Firehouse Subs: Where There's Smoke (Smokehouse Beef), There's Fire (Lunch)

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First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Firehouse Subs, the fast food franchise with more than 440 locations founded in Jacksonville, Florida, by former firefighting brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen, recently opened it's fifth location in Arizona at the Arcadia Plaza on Indian School Road and 28th Street.

With existing locations in Chandler, Mesa, and Glendale, the Central Phoenix location, open for around two weeks, offers lunch and dinner and features hot and cold submarine sandwiches, Firehouse Chili, and a "Chief's Salad." It's also the first business to nationally roll out Coca-Cola Freestyle, the touch screen soda fountain featuring over 100 Coca-Cola drink products.

The staff cheers "Welcome to Firehouse!" when guests walk in, causing them to smile as they take in the tidy, bright room filled with Dalmatian-patterned tables, white tile, red chairs, and firemen-focused accessories including photos, "Bunker Gear," and a custom wall mural of a heroic deed.

And at the ordering counter, before one can ask what makes Firehouse Subs different from the competition, the answer will be given.

Along with quality ingredients (yeah, everybody says that), Firehouse Subs steams their meats and cheeses, sans bread, so there's lots of flavor and no bun mush.

A few bites into my Firehouse sub and this statement proved to be true, along with the observation that the bread is better. Together, they're two of the reasons Firehouse Subs, taste-wise, edges out competitors like Quizno's and Subway.

A solid sub, and one recommended to me, was the Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket. This tasty hot specialty sub features a nice mix of decent ingredients and a special sauce that tastes like the McRib's (not a bad thing.)

Also good, but not as good as the brisket, was the Turkey Bacon Ranch sub with smoked turkey breast, sharp cheddar, and a just-enough creamy peppercorn ranch dressing.

Looking for a little heat in your Firehouse sub? There's a hot sauce bar of fifty different varieties on the counter, each numbered and arranged by level of hotness.

The Firehouse Chili is tasty as well, not five-alarm, but hotter than I expected, and although the signature soda, Cherry Lime-Aid, was too sweet for my liking, I did enjoy coming up with my own drink creations courtesy of the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine (Sprite vanilla, meet Fanta orange.)

Overall, a decent sub shop if you're in the area.

Have you been to Firehouse Subs yet? What did you think?

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