So what sets Firehouse Subs apart from the rest and makes them so special? After many visits to this restaurant and eating all of their subs for years, I can tell you.
There are some differences that you’ll find at this restaurant that you may not find any place else. One thing that should be noted immediately, is that the experience is not what you would get at Subway.
What is Firehouse Subs?
Firehouse Subs is a semi fast food restaurant founded by two former firefighter relatives, Chris Sorensen & Robin Sorensen. The brothers started their first restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida in 1994.
As the name of their restaurant implies, they make sub sandwiches. Their subs are made with the popular French bread, and comes with sides such as cookies, chips, soups, or a side salad.
They have the common fountain drink choices found almost anywhere.
This is what you would normally expect from a sub shop, but their main focus is delivering the best quality breads, meats, and cheese for the utmost taste above anything else.
This is one of the main things that they teach to their employees, and sets them apart from others.
Firehouse also practices a little philanthropy, following in the shadow of the founders of the restaurant by supporting firefighters through charity.
When a customer orders their meal through drive-through or walk-in, they are asked, “Would you like to donate to the public safety foundation?”, if they do, then that money is given towards buying equipment for firefighters.
The portion of money donated is based off of the change left over (from one dollar only), which would go towards the public safety foundation.
Surprisingly, the stores rack up tens of thousands of dollars all together yearly. Competitions and challenges are often held to increase the funds even more, rewarding the top stores monthly, seasonally, or yearly.
Firehouse has been known to also help their own employees in charity when severe accidents occur. This is seen during their own training videos for fresh employees.
One thing special that they do that is not done by other restaurants for customers is their 10-12. When a customer enters the sub shop and an employee notices, they say ten twelve loudly to get all of the employees attention.
After this, all of the employees will say in union, “Welcome to Firehouse!”. This includes the owner and managers if they are there too.
They may say “10-13” if the customer is entering through the side door rather than the front, signally for everyone to prepare for a welcoming from the east or the west side of the store.
It is often funny to hear an employee charging up for a welcome with “Whhh” and shortly ending it after they thought they heard a 10-12. The enthusiasm makes this pretty comical when they are doing it alone and no one is joining in.
The reason why Firehouse Subs uses these codes is because firefighters also use codes within their line of work. 10-12 within firefighting meant to standby.
The entire theme of the store is built around firefighters. Some of their restaurants have the yellow suits hanging from the walls as display.
Why are Firehouse’s subs so good?
Their subs have a unique taste to them that is really well grounded in their French baked bread. The bread is slightly sweet in flavor, which makes their subs taste good hot or cold.
This is why ordering a veggie sandwich without meat can still make a tasty sub.
Firehouse steams their meats and cheese instead of heating them with an oven. Some of their veggies, like the mushrooms and au jus marinated bell peppers and onions, get steamed too along with the meats. This is the method that they use to maintain good flavor.
They use an array of cheeses for their sandwiches, such as pepper jack, monterey jack, cheddar, swiss, and provolone. These are melted in the steamers along with the meats together.
Their usage of steamers for heating up their sub sandwiches is one of their unique specialties that make them stand out from other sub shops. Their two bread types, white and wheat, however, are toasted in the oven.
Their condiments are few, but they stick with the the most common and flavorful types: mayo, deli mustard, ranch, and BBQ. Besides these they have their signature Captain Sorensen’s Datil Sauce named after the founders.
Sometimes they will have special condiments available, like thousand island dressing and cajun mayo.
Also, a large selection of hot sauces can be found if they are available at the time. The type of hot sauces available are dependent on what is ordered in by management. Not every location has the same sauces.
The sauces can range from 1 to 10 on how spicy they are, which are normally labeled with stickers.
What is the best sub at Firehouse?
The best sub claimed by the owners is the Hook and Ladder, however from my experience, their best subs that sell just as much, or more, are the Turkey Bacon Ranch, Italian, Brisket and Meatball subs.
These sandwiches will often sell back to back and end up being the most recommended for newcomers.
Their sandwiches on the menu are ranked in order from 1 to 10 based off of the national popularity of them.
The turkey bacon ranch is smothered in ranch and has cheddar, making this sandwich a delicious go to on any day. The bacon is ok, but it doesn’t really stand out. It is the ranch that holds it together.
The brisket is a meat and cheese only type of sub with cheddar and BBQ sauce. Without the BBQ sauce, the brisket sub can be really dry, despite the brisket having a lot of flavor. It is a really good sub sandwich to try if you like BBQ.
The Italian sub has a mixture of ham, salami, and pepperoni with provolone cheese. This is one of their most flavorful subs. The Italian dressing and shaker on this make it near perfect. Some people prefer it without the dressing. Besides the brisket, I have ordered this one many times over.
The meatball sub is possibly one of the best meatball subs I have had from any restaurant. The meatballs aren’t lacking in flavor at all, making this really good even without the bread. A lot of kids order this.
Another sub from Firehouse that sells a lot on certain days is the steak and cheese. People love this sub because it has the bell peppers and onions that are marinated in au jus sauce. It is like a Philly cheese steak.
The subs can be stacked pretty high when double meat is ordered and additional toppings. Especially if it is their signature Hero Sub with roast beef, turkey, ham, and all of the vegetables that go on it.
It can even get a little troublesome for the staff to try to fit and keep all of this in between the two buns.
Firehouse Subs also gives the option to customer to make their subs gluten-free with their special gluten-free bread, and make meals that are vegan friendly.
They allow customers to take off or add specific ingredients on sandwiches, so that it can be made, vegan, with or without bread, more or no cheese, and more or less condiments and vegetables.
You can get less bread for your sandwich, which means that after the bread is cut in half horizontally to open it, each side has additional bread cut (shaved) off, resulting in less (thinner) bread for the whole sub.
The customizations can get pretty crazy with all of the options available.