Quinn Boylan and his mate Niall McCarter enjoying their Firehouse Subs on a recent visit from England. Photo by David Boylan
Quinn Boylan and his mate Niall McCarter enjoying their Firehouse Subs on a recent visit from England. Photo by David Boylan
Lick the Plate

Great food with a charitable twist at Firehouse Subs

Firemen have always been known for having a knack for being good in the kitchen. I learned this firsthand a while back when I spent some time with the guys at Fire Station No. 3 in Cardiff and wrote about it in “Lick the Plate.”

We even experienced the thrill of being able to ride along on a call that happened during the interview. It seems the entrepreneurial spirit is a common theme amongst firemen as the John Gonzales from Encinitas Fire Station No. 2 has shown with his Bottaro Wood Fired Pizza.

The founders of Firehouse Subs are former firefighters who have taken the entrepreneur thing to a whole new level.  Firehouse Subs is a U.S.-based fast-casual restaurant chain that specializes in delicious hot and cold subs and chopped salads. Founded in 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida, by former firefighter brothers Robin and Chris Sorensen, Firehouse Subs serves sandwiches with meats and cheeses that are steamed hot and placed on a toasted sub roll.

Twenty years later, with 770 Firehouse Subs restaurants in spread throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, they must be doing a few things right. Firehouse uses the best meats, cheeses and toppings available and unlike other sub places, they steam their meats and cheeses, releasing a rush of flavors, then stuff a serving that’s way over code on one of their toasted private recipe sub rolls.

It’s a winning combo that satisfies ravenous appetites and the value conscious alike.

Firehouse Subs are fairly new to North County with locations in Encinitas and Oceanside. They offer a family-oriented atmosphere, with firefighter equipment and memorabilia throughout the restaurant and a menu that features sandwiches inspired by the founder’s firefighter heritage.

They also offer hot sauces with a range of heat.

Each Firehouse Subs restaurant boasts a custom, hand-painted mural that pays tribute to the local community.

Chief Mural Artist Joe Puskas and his team paint every single mural from his studio at Firehouse Subs headquarters, and the Encinitas mural features a Moonlight Beach firefighting scene that included a bonfire on the beach, a fire truck and a fireman taking a picture with a mobile phone. It was a nice local touch.

My benchmark for a sub joint is how they pull off an Italian sub and Firehouse passed with flying colors. My son Quinn and his friend from England joined me on my second visit and they devoured their full-sized subs and gave a big thumbs up as well.

It should be noted that Firehouse does offer a nice selection of under-500 calorie subs and sandwiches including a turkey and cranberry that I have on my list to go back for.

You have heard me ramble on in the past about my love of chopped salads and I was pleased to see a few of them on the menu at Firehouse. The one I tried was loaded with romaine, tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, mozzarella, pepperoncini, Kalamata olives, salami, grilled chicken and light Italian dressing. It’s hearty yet not too filling and filled with really nice flavor and texture combinations. Consider me a fan.

So the charitable twist I mentioned is The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was created in 2005. It provides funding and support for public safety organizations, including local fire departments.

The Encinitas Fire Department has a new thermal imaging camera, thanks to the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.

The thermal imaging camera helps firefighters see though smoke and darkness so they can find unconscious victims and pinpoint dangers before they cause injury or death. The camera is valued at $12,000 and will be used at Encinitas Fire Station No. 6, which serves the residents of Olivenhain.

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has donated more than $9 million to local public safety agencies. In October 2012, the Oceanside Fire Department received a computer-based simulator for incident command training. In March 2013, the foundation provided the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department with new remote microphones to improve radio communication.

So not only is Firehouse Subs providing another delicious sub and salad option to the communities they operate in, but they are giving back as well. I’d say it’s worth supporting these folks for sure.

Find a location near you at firehousesubs.com.

Lick the Plate can now be heard on KPRi, 102.1 FM Monday – Friday during the 7 p.m. hour.  David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at david@artichoke-creative.com or (858) 395-6905.