April 26, 2012
The atmosphere: Blue Ash resident Bob Davis had the goal of reviving a location that was known for good food and a good atmosphere and he’s done just that with the Firehouse Grill.
The former firefighter has created a modern, relaxing environment inside the restaurant that fits a family meal, a business lunch or a quiet date night.
In the parking lot, you are greeted by a large Warren County Career Center fire truck, which makes for quite the photo opportunity. On a recent Saturday evening, we watched a family with children enjoying time in the fire engine.
Once inside, a very open lobby isn’t too far from a monstrous, granite-topped bar. There are many high top tables as well as low tops and booths.
The outdoor patio could seat an entire fire station if needed, complete with a fireplace. If you’re in the mood to catch one of the big games, you’re in luck, the whole place has large flat screen TVs.
The night we were there, the Firehouse Grill was full of people enjoying a drink at the bar and a glimpse of the game as well as families catching up.
The food: Firehouse Grill doesn’t have your typical bar fare. It’s dinner menu, served after 4 p.m., has a lot of choices from salads to entrees such Mile High Meatloaf, gourmet pizzas and specialty burgers with names like Back Draft (very spicy with jalapeños and hot chili sauce) and The Cowboy (barbecue sauce and onion straws).
My date and I started the evening with an order of fried dill pickles, $6.99, panko-fried stackers with a side of buttermilk ranch sauce, and they were very good, still crisp even after being fried.
For an entrée I had the Blackfire Wrap, $8.99, a Jalapeno cheddar tortilla with Cajun chicken, carmelized onions, chipotle mayonnaise, Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce and tomatoes with a side of sweet potato fries for an extra $1.
This wrap had the right amount of heat to it, enough heat that I was downing my drinks. I couldn’t tell if it was the tortilla, the mayonnaise, the chicken or the combination of the three that gave it the heat but I couldn’t stop eating it.
My date decided to try a gourmet pizza and chose the West Coast ($9.99), which came piled high with artichokes, roasted red peppers, spinach, red onion and feta . It would have been enough for two people to share and the crust and flavors were spot on.
Since the main course was so great, we couldn’t pass up dessert. I choose the crème brulee ($4.99, and homemade the waiter said) while my date had the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake ($5.99). The crème brulee was a much larger serving than what I’m used too and the custard was smooth and tasty. The cheesecake was perfect.
The drinks: The draft beer list is rotating but usually includes Samuel Adams Seasonal, Stella Artois, Stone IPA, Yuengling, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Guinness and Mt. Caramel offerings. My date had a large Stella Artois on draft for $5.75.
As for wines, the restaurant has a large variety of whites and reds that range in price from $6-$11 a glass and $24-$36 a bottle. On Tuesdays, bottles are half price.
If you’re in the mood for a mixed drink try a Firehouse Cosmo or the Pomegranite Martini, which is what I had. ($7.95, $5 on Mondays). They were so good I ended up having two.
The verdict: The Firehouse grill is sure to light your fire whether for lunch or dinner or just to wind down after a long day for a drink and appetizer, it’s definitely worth checking out.
November 2, 2011
The American Isrealite
Combine a talented chef, a “grand” location, a personal vision and you have the formula for Firehouse Grill’s early success. Only six months old, but this “baby” can fly. Molly Davis, marketing director and co-owner with her husband Bob, a former fire fighter, touted the unique amenities of the restaurant: “Our huge capacity — including an outdoor patio that can seat 220 people, an indoor area for 300 more, our eclectic menu and our wonderful chef and his “family” in the kitchen.” She added, “The Grill exceeded our expectations. Who opens a restaurant in this economy, especially without a restaurant background?” Molly and Bob were committed to their vision and quick learners
Molly was charming and informed. She introduced me to executive chef, Jason Goldschmidt, a slender, handsome young man who had been the sous chef at Mitchell’s in Newport. A graduate of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, cooking was his second love. Since orchestras were shrinking but waistlines weren’t, the writing was on the menu.
