When you think “sub shop chain”, you probably think Subway (for the inexpensive footlong), Quiznos (for the free cookies), or Jimmy John’s (for the free smells). But Jacksonville’s own firehouse menu has been building a remarkable empire of its own, conquering 41 states and counting. Firehouse co-founder Robin Sorensen invited us out to a bonkers weekend at Bell Cross Ranch in Cascade, Montana for more information on his company, and, in the process, we became grizzled ranchers. Here’s what we learned from the experience.
Firehouse Subs was founded by two former firefighter brothers in 1994, specifically Robin (left) and Chris (right) Sorensen. Their dad have also been a firefighter, and a lot of other Sorensen dudes before him — the family unit prides itself on 200 many years of professionally putting out flames. However the brothers made a decision to try something different, and left the biz to eventually open their first sandwich shop in Jacksonville in ’94. Only after “dozens of ideas for different concepts and various businesses”, according to Robin, though, such as a Christmas tree farm. So if you smell fresh pine needles at one of the restaurants, you understand why. (You’re having a stroke.)
Firehouse puts mayo on just about everything – New Yorkers best clutch their vintage Jeter jerseys, because at Firehouse, even their precious pastrami gets dressed up in mayonnaise. But Sorensen insists he wasn’t trying to blaze a brand new condiment trail. “Inside the South, we put mayonnaise on everything, so that it wasn’t anything we even discussed,” he says. “You place mayonnaise on the sandwich. The reply to pastrami from delis in Ny is that’s uncommon, it’s mustard only. I enjoy that, too. But all of that drove us was our very own personal tastes.”
Cascade, Montana is prime for panoramic photos – Having a population of less than 1,000, this town really requires you to retreat into nature, and it’s pretty spectacular. Make sure you Instagram with caution, though. Montana hosts serious predators like mountain lions, and when they’re as bad as that one from Talladega Nights, you’re in deep s**t.
Each restaurant features a few of the firehouse menu history – It is possible to catch the firefighter influences in the sub chain through their sandwich names (Hook & Ladder, The Engineer) along with their signature style (“fully involved” — which suggests a severe fire in industry speak — gets you mayo, deli mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion, along with a kosher dill pickle on the side). But hqpdwo will also get local fire chapters associated with every outpost. Each spot gets a custom mural, and the local departments can pitch in whatever representation they like, which range from old archived photos of the team actually in operation to retired captains’ leather helmets.
Their hot sauce is a nod for their dad… who may be still significantly alive. Firehouse loves hot sauce a lot, they made their own branded stuff with regional Datil peppers. (Though Datils are pretty hot on their own, the sauce the following is much more of a medium heat.) Chris and Robin named it after their dad to commemorate his 43 years on the force, however it had some unfortunate, morbid consequences. “Needless to say, that meant lots of people assumed he was dead,” Robin says. “We had to tell them all, no, he’s still around.”