Fire House II Opens at Former Location of Blue Table
MONTROSE – May Epling has been creating and running restaurants almost her entire life, from Mama Mac's in Bozeman, Mont., to The Grill at the Horsefly Brewing Company in Montrose. Now, after returning from North Dakota, where she fed more than 200 people thrice daily at a "man camp," Epling has opened a new Main Street Montrose restaurant that once again showcases her homemade recipes.
Fire House II — the name was inspired by a documentary on firefighters, and is not related to the former Fire House restaurant in Crested Butte — features Southern Italian lunch and dinner entrees and wood-fired pizzas.
"I think that's what puts us above everyone else — the hand-cut and handmade food," said cook Jake Kebler.
The restaurant's lunch menu consists of Italian sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads. Dinner includes seafood, steak and pasta. Pizzas and calzones are available all day, baked in a stone oven using apple and peach woods.
"We use only homemade bread," cook Mike Beck said. All sauces and appetizers — indeed, everything down to the coating on the parmesan-crusted cod sandwich — are from scratch.
Epling wouldn't have it any other way.
"I like to bake, and [homemade] tastes so much better,” she said.
The Fire House also offers gluten-free meals, including pasta. Beck said sandwiches can be made into wraps or served naked, if the customer chooses.
A kid's menu features smaller portions and unique choices, such as a side salad topped with Goldfish crackers.
Epling said she recently hired a baker, so she expects even more delicious desserts, as well as other tasty items, to be available shortly.
She's also quite proud of her employees: “I’ve got some of the best in town,” she says.
Charley Burch, the former owner of Cowboy Ciao in Montrose and a well-known bartender in town, is in charge of the bar at Fire House II. Between Burch and another bartender, there is more than 50 years of experience, Burch said.
"We have a really, really good staff here with a lot of experience," he said. "They are knowledgeable about wines and beers, and pairing them with food."
The restaurant is still putting together its wine menu. Its beer list consists of local brews, including Ouray Brewery's Box Canyon Brown Ale. Up next will be happy hour specials and military discounts, he said.
Epling didn't have to remodel much to get Fire House II open. A few coats of new pain, and a little rearranging, was all that was needed to open the new establishment.
"It's a family atmosphere, but I want to have fun," she said.
At last week's opening, locals strolled in for dinner. Many stayed late, hanging around at the bar and chatting with each other. An Australian couple remarked that they had stopped in on their way to Chicago.
"I wanted a homey little thing. Nothing fancy, but a hometown Southern Italian place," Epling said.
Burch said he hopes the restaurant's central location and later hours will entice people to swing in after a movie or a play at Magic Circle Theater.
Fire House is located at 1135 East Main Street, and is open seven days a week. Food is available from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Drinks and the bar menu, including pizzas, will soon be available after 9 p.m.