouse Subs is all about in their restaurants.
The last part, public safety, stems from the family's background as firefighters. Back in 2005, inspired by the services they were able to provide in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the founders established the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation as a means for Firehouse Subs to give back to local communities. The foundation's mission is to provide first responders and public safety organizations with life-saving equipment, prevention educational tools, natural disaster preparedness, and financial resources for training and careers in the public safety sector. The funds are also allocated toward natural disaster support. To date, the foundation has donated more than $6.4 million in life-saving equipment and resources throughout 36 states and Puerto Rico.
Donations to the foundation can be made in several ways. There are pickle buckets (like the one Robin is holding below) available for purchase at the restaurants. The buckets can be used for anything from building sand castles to washing the car, and the purchase of one goes toward the foundation. Donations can also be made in donation canisters. All spare change donated adds up to life-saving changes. Customers have the option of rounding up their cash or credit purchases to the nearest dollar as well, with the change going to the foundation. And lastly, during National Fire Safety Month (October), cashiers ask customers to purchase medallions that adorn the restaurant walls for $1 or $5 -- a great way to show community support.
The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation is currently allocating resources to first responders and survivors of the recent devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma. You can make a donation to the disaster relief fund on Firehouse Subs' website.
I'm really happy that I was invited in to try some subs and discover this company that is doing great things. Robin has an incredible personality, and I enjoyed learning from him about how Firehouse Subs came to be and all the things the foundation has done.
I'd like you to be able to experience Firehouse Subs too, so I am giving away five $10 gift cards. Below are the ways you can enter. You have until 11:59 p.m. EST on May 31, 2013, to leave your comments. (Note: Each person can win only one gift card.) Be sure to link back to your blog or leave an email address I can contact you at. If I cannot contact you, I will have to choose another winner. For those in the Boston area, the closest sub shops are in Copley Square, Woburn, and Danvers. To find out if there's a location near you, head to Firehouse Subs' website.
- Please leave a comment letting me know which sub you would most like to try or what you like about Firehouse Subs or the foundation. (This one is mandatory.)
- For another entry, please follow me (@DeliciousDish) and Firehouse Subs (@FirehouseSubs) on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway. Leave a second comment letting me know that you tweeted.
- Subscribe to Delicious Dishings by email or RSS. You'll see links at the top right of this page. Leave a comment letting me know you did this.
- Like Delicious Dishings on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know that you did.
- Like Firehouse Subs on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know that you did.
Note: The dinner I attended at Firehouse Subs was complimentary and Firehouse Subs supplied the gift cards for this giveaway. As always, all opinions are my own.