Firebirds’ open kitchen is just as important as its entrees

by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Firebirds’ open kitchen is just as important as its entrees

Stephen Loftis describes Firebirds Wood Fired Grill as more than a restaurant. It’s a destination.

“What sets us apart is the wood-fired grill itself,” says Loftis, Firebirds’ vice president of marketing. “The food is cooked over an open flame—hickory, pecan or oak, depending on the region. The flavor it imparts on the food is incredible. The grill, as well as the smell it emanates, is the center point of it all.

“With the open kitchen and the grill, it’s like dinner and a show.”

Southern Arizona foodies have dined at Firebirds since 2003, when the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company opened its second location in Arizona. The first sits in Peoria. The restaurant strives to continually improve and evolve.

“Tucson is a great location for us,” he says. “We do very well in that area, in La Encantada, a higher-end, affluent area. We do well with snowbirds and retirees, too.”

Firebirds was founded 18 years ago and, Loftis says, it filled a casual niche.

“The focus was to provide a middle-ground experience,” he adds. “We attract folks who would go to Chili’s, Applebee’s or Longhorn Steakhouse and were willing to pay a little more money, have a better experience and better-quality food.

“Then, we also bring in folks who go to Ruth’s Chris Steak House or Morton’s every week who want to trade down and have a comparable experience without the price tag.”

Firebirds offers a breadth of menu selections, including its signature aged ribeye, filet mignon, wood-grilled salmon, Durango burger, grilled shrimp and strawberry salad, lobster spinach queso and crème brulée cheesecake. Firebirds also serves gluten-sensitive menu items, such as grilled tenderloin salad, beef filet kabob, wood-grilled salmon and parmesan mashed potatoes.

“Until about three years ago, our most popular dish was our signature filet mignon,” Loftis says.

“Then it shifted to wood-grilled salmon. That’s our most popular dish from our guests at this point in time. I’m not a salmon fan, but the flavor the grill imparts on the dish is outrageous.”

The kids’ menu is certified by the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program.

“We do cater to families,” Loftis says. “We have a tremendous kids’ menu with salmon, steak and traditional chicken fingers, among other entrees. We have one of the best kids’ menus in this area. We hear that a lot.”

In addition, Firebar boasts an extensive selection of wines, including two private Firebirds labels, craft beers and specialty cocktails, such as the Double Black Diamond Martini infused with fresh pineapple. The Firebar serves seasonal cocktails, such as the Hemingway daiquiri, ginger basil mango mojito and siesta sangria. Featured nonalcoholic drinks are strawberry basil cooler and wild berry ginger craft soda.

As part of the company’s efforts to give back to the community, Firebirds participated in Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s annual fundraiser from June 8 to June 10 to raise money for childhood cancer research. All proceeds from the sale of house-made lemonade at a stand by the restaurant’s front door were donated to the cause.

ALSF was founded by Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004) who issued a challenge for volunteers to help raise $1 million for a childhood cancer cure by selling cups of lemonade.

Year-round, Firebirds donates $1.25 per glass of house-made lemonade ordered in the restaurant to ALSF. Nationwide, Firebirds has already raised more than $1 million for ALSF.

“We’re pretty proud of our participation in Lemonade Day,” Loftis says. “We recently gave $130,000 to them. We had lemonade stands at each location and sold $3 lemonade. Year-round, we have lemon cake and we ‘Round Up for a Cure.’ That’s our way of giving back to the community.”