• What: Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
• Claims to fame: Butchering done on-site; meat aged 21 days; "Refined yet approchable" atmosphere; wine wall; Double Black Diamond drink
• Where: 2107 Gunbarrel Road, suite 101, Chattanooga
• When: Slated to open May 5
• Contact: www.firebirdsrestaurants.com
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is preparing to enter the Chattanooga market next week when it opens a 250-seat restaurant near Hamilton Place mall.
The new 6,500-square-foot Firebirds, located at 2107 Gunbarrel Road, is the franchise's third to open in Tennessee, behind Collierville and Memphis. It's the 31st Firebirds nationwide, joining stores as far away as Arizona.
In Tennessee, Chattanooga was picked above Knoxville and Nashville for a franchise expansion. The Scenic City is getting a Firebirds even before Atlanta.
"Chattanooga quite frankly has been on the radar for quite some time, to be honest with you," said Stephen Loftis, vice president of marketing for the franchise. "Chattanooga seemed to be missing something like Firebirds."
Loftis says the Firebirds atmosphere and affordability set it apart from other restaurants, even amid the plethora of sit-down joints crammed into the Shallowford-Gunbarrel interchange around the mall.
The architecture is described as Aspen ski lodge-esque, with a warm rock fireplace and rustic accents throughout.
The wood fire grill is visible to customers behind panes of glass. And that's where Ricco Vasquez is going to spend most of his time.
He is the executive chef at Firebirds and will work alongside two other chefs to serve up the restaurant's 60-plus food items.
"When we fire up our grill, you're going to smell it -- and it's great," he said.
What will be cooking on the grill is a variety of meats and seafood dishes. Among the offerings are wood grilled salmon; steak au poivre; cilantro-grilled chicken breast; filet mignon; Aspen sirloin and Firebirds chicken pasta.
Firebirds also will feature an extensive drink menu, including a concoction special to Firebirds restaurants called the Double Black Diamond: pineapple infused for 21 days mixed with SVEDKA citron vodka, then garnished with a pineapple slice.
And there's also the wine wall, where hundreds of bottles will be on display for diners. Exclusive right now to the Chattanooga store is also the mini wine wall, a rack of bottles that greets customers just inside the front door.
There's also a full, functional bar with TVs for sports and events and outside seating in a raised patio area.
The expected opening date is next Monday, and most of the 130 employees that will make up the Firebirds team have been hired.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6480.