Sam and I, after much waffling this evening, decided to visit Firebirds for dinner. Sam and Jess recently had dinner there, and both seemed very pleased with the place.
Which is great; at the price point, you should expect excellence. Firebirds lists prices for dinner as in the $12.95-$23.95 range. Our typical dinner out tops out at the bottom of that range, unless we're having top-dollar items (steaks, seafood), in which case we get into the $18 range sometimes (though I'll note that you can get a damned good steak around Omaha for $12.95 - you just have to know where to look).
Seating and Service
We were seated promptly upon arrival, though it became apparent after a minute or two at our table that our waiter wasn't notified that we were his very promptly; he seemed surprised that he was going to be serving us. He did take our drink orders quickly and deliver them as quickly.
When he returned to take our order, the one concern I had was that he seemed put off that we were ordering non-appetizer items to share. I can chalk this up to imagination; the service we received was otherwise unremarkable, but also unobjectionable.
For our appetizer, we selected the Lobster Spinach Queso at about $9. The claim:
A spicy blend of lobster, baby spinach, wood smoked tomatoes, and pepper jack cheese. Fired in our ovens, then topped with a chunky pico de gallo salsa made from scratch in our kitchen. Served with tri-colored tortilla chips.
The reality? First of all, it was not spicy in the least; the cheese was rather unfortunately more suggestive of melted Velveeta than pepper jack - perhaps a side effect of the other ingredients. (Velveeta has its place; it is not in a $9 appetizer. I'm not saying that's what they used, either - just that the flavor spoke nothing of the pepper jack cheese they claimed to have used.) The spinach merely seemed to make the cheese come out in stringy clumps, rather than adding real flavor. (Similarly, I've seen spinach used effectively in dips - just not here.) The lobster was fine, but as I'm not crazy about lobster, it seemed like an expensive ingredient put in a $3 dish to justify a $9 price. Speaking of which, it was a $9 appetizer; I understand that the menu clearly says that it's served with tortilla chips, but I think this is a serious mistake. Bring me some veggies or some thin-sliced, toasted bread - you pick what kind. (Joey's Seafood & Grill gets this exactly right with their Crab & Artichoke dip at a buck or two cheaper - charbroiled garlic toast, yum.)
Moving on, we then split a Caesar salad (about $6). The claim:
With shaved Reggiano cheese and chile dusted croutons.
Reality: It did, in fact, have those ingredients, and others - though if the croutons were chile-dusted or not, I couldn't tell. Overall, it tasted like a Caesar salad I could easily make at home with one of those Caesar salad kits - even the dressing tasted like it was straight from a packet. Come on, guys. Surprise me. Astound me. Make your salad dressing in-house - it tastes better, and for $6, you'd better do that or put something more substantial on my salad than a single cheese shaving and some (maybe) chile-dusted croutons. I'm talking protein here, guys. Meat. Do it. Or don't, and sell the salad for a couple bucks less.
Finally, the steak - a 14 oz. New York Strip at about $23. We elected to get an extra potato and split this, as well. The claim:
14 oz. hand-cut aged Black Angus strip steak trimmed extra lean, lightly seasoned and wood grilled. Served with a loaded Colorado Russet baked potato or seasoned steak fries.
Reality: Oh, boy. Where do I start? First of all, I was not at all impressed with the cut of meat we got. Not only was it not trimmed extra lean, it was easily the fattiest strip I've had in memory - not the melty, edible "flavor fat", either - gristly, tough, flavorless fat. (This is my favorite cut of steak; I'd say I put down two a month, on average, so I know my strips.) It was also the least tender I've had in memory, and the least juicy. I order my steaks medium rare, unless I know something about the place (like a tendency to under- or overcook them). It came out with the right colors - a warm red center, uniformly brown on the outside - so they were cooked right, which leaves me puzzled. Why didn't a nice, thick, aged Angus strip, cooked medium rare, leave my plate a juicy (but delicious) mess? The other unfortunate bit is that it was delivered to me lukewarm on the outside. The only times my steak should ever be served to me less than hot on the outside are if I order it rare, or if I paid $8 at a crappy diner. In both cases, they should be considerably warmer than this one was.
What was right about the steak? Well - it was cooked to the right level of done-ness. Also, the parts I could chew had an incredible flavor - my compliments to whomever seasoned it. I ate approximately four ounces of the seven ounce half steak on my plate.
The potato was fine; I can't comment much on it, as I was already full from the other items and could only eat a few bites.
All in all, the food was alright. Good, even, at a certain price point. Our bill came back at about $45 for two drinks (a soda and an iced tea) and the appetizer, salad, steak meal and the extra potato. That's steep for food that's alright - it's even steep for good food.
My recommendation is to give Firebirds a pass. If you want to go out for a good steak, skip the dressing up and go to Texas Roadhouse. They've got a killer 12 ounce Kansas City Strip that I'd pay $23 for any day - and it'll only set you back $15.
(And try the top shelf margarita with Patron Anejo, too. Best. Margarita. Ever. ...tied with Sam's.)