Firelake Grill Closes in Tenleytown

4200 Wisconsin Avenue, NW

Thanks to a reader for sending word:

“This will be of interest to about ten people since that’s the approximate number of covers they were averaging.

The restaurant’s web site went dark July1 because the registration was not renewed.

Food was mediocre at best.”

Firelake Grill opened in the old Ruby Tuesday space at Van Ness and Wisconsin Ave, NW back in Sept. 2013. Before their website expired [their Facebook page also hasn’t been updated since April] it said:

“Firelake Grill, a new contemporary American restaurant by Fired Up Grills Restaurant Group, offers guests a comfortable, upper casual dining experience in the heart of Tenleytown. Most of our handcrafted cuisine at Firelake is prepared using a live hickory wood grill. Our mission is to create pleasurable and memorable moments, in a warm and friendly environment for our guests, our staff and our partners.”

29 Comment

  • maxwell smart

    I never went, so I can’t comment on the actual quality of the food, but this place seemed doomed pretty much from the get go. For starters, this area of town is littered with “contemporary American” restaurants, so this really didn’t bring anything new or needed to the area. The space it occupied, from the outside, seemed far too big and the menu, while in line with other similar restaurants (Clyde’s, Jake’s) didn’t really take into account that this location is pretty close to AU, not super close to the metro, and in an area that is a mix of apartments and single-family detached homes (so a diversity of house-hold incomes) and that maybe people would probably be more inclined to go somewhere with more affordable menu options (aka not spending $30 plate for dinner). I’m sure they were also starting to feel the pressure of the Cathedral Commons development taking shape and Bodega and Raku moving in there.

  • I went to Fire Lake Grill once — not of my own volition — and found the concept, menu, and food entirely generic and forgettable. I made it clear to my hosts afterwards that there were better places to dine in the neighborhood; fortunately, I will not need to repeat that discussion.

    • So someone took you out for a meal and you complained about the food? Talk about rude.

      • It was a family meal. When one of the family members who chose the restaurant said afterwards that they were not impressed, I agreed and expressed the desire not to return.

    • Sadly, this comment is emblematic of the generally unwarranted haughtiness/ entitlement/ indignation people feel in this town. I feel bad for the workers and those that lost money trying to run this business. Best woshes to all.

      • Yes, it’s very unwarranted to want your food to rise above the level of generic and forgettable. These entitled people need to learn how to just choke it down with a smile on their face. ALL HAIL THE MEDIOCRE.

  • I caught a fair bit of grief a year and a half ago when I pointed out this place was doomed but never expected to be vindicated as quickly as this.

    This is a poor location for a restaurant and I suspect just about anyone will struggle to thrive in this spot.

    • maxwell smart

      It’s not really a poor location but it is a location where the business does need to make a little bit of an effort to attract customers. A little marketing goes a long way.

    • Fire Lake was doomed by poor food, an uninteresting concept and ownership that has no clue how to run a successful restaurant. There’s lots of parking and a few thousand people with six figure incomes live within walking distance. Put the right thing there and you’d get a winner. FireLake was worse than Ruby Tuesday.

  • Hopefully with the closing of Firelake and Eurasian Hotpot we will get a few better, casual in the neighborhood. The enormous popularity of the new Nando’s location across the street from Firelake shows that there is plenty of demand in the neighborhood at the right price point.

    Any idea of what is going to open up next to the new Nando’s (if anything yet)? The dry cleaning place closed between Nando’s and Cava a few months ago and I haven’t heard any updates from neighbors.

    Bread & Salt looks promising, further down Wisconsin!

    • maxwell smart

      What I, personally, would love to see open here is something like Meridian Pint. I feel like a craft/micro brew place could potentially do really well in this part of town (attract AU & UDC students and the younger crowd in the nearby apartments) with a menu that has a variety of price-points to appeal to the range of economies in the area. But not in the form a sports bar because there are also enough of those in the area already.

      • Totally agree. I think the right kind of place would do very well in that spot, and that would be perfect for the demographic.

      • Yup. Ive been saying this for AWHILE. this part of town attracts boring ass restaurants. Of course there is a reason for that. Its a boring ass part of town. But there is plenty of pent up demand for a FUN, hip restaurant here. Tons of people live here but the retail strip doesnt attract foot traffic. Thats changing with the nandos and cava invigorating the corner across the street.
        Being that there are so many apartments and this is so close to AU, which oddly has no retail college strip of its own, Something like a Matchbox, Meridian Pint, Teds Bulletin etc would do great there. They would also do great in the Cathedral Commons complex for that matter. Time to get some of these proven local chains into boring upper NW.

        • No more pizza, please! But a Meridian Pint or Ted’s would be fantastic!! Particularly Ted’s. Once Steak ‘n Egg closes they won’t be any good breakfast options in the ‘hood.

        • maxwell smart

          Agreed on the pizza – Pete’s is just to the North of Tenleytown and 2 Amy’s is just a few blocks South of this address so the market for good pizza is pretty well taken care of.

      • +1

        This neighborhood needs a real watering hole.

  • I used to work at the Ruby Tuesday that formerly inhabited this space, and I’d probably make about $20 a shift because it was dead all the time. It’s a cursed space in a cursed part of town. There’s really no reason to go there, it’s not a particularly pleasant area due to Wisconsin just being right there, and the housing is pretty low-density, so there isn’t a lot of residential foot traffic there either.

    Plus, what a boring concept when the only people within miles of you with disposable income are college kids.

  • this looks like a restraunt that should have gone on the tv show restraunt impossible

  • I never got a chance to try this place, but it looks like they still have a restaurant open in Chandler, Arizona.

  • All I know is that this place was “set to open” for months and months. That had to have some impact on the bottom line too.

  • brookland_rez

    That didn’t last long.

  • They desperately wanted to be a Woodmont Grill/Houstons.

  • maxwell smart

    Apparently they were evicted and owed something like $500,000 in back-rent. Considering the tepid yelp reviews and the general consensus that the place was usually empty, I guess that’s not a huge surprise.

  • We will miss the place! It was quiet (too quiet, I guess), and parking was easy. The prime rib was good, and the ribeye steak outstanding. But the location was, I guess, a killer.

  • We live nearby and went once with friends. All of us had remarkably good salads, esp. the salmon salad. Service was good, but should have been since we were the only party in the restaurant. But at what amounted to close to $20/salad for lunch (we had