Years ago residents of Silver Spring, Maryland, used to bring their casseroles and homemade cakes to the downtown fire station for weekend potluck dinners. Today the firefighters tend their trucks down the street in a brand-new building, but their old headquarters is still bringing the community together over good food. After a slick renovation, the 100 year-old building opened nine weeks ago as the Fire Station 1 Restaurant & Brewing Company.
The owners, both former firefighters, kept the original bricks and exposed wooden ceiling for ambience as they added tables and booths, a bar, a row of TV screens, and a loft with additional seating. Outdoor tables and umbrellas by the restaurant’s big picture windows add a touch of curbside café to what looks, essentially, like a neighborhood sports bar.
This isn't a typical burger and beer joint, though. “The perception of this place is that it’s going to serve dude food,” says co-owner Michael Mountain. “But we spent about two years on the menu. Everything we have is made from scratch, and we source as many things as we can locally.”
The result is food that’s surprisingly gourmet, served up by a pleasant, helpful, fast wait staff.
I ordered a Caesar salad to start—nicely tangy with rustic croutons and plenty of Parmesan cheese. My husband’s seafood soup was a creamy chowder with chunks of three different fish. And our nephew’s 5-alarm chili was blazing. “My face is burning red, which is how I like it,” he said. (3-alarm and rookie versions are available for less daring diners.)
The extensive menu has a seafood section, which includes crab cakes—“one or two 100% lump crab.” I can usually eat a boatload of the tiny ones most restaurants turn out, but our server assured us that these were huge, so I ordered only one. It was enormous, and hugely delicious—lightly seasoned with Old Bay and baked to golden perfection, accompanied by green beans almondine and a Dairy-Queen swirl of creamy, garlicky, mashed potatoes. It’s the restaurant’s #1 selling dish, and rightly so.
My husband and nephew both ordered from the sandwich section—a Cuban, with pork and pickles and chipotle mayonnaise, and a crab cake on a bun that came with sensational home fries cut in thick wedges.
Desserts were equally satisfying—cappuccino brownies a la mode and Anna’s banana split, named after the 12-year-old daughter of Jeremy Gruber, the other owner. Both were served with generous scoops of locally churned Great Falls ice cream—“named one of America's 10 best ice creams by Bon Appetit magazine,” according to the company’s website. (https://www.greatfallsicecream.com/)
The menu is still a work in progress. The owners are tweaking it to give their customers exactly what they want, whether it’s pizza or wraps, soup or salad, beef or chicken, fish or something vegetarian. There are even special dishes for Jr. Firefighters, including a 4 oz. Angus cheese burger.
Yes, there are burgers. And beers—quite a list of them. So it is a burger and beer joint after all. And a whole lot more.
We’ll be back soon. I want to try Ben’s lobster BLT. It’s the restaurant’s second best seller. Who’s Ben? Anna’s brother, of course.
Fire Station 1
Restaurant & Brewing Co.
8131 Georgia Avenue (corner of Silver Spring Avenue)
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Monday-Thursday: 11 am-10 pm
Friday-Saturday: 11 am-12 am
Sunday: 11 am-9 pm
(The website has old photos of firefighters and trucks, a history of the fire station, a copy of the menu, and an e-store that sells T-shirts as well as pint glasses emblazoned with the restaurant logo.)