You have to be really determined to find Firehouse BBQ. It sits behind the Hub Car Wash & Diner on Lexington Drive near East Woodmen Road. It’s not easy to see from any direction. The times I ate there, we were the only customers in sight.
The Firehouse is a restaurant that’s trying really hard. Although it’s a barbecue joint and the menu touts smoked meats, the smoke flavor is missing from most. Several of the items taste as if they’ve been held in the kitchen for a long time. Although the service is fast and friendly, attention to detail in the kitchen is lacking.
Firehouse BBQ has a neat interior, with firetruck and fire memorabilia decorating the walls. They advertise 10 percent off every day for firefighters, police officers, military and seniors, so they obviously want to be a part of the community.
On a lunchtime visit, we started our meal with Search & Rescue smoked wings ($7.99 for six). They were delicious. The smoke flavor married really nicely with the tangy buffalo-style sauce. The wings were tender, not overcooked.
The EMT Spicy Hot Link ($9.99) sounded like a robust sandwich for a drizzly day. A smoky hot link on a toasted French roll, it came topped with coleslaw, tomatoes, jalapeños and a sweet mustard barbecue sauce. The combination of flavors was exciting, snappy and fresh. The underlying sausage, however, was completely waterlogged. If you took a bite without the toppings, it tasted as though the poor sausage had been sitting far too long in a pan of hot water. The flavor was diminished, and any trace of smoke had vanished.
The Bomber Brisket Sami ($9.99) didn’t fare much better. The beef was tender enough but lacked a beefy or smoky flavor.
The sides were acceptable but not anything special. The fries appeared to be the same mass-produced variety you can get anywhere, although they were competently cooked. The baked beans were nicely done, flecked with a little of the brisket and not overly sweet.
A dinner visit didn’t do much to change my opinion of the place. A single staff person was tending bar, waiting tables and cooking, which shouldn’t have been too much of a problem since we were the lone table on a Wednesday night. But items were forgotten and never produced or produced late. When the server called in reinforcements, the new wait staff who came in gave us great service. She apologized for the missed items, kept our water glasses full and offered us a 10 percent discount on our next visit.
Our order of fried pickles ($5.99), which are meant to be an appetizer, came about halfway through the meal. Even so, they’re the best fried pickles I’ve tried. They are cut extra thin, so when fried they look like potato chips. Pop one in your mouth and it’s a crunch, a burst of pickle flavor, and then you’re reaching for another. And another. I’d love to see them offer the fried pickles as a burger topping, because they really helped add flavor to a lackluster burger.
The Bail-Out Bacon Cheeseburger ($8.99) was disappointing on two counts. First, the small, thin patty was much smaller than the bun, which was fresh and toasted. Second, the bacon was missing, and the “fixings” on the side were a tiny slice of tomato and a single dill pickle chip.
The Chief’s Platter ($19.99) is supposed to come with three meats, three sides and Texas garlic toast. We planned to split the meal between two of us, and there was plenty of food for that. The coleslaw never appeared, despite a request when the meal was delivered. The bread was toasted white sandwich bread. The green beans were delicious if you like them Southern style, which I do: slow cooked until tender and flecked with bacon. The potato salad was well done, with a dressing enlivened by the tang of mustard.
The meats, though, were all mediocre. The brisket and the pulled pork were difficult to tell apart: tangled heaps of shredded meat without much flavor, smoky or otherwise. The ribs were at least well cooked, tender enough to pull easily from the bone, but again lacking that advertised kiss of smoke. And the meats all tasted as though they’d been baked, rather than grilled or smoked.
Restaurant character: Filled with firefighter memorabilia, the Firehouse BBQ is a fun and friendly space with a mostly disappointing menu. The appetizers are the best things they have to offer.
Rating total: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Food: 2 out of 5 stars
Ambiance: 3 out of 5 stars
Service: 3 out of 5 stars
Address: 6995 Lexington Drive
Contact: 447-8829; firehousebbq andbar.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday- Thursday; 11a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays; 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays; 8 a.m.- 9 p.m. Sundays
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards: Yes
Vegetarian options: No
As of Sept. 23: · 73 percent of 162 voters “liked it” on Urban Spoon · 1 out of 5 stars based on 1 review on Yelp · On Facebook; search “The Firehouse BBQ and Sports Bar” · One critical violation during April inspection by the El Paso County Health Department.