On the day of my visit, the sun was shining and the two tiered patio couldn’t ask for better weather. Sometimes, people pick restaurants just because they have a small outdoor dining area and sure enough, everyone crowds to these places. That won’t be a problem for the Firehouse Grill’s al fresco dining. There is room for multiple guests (220) with a vibrant view of a small lake and lovely landscaping — even a fragrant magnolia blossoming in September. The umbrella covered tables promised shady comfort and a fireplace will keep diners warm when the weather chills. Molly was proud of the setting, since it’s rare to have a patio that doesn’t face a busy street or parking lot. It’s also handicapped accessible with two entry ramps.
The menu features what Polly Campbell, the Enquirer food critic, called “casual with a twist.” The hamburger was accompanied by fresh homemade kettle chips and “twisted” with an avocado, hot sauce dressing that may make you glad there is a commemorative fire truck with its gigantic hose parked outside. Oh yes, hot and spicy, just the way my husband Steve likes it. He says that if it makes his forehead moist, it’s good stuff. This sandwich passed with flying colors. For those looking for the best hamburger, not only did it satisfy our “yummy” test for the beef, it had a true char grilled flavor — the smoke that can give you a legal high. If you suffer from jalapeno pepper repugnance, the Firehouse Grill will gladly serve it your way. Their consideration for their guests with allergies was also impressive. Goldschmidt explained, “We make sure we use freshly cleaned pans and separate cooking areas, uncontaminated by other foods.” They are working on a gluten free menu. He added, “I want you to eat the food that I would want to eat.”
Salmon salad lovers (like me) will be pleased with the the delicious “Firelight” salmon spinach salad. The plate’s palette of colors will ply your palate with taste sensations of sweet red strawberries, pleasantly sour goat cheese and earthy toasted walnuts decorating the dark green baby spinach. A light dressing of sugar cane vinaigrette unites all the disparate ingredients into the perfect flavor accompaniment for the thick, fresh Atlantic salmon, enhanced by its char grilled preparation. You could eat this and congratulate yourself for choosing such a healthy meal, and then go ahead and splurge. Indulge yourself with the grand finale, the homemade key lime pie. Years ago, a friend in Miami introduced me to a “Florida” signature dish, preparing a key lime pie from scratch with love and skill. Goldschmidt’s version was a reminiscent delight. The interesting “twist,” toasted macadamia nuts, added another layer of flavor to the real key lime juice in the creamy filling. The graham cracker crust completed the comely confection with the necessary crunch. While staying well away from the crust, Steve, my gluten averse spouse, competed with me for spoonfuls of the tempting tart.
“The service is surprisingly good,” according to Polly Campbell. To achieve this accolade, chef Goldschmidt holds menu discussions and tastings for his workers, sometimes numbering well over 100 people. He explained, “That way they become a knowledgeable serving staff.” He believes he’s found the ones who want to grow with the company. This is what people take for granted when they rent the spacious banquet facilities for bar mitzvahs, showers and corporate presentations (power point ready with any type of audio/video and multiple large screen TV’s). They have a full time event coordinator on staff to make sure the parties are events to remember, and there is free rental with a minimum food order. Goldschmidt added, “the sheer size of the place allows us to accommodate large parties almost anytime but reservations are best.”
One large party occurs each Friday when they host the Bengal’s pep rally, broadcast on ESPN radio (1530). From 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. there is commentary on the team’s game from last week and their upcoming game. Many other sports oriented patrons like to gather around the huge bar for Alabama and Notre Dame games. They may also be drawn by the number of craft beers (draws) on tap. People are taking their beer very seriously now — a growing group wants IPA (India Pale Ale). I was fortunate to take a sip of Kentucky Bourbon Ale, a stronger brew, aged in bourbon barrels and served in a 10 ounce snifter. It was smooth and creamy with “a hint of butterscotch” according to Molly. I caught the hint of bourbon and wished it weren’t so early in the day, and that I didn’t need to keep a clear head. They also serve wine by the glass or bottle and cocktails, including the popular house cosmopolitan.
