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Restaurant flaunts firefighter-themed decor
Firehouse Subs has a hot franchise formula

 Central Park's Firehouse Subs creates sandwiches to meet each diner's specifications.
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 3/29/2007

By NANCY DEARING ROSSBACHER and STEPHEN W. SYLVIA

FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

He:

There's drive-in-window fast food and there's leisurely candlelit dining. And then there are the in-between places that cause you to pause--but not for an ice age. So it is with Firehouse Subs, an order-at-the-counter operation that creates each sub to specifications and offers both take-out and dining-in options.

She:

The decor has--no surprise--a firefighter theme, with murals and photographs of firemen, scorching red accent paint and Dalmatian-tiled tabletops. No need to camouflage the requisite fire extinguishers here.

Wordplay abounds on the walls ("Firehouse Subs: Where Heroes Are Made") and menu ("Smoke Inhalation Bad, Sub Inhalation Good"). Adding to this is a nearly counter-long lineup of some 50 brands of hot sauce, including the appropriately named Inferno and 911.

He:

It's worth noting that the chain's founders, themselves onetime firemen, did not cash in on the post-Sept. 11 popularity of firefighters. The flagship restaurant opened in Florida in 1994, and there are now more than 250 locations. Franchise owner David Park opened this one late last autumn.

Firehouse Subs' niche is hot subs--more precisely, steamed subs, which make for warm, soft rolls wrapped around the interior of one's choice.

She:

The subs come in medium (8-inch) or large (12-inch). All are affordably priced, but unless you have the kind of appetite that only putting out a five-alarm blaze would produce, the medium subs are likely more than adequate.

Many are served "fully involved," which means mayonnaise, mustard, tomatoes, onion and shredded lettuce. However, on a recent visit I observed the counter help dealing with a hilariously complex hold-this, add-that, those-on-the-side order with aplomb. The 20 sub options on the menu are not set in stone.

He:

A steamed pastrami and provolone, "fully involved" (medium $4.99, large $6.79), had a generous filling of lean meat and well-melted cheese, as did a roast beef version (medium $4.99, large $6.79).

She:

Of all the selections we tried, I give top honors to the meatball sub (medium $4.99, large $6.99). The medium had five sizable, gently seasoned, dense but still tender meatballs nestled in a thick bed of provolone and marinara sauce.


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FIREHOUSE SUBS

Address: 1420 Carl D. Silver Parkway, Fredericksburg (near Ethan Allen Home Interiors)

Phone: 540/785-3473

Web: firehousesubs.com

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m.- 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Prices:

Soups and salads: $2.99-$5.39

Subs: $4.59-$6.99

Children's menu: $3.29

Cold sub platter (serves 8 to 12 people): $32.99

Vegetarian sub available.

Atmosphere: Brightly lit, ultra-casual and children-friendly. Nonsmoking. Wheelchair accessible.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted.