On Restaurants | Firebirds aims for niche in central Ohio restaurant scene

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill has opened its first location in Columbus, at 8760 Sancus Blvd. near
Polaris, the site of a former Hoggy’s restaurant.

Firebirds is based in North Carolina and has a restaurant in Niles, near Youngstown. It has had
its eye on central Ohio for a while but hadn’t found a site until the former Hoggy’s became
available, said Stephen Loftis, the company’s vice president of marketing.

“We really like the economics of the area, and the consumer and flavor profiles are a good fit
for what we have to offer.”

The company knows it’s going into an area that’s filled to the brim with restaurants and is
highly competitive.

“We fit a different niche. There are a lot of casual dining and higher-end concepts in the area,
but nothing in our niche,” Loftis said.

Firebirds’ niche is known in the industry as “polished casual” — a step above casual sit-down
restaurants such as Outback Steakhouse and Applebee’s in food quality and price, but not as formal
or expensive as fine dining.

The chain hopes to woo customers with a menu of wood-fired and grilled meats that features prime
rib, filet mignon, wood-grilled salmon and pecan-crusted trout.

“Wood-firing takes the flavor to another level,” said Marlon Gammon, the general manager of the
Polaris location. “We try to use hardwoods or a combination of hardwoods that add interesting
flavors, and eventually we will try to fire using woods indigenous to Ohio, for a more local

The bar features wines on tap and its private-label wine, and a house cocktail list including
Martini Thyme with Reyka vodka, St. Germain liqueur, homemade sweet and sour mix, blueberries and
fresh thyme.

Firebirds participates in the National Restaurant Association’s Kids Livewell program, wherein
restaurants pledge to serve healthier children’s meals, and it was named one of the breakout brands
of 2014 by industry publication
Nation’s Restaurant News for its service and premium menu items.

The decor is what the company refers to as Colorado-lodge style, which means the interior is
heavy on dark wood and stone surfaces.

Although the restaurant is built on the site of the former Hoggy’s, it’s in a new building. The
Hoggy’s met with the wrecking ball.

The Polaris restaurant is 6,200 square feet and seats 203 inside and 58 on the patio, which has
a fireplace and forced heat and air to make dining comfortable in a range of temperatures.

Although the company said it’s focused on getting the Polaris location going, more Firebirds
restaurants are envisioned in other parts of town. Company officials have looked at locations “
closer to Downtown, and north of where we are currently,” Loftis said, “but a lot has to fall into
place for a restaurant to happen, but we do like the area a lot.”

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11
p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Off the menu

• Dirty Franks’ vegan hot dog has been named one of the best by People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals, ranking No. 2 in the nation. Dirty Franks won the No. 1 spot in PETA’s 2011 survey.

• Columbus Corn Dog, a food trailer serving fair-food favorites such as corn dogs, funnel cakes
and fresh-squeezed lemonade year-round, has set up shop at a permanent location at 2233 Morse Road.
It’s open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Owner Antonio Robinson hopes to transition the
stand into a permanent, sit-down restaurant.

• Gallerie Bar Bistro, 401 N. High St., has launched a series of monthly dinners. Themes
include Barbecue and Bourbon and an Ohio Harvest Dinner prepared with only local ingredients, then
paired with Ohio wine, spirits and cocktails. Each dinner is held on the second Thursday of the
month through December. For more information, go to

• McDonald’s has revamped its Happy Meal options again. The burger chain added low-fat
strawberry yogurt as a side item in kid’s meals. Customers can choose either a yogurt or apple
slices, or both, in place of French fries.

• Hong Kong House has opened at 1830 Henderson Rd. The restaurant there used to be known as Hong
Kong Buffet, but it closed in April for remodeling into what is a full-service, sit-down

Obit file

Alex’s Bistro, 4681 Reed Rd. in Upper Arlington, appears to have closed. The door is boarded up
even though the tables inside are set, complete with wine glasses.

Dispatch restaurant columnist Denise Trowbridge can be reached at
[email protected]