Another bonus for me was their Southwestern pizza. It made me remember that it takes a good, yeasty bread dough to make an excellent pizza crust. How often do you want to eat the rims, the “bones” of the pizza? You’ll want these. The talented chef has created a wonderful topping of basil pesto sauce, spinach, caramelized red onions, artichokes, roasted red peppers and feta cheese. I was glad I didn’t have to share this one (gluten).
Molly pointed out that “All the menu items (which range from tempting appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, steaks, hamburgers and desserts) are priced under $21 dollars, so people can afford to come back frequently; our food is a splurge someone can feel good about.” Happy hour is every day from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The restaurant is conveniently located near the intersection of Reed Hartman and Pfeiffer with plentiful parking. Operating hours are from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday to Thursday; Friday and Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (the kitchen closes at 11:00 p.m.); Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Firehouse Grill
4785 Lake Forest Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45242
May 15, 2011
THE FIREHOUSE GRILL
Opened in March
4785 Lake Forest Drive
Blue Ash, OH 45242
(513) 733-FIRE (3473)
The Scoop: Opened by Blue Ash resident and former firefighter Bob Davis, this 12,000-square-foot upscale-casual restaurant features a pub-like ambience with a huge outdoor patio that includes a fireplace overlooking a pond. The menu features gourmet pizzas and signature burgers.
Signature Dish: Backdraft Burger — Ground sirloin or grilled chicken breast, jalapeños, chilies, Monterey jack, guacamole, bacon, $9.
May 21, 2011
If I were to save one menu to put in a 2011 time capsule, I would choose the one I ordered from recently at Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash. It doesn’t represent fine dining’s cutting edge, but it does reflect almost perfectly what goes on customers’ plates in casual restaurants all over the city these days.
This is a hall-of-fame list, created through several decades of trial-by-customer. But it’s also updated with touches that reflect what’s going on right now in the food world.
So it’s not an original menu, but you can’t deny its popularity, and the food is well-executed, and service is surprisingly good for such a large, busy place.
A month after opening, the restaurant was filled on a Friday night, which takes some doing. It’s the former Watson Bros., more recently Apsara, and it’s a vast, blank slate. There’s a large open bar in the middle of the main room, another room full of bar-height tables, another that could host a private event. It’s all bright and clean, and there are lots of wide-screen TVs.
Outside, it was a little nippy, and the huge patio wasn’t full. When it’s warmer, this is a top-notch outdoor eating location. The cars on Reed-Hartman Highway seem far away, across a sweeping lawn and one of those small suburban lakes. Occasionally, a plane flies by with a surprisingly gentle whooshing sound to land at the nearby Blue Ash Airport.
The appetizer list is exactly what makes crowds happy in 2011: wings, of course; fried dill pickles; which have spread up from the South over the last 10 years or so; spinach and artichoke dip, a home recipe that is practically a casual restaurant requirement.
We tried the baked pretzel sticks ($6.95), which were warm and salty and came with a bland beer cheese. The beer list is much better than it would have been even five years ago, and the cactus pear margarita I had was practically a trendy craft cocktail, made with real pear juice and delicious.
Fifteen years ago, the Firelight summer salad which includes strawberries and goat cheese, would have been avant-garde in this setting. Now it’s mainstream, especially when the goat cheese is in tiny crumbles, and bacon bits are added. I like the not-too-sweet dressing. The iceberg wedge salad with bleu cheese, bacon and tomato, is on its second tour through America’s menus. This one needed a little more bleu cheese.
Of course there are burgers ($8.95) and pizza ($8.95-$9.95 for a personal size). But because it’s 2011, the patties are house-ground sirloin and several variations on the theme are offered, such as the Cowboy and the Cruncher with smoked gouda, firehouse chips, pickle and garlic aioli; and pizza with mashed potatoes or barbecue chicken. There are wraps, which first appeared in the mid-’90s and became entrenched during the low-carb phase.
