I wasn’t familiar with the Firebirds name before learning of its arrival in Knoxville, but the Charlotte-based chain of restaurants has a national presence. A menu built around fire-grilled cuisine is the anchor of their concept, which aims for an upscale feel but with an accessible presence. The Grub Spouse and I made a reservation and showed up for dinner on a recent weeknight.
The reservation wasn’t totally necessary on that particular evening, but Firebirds still seemed to be doing a brisk business. The bar area and the adjacent dining area made an immediate visual impact when we entered the building. A hostess showed us to a comfortable mini-booth for two, which was in a larger dining space on the other side of a partition, within sight of the open-concept kitchen line.
The appetizers are sized for sharing. These include the lobster spinach queso dip and the Philly cheesesteak egg rolls. We decided early to pace ourselves for future desserts, so we passed on the starters altogether. The menu also offers several classic salads as well as a house chicken tortilla soup and a soup of the day (black bean that evening).
Steaks are a specialty at Firebirds, and I obliged by choosing the bleu cheese filet over cuts like the aged ribeye, pepper-encrusted sirloin and the surf and turf with lobster. I got the 7-ounce portion ($31.95) instead of the 9-ounce. The filet comes wrapped in bacon and topped with bleu cheese sauce and crumbles as well as Portobello mushrooms. I chose the southwest au gratin potatoes as my side. Other side options include steak fries, cider slaw, fresh fruit, broccoli and tater tots.
The Spouse perused other Firebirds specialties, which include striped bass, Baja shrimp pasta, cilantro-grilled chicken, baby back ribs, prime rib and American Kobe beef meatloaf. A selection of burgers and a chicken sandwich round out the menu. The Spouse got the wood-grilled salmon ($25.95), which is prepared basted in key lime butter and served with a fresh vegetable medley. Spousey picked the spiced pecan green beans as the included side.
We started off nibbling on a loaf of fresh bread with butter, which hit the proverbial spot early. With a quarter-loaf remaining on the platter, our server asked us if we wanted more butter. We said we didn’t. But before we could process what was happening, our server had walked away with the remaining chunk of bread, which I was actually saving for my entrée. At least she used this skill for good as well as evil, as she was diligent about removing our used dishes and keeping our beverage glasses full as the meal proceeded.
In general, I was pleased with our selections. The Spouse’s entrée embodied bold salmon flavor and really benefitted from its grill-top preparation. Both the green beans and the mixed vegetables were on the crisp side—which I personally prefer over too mushy—but the veggie medley in particular could have used just a shade more cooking time. I didn’t mind the green beans being a little firmer.
My filet was delicious without embellishment. I ordered it medium, and the pink center was indeed warm. It was juicy and robustly flavored, but I certainly enjoyed the bacon, bleu cheese and mushroom add-ons. The side of southwest potatoes au gratin was substantial, larger than the steak itself, and it was a great eat; the potato slices were super cheesy and spicy enough to notice.
We debated getting two different desserts, but we were both approaching maximum intake, my smallish steak notwithstanding. We decided to share a slice of crème brulée cheesecake ($8.95), which was served with fresh blueberries and strawberries and a raspberry coulis drizzle. It was an indulgently sweet adventure we did not regret taking.
I’m curious how well Firebirds will hold its own with the likes of Fleming’s, Connors and Ruth’s Chris. But for now, the chain seems to have at least staked its claim to a part of town that had been lacking a comparable contender. We shall see.
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
Address: 7641 Kingston Pike
Full bar service
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
This new West Knoxville restaurant’s fire-grilled steaks and entrees are complemented by service and a setting that strive for an upscale vibe.