NOTE: This is an older review, kept on the site for historical purposes only. For my most recent review of Firefly's, click here.
Marlborough, MA (04/20/06)(05/12/06)(07/13/06)
Framingham, MA (04/29/06) (05/18/06) (06/02/06) (07/14/06) (07/27/06) (09/12/06) (09/15/06) (10/03/06)
Firefly's is the brainchild of Steve Uliss, who previously oversaw the barbecue at the now-defunct Original Sports Saloon in Boston and the Tennessee's mini-chain in greater Boston. The always-packed original Marlboro Firefly’s is like an oversized frat house sitting atop a hill overlooking Route 20. It has a separate bar, a function room, another large room dedicated to billiards and live music, and outdoor seatingin the summer. The more sedate Framingham location has a bar area that's more integrated into the main dining area, more TVs, but less other features. Both locations have a complimentary condiment bar featuring an array of pickles, hot peppers and salad items that can be added to burgers or eaten as a free appetizer. Both also feature a wall of about 40 hot sauces for sampling, arranged in rows according to heat level. When you're seated, you receive a complimentary bowl of cucumber salad.
The Firefly's menu features a wide array of appetizers, mostly falling into the categories of fried foods and sampler versions of barbecue items. The fried pickle slices are crisp, well seasoned and pretty good. The fun mini burgers come with a lot of different do-it-yourself toppings like bacon, pulled pork, cheese sauce and onion strings. The pulled pork sliders feature an oversauced meat that's more like baby food than the pulled pork on the entrees. The all-beef, no-bean chili is made with brisket and is very good. I also like the chicken wings, which are smoked, then grilled and served with hot sauce and ranch dressing on the side. Their signature appetizer is a pu pu platter with an assortment of brisket, ribs, wings, catfish fingers and homemade potato chips.
Barbecue forms the backbone of the entrees. For ribs, the choices are St Louis or babybacks (spare ribs were discontinued as of May 2006). There's pulled pork, brisket (sliced or chopped) and chicken (pulled or barbecued). The ribs are smoked, then grilled with your choice of 6 different sauces. If you like your ribs wet, with a caramelized crust from grilling with sauce on, these are among the better ones done in that style, with a lot of slurp factor in every bite. If you prefer your ribs naked, this is probably not the best place to get them. The level of smoke and the juiciness in the meat vary greatly, so you may get a very good rack one night and a very dry rack the next.
The pulled pork is tender and mild, light on smoke and bark. I like the flavor, though it can be over mashed or dry at times. Sliced brisket can also vary greatly, running the gamut from thin-sliced and very dry to thick and moist. But the wet ribs are clearly the signature item here. Order them with their new Dixie Kiss barbecue sauce to get a hint of the ribs that won Firefly’s first place in the 2005 “Best of the Best” open competition in Douglas, Georgia.
Sandwiches with fries are $7.99; most platters (with choice of two sides) are $11.99; multi-meat combos and full slab platters run $16.99 to $19.99.
In addition to the sticky sweet Dixie Kiss, Firefly’s has their signature Memphis sweet sauce (made with a little chocolate), North and South Carolina sauces (red pepper vinegar and mustard, respectively), a Texas sauce (chunky tomato, chipotle and onion), and Beelzebar (a spicier version of the Memphis). These are available at the condiment bar for mixing and matching and all pretty good. I wish they weren't stored on ice though.
Some of the unsung heroes among the non-BBQ items are the Angus beef burgers (the Firefly's Bodacious Burger is my favorite in the Metro West area) and their crispy, just-greasy-enough fried chicken. They even do chicken and waffles. The fish dishes ($12.99-$14.99) are healthy and creative. Firefly’s has steaks, but they do other things better.
Side dishes at Firefly's are generally pretty good. Cole slaw has onion and celery seed in it and avoids being too tart or too sweet. Collard greens have plenty of meat and flavor. Baked beans are firm, slightly smoky and nicely balanced between sweet and savory. For health conscious diners, they now also have asparagus.
Firefly's offers an all-you-can-eat weekday lunch buffet ($9.95) in Framingham, and a Sunday brunch buffet ($16.99) in all locations. Mondays are all-you-can-eat ribs and chicken nights.
The bottom line: This is high volume barbecue, designed to appeal more to the masses than the hard core barbecue junkie. Consistency can be a problem, but if you order the right items (chili, wings, burgers, wet ribs), you can have a pretty good meal here. The overall combination of the wide-ranging menu, condiment bar, hot sauces, full bar and entertainment features makes Firefly’s a fun night out.