Meat loaf ($13.95) first started reappearing on restaurant menus as glammed-up retro comfort food in perhaps the early ’90s. Here, it’s stacked on grilled French bread, topped with mashed potatoes and a tower of onion rings. I liked the meat loaf itself, sliced and grilled so it has a couple of textures going on, and the garlicky mashed potatoes with tomato gravy that works much better than a brown gravy.
There always has to be a rich pasta dish. Firehouse’s is shrimp carbonara ($14.95) with bacon cream, capicola, peas and roasted red peppers tossed with penne.
Guess what’s for dessert? That’s right: Key lime pie, crème brulee and molten chocolate lava cake representing the ’80s through the ’00s. The lava cake ($5.95) is a total winner; rich, chocolatey and gooey. Then there’s a choice I haven’t seen on other menus: A lemon cake ($5.95) layered with berries and mascarpone. It’s good, too. Maybe in this case, it will start a trend.
Where: 4785 E. Lake Forest Drive, Blue Ash
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday (brunch 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.)
Reservations: For parties of eight or more
Prices: Appetizers $6.95-$9.95; sandwiches $7.95-$9.95; entrées $13.95-$20.95
Vegetarian choices: Good, several appetizers, salads, veggie burger, pizza, side items
Miscellaneous: Accessible to disabled; outdoor dining; deck over pond in works; occasional live entertainment; private party rooms.
Contact: 513-733-3473 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 513-733-3473 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, www.firehousegrillcincinnati.com
May 2, 2011
Blue Ash’s new Firehouse Grill recently opened in a building that has been a revolving door of restaurants. The space is beautiful, the patio is awesome, the decor is cool and the bar is big enough to handle just about any crowd. It’s always been beautiful but neither Garcia’s, Watson Bros. Brewery nor Apsara could figure out how to please their patrons and hang on for more than a few years.
Firehouse is the brain child of a local ex-firefighter Bob Davis. He and his wife Molly have fond memories of hanging out on the patio on summer nights. They, along with investors re-opened the vacant space and hope to bring new life to the seemingly cursed location.
One factor in any Blue Ash restaurant is the fact that after 5 pm, the whole place is a ghost town. This is a day time lunch business town. Considering that, I was surprised Firehouse doesn’t serve any entrees until after 4pm. That bummed me out because I came there in the hopes of trying the meatloaf, but instead I had to choose from sandwiches, wraps, salads, a couple pastas and pizza. The “Back Draft burger” $8.95 featured house ground sirloin (or grilled chicken breast), jalapenos, chilies, melted Monterey jack, guacamole and bacon for $8.95. My co-conspirator had her heart set on the Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon with basil pesto, roasted tomato chutney with wild mushroom risotto ($16.95), but as we were too early she went with a tweaked to veggie Battalion Italian pizza (pepperoni, capicola ham, spicy Italian sausage, banana peppers, mozzarella and provolone $9.95). We were able to order the risotto so that accompanied.
The pizza featured a nice corn meal dusted crust and boasted fine flavor. It didn’t WOW! us but was worth buying. The burger looked like a winner on the plate but a few bites into it revealed a much too rare center for medium well. The server (Phil W) was quick to whisk it back to the kitchen and the manager was just as quick to appear table side to first; agree it was under cooked, and second to replace it with anything that I fancied. What I really fancied was a second order of the risotto. Damn fine by most any standards, rich with wild mushroom flavor, cooked perfect and creamy yet not too dense texture. It was devoured delightfully. So was the pizza.
I read the “horrible service” reviews on urbanspoon but folks I beg to differ. I’m a 15 year veteran server bartender and I can testify these folks aim to please and the service I had was genuinely competent and down to earth friendly. Sure, the cook rushed the burger, but sh!t happens. What matters is they were right on the complaint and willing to please us. The rest of the order was good, the risotto was great and I would give them a second try.
I admit I think the entrees after 4pm only is a mistake. Especially considering the locale. I think it’s the first time I’ve encountered such a faux pas on a menu for a while. Imagine if Fridays, O’ Charlie’s or what-have-you offered entrees only after 4. Financial losses for sure. Other than the restricted menu items, Firehouse should be a viable option for Blue Ash folks to try. The super patio looks perfect for summer night finger food, three finger shots, flaming fireplaces and six strings. Firehouse Grill does have live music but as of yet we have no schedule to publish. Too bad considering we have the best band schedule in print. With names like Natalie Wells we would welcome the addition.
