Mini-Review of Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill (9611 N. Meridian St., Carmel, 317-564-3042), a casual corporate steakhouse molded in the cozy Montana-lodge aesthetic, might not have the culinary ambitions of the city’s best independent restaurants, but the thick ribeyes and regal slow-roasted prime ribs are prepared properly over hickory, oak, or pecan wood, and no one argues with good parmesan mashed potatoes. Situated in the parking lot of a large Drury Inn at I-465 and Meridian Street, the Charlotte-based chain clearly expects to attract travelers who don’t want to think too hard about lunch or dinner, but there’s a place for that—and in this case, it’s an attractive place called the Firebar that makes a convenient meetup for northsiders as well as out-of-towners. The hangout’s stylish centerpiece—tall backlit shelves holding liquor bottles arranged dynamically in an ombré rainbow—catches your eye from the parking lot. The best seats are platform banquettes by the stone fireplace, ideal for sharing lobster-queso dip over cocktails and surveying the scene. The dining room sits on the other side of the space, with six-person-plus-elbow-room booths. Of the steaks, we prefer the flavorful chile-rubbed Delmonico, heavily charred and seasoned, for a nice departure from familiar preparations. The kitchen sends out a lot of wood-grilled salmon, but we didn’t taste the smokiness as much as we wanted to, so the coconut shrimp atop citrusy tortilla slaw and mango-habanero chutney gets our pick for a seafood choice. Each shrimp offers three generous bites, and the slaw is so tasty, you won’t let your server take away the plate until it’s all gone. Kobe meatloaf, a house specialty, easily outdoes mom’s recipe with its succulent texture and Portobello-mushroom sauce. Dessert sends out cheesecake, of course, but it’s bruléed on top, adding a crunchy caramel twist to the light, fluffy wedge. Diners may not write home about Firebirds, but based on the crowd loosening their ties on a recent Friday evening, the word is getting around.

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Fernandez began writing for Indianapolis Monthly in 1995 while studying journalism at Indiana University. One of her freelance assignments required her to join a women's full-tackle football team for a season. She joined the staff in 2005 to edit IM's ancillary publications, including Indianapolis Monthly Home. In 2011, she became a senior editor responsible for the Circle City section as well as coverage of shopping, homes, and design-related topics. Now the director of editorial operations, she lives in Garfield Park.