March 6, 2011
The large restaurant at the corner of Glendale-Milford Rd. and Reed Hartman Highway in Blue Ash will re-open on March 16 as The Firehouse Grill.
The restaurant has been Garcia’s, Watson Bros. Brewery and Apsara. Now Bob Davis, who’s new to the restaurant world, along with local investors, is opening it with a name that refers to his former career as a firefighter. His wife Molly, a marketing professional, says their impetus was memories of warm summer evenings spent out on the patio.
That really is a nice patio: it’s large, looking out over a large grass lawn and a pond, with the traffic all very far away. If you haven’t been there in awhile, it looks something like this, but they’re re-doing the landscaping, to polish it and freshen it up.
They’ll be catering to the Blue Ash business community with business lunches, happy hours and private rooms for meetings. They’ll also be open for dinner. The menu includes wraps, gourmet pizzas, burgers and signature dinner entrees. There’s a spicy “Back draft” burger, a “Chief Brown Steakhouse Burger” named for Blue Ash fire chief Rich Brown, with caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms and steak sauce. The Firehouse wrap is a jalapeno-cheddar tortilla with blackened chicken, chipotle mayo, caramelized onions and cheese. Entrees include tortilla crusted tilaia on top of jalapeno corn pudding, black bean salsa and guacamole.
The large space seats 318, and 220 on the patio. They’ve hired a staff of 75. The general manager is Chad Smith and executive chef is Jason Goldschmidt, both formerly of Mitchell’s Fish Market.
January 21, 2011
The Business Courier
Restaurant to take over 12,000 square feet in former Apsara, Watson Bros. Bistro space
The massive Blue Ash space that most recently housed the Asian restaurant Apsara will soon be home to the “upscale casual” Firehouse Grill.
Molly Davis, director of marketing for Firehouse Grill, said the owners are hoping to open the restaurant and sports bar in time for the NCAA basketball tournament.
“The building has an amazing patio and the interior space is great for entertaining,” Davis said. “We’re ready for the chance to make it great again.”
The principals of the company, Firehouse Grill LLC, did not want to be revealed, but they are all local business owners, Davis said.
The 12,000-square-foot restaurant includes two private meeting rooms, and the owners plan to cater as well. Plus, there is a two-tiered outdoor patio with a fireplace and the building sits on more than 2.3 acres.
The menu will include items from burgers and wraps to steaks and chops. And with a former firefighter involved in the project, Davis said there was no way they could skip putting a firehouse chili on the menu.
Located on Lake Forest Drive in Blue Ash, the site was home to Watson Bros. Bistro and Brewery before Apsara opened in 2007. Apsara closed in the middle of November.
Davis said the new ownership group wants to capture the same pub-like ambiance as Watson Bros.
The building, which is currently undergoing renovations, was purchased Jan. 3 for $1.8 million by FHGP7 LLC, a limited liability company made up of a number of Blue Ash and Montgomery business owners. A new bar is being installed, as are flat screen TVs, and the old decor is being removed.
The management staff for Firehouse Grill has been hired. In addition, the restaurant will be hiring staff, but Davis said a final employment number has not been determined.
Judie Guttadauro, vice president of sales and leasing with Realty Network Plus Inc., represented Apsara owner Chanaka DeLanerolle in the sale. She said she received considerable interest in the property and said a more casual restaurant would do well there.
DeLanerolle said Apsara never performed as he had projected. While it had a strong lunch crowd, he said he wasn’t able to reproduce the success of his Mount Adams restaurants, such as Teak Thai Cuisine and the Celestial Steakhouse.
The location is surrounded by a number of businesses and sits catty-corner to the Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport.
THE FIREHOUSE GRILL4785 Lake Forest Dr.
Cincinnati, OH 45242 513-733-FIRE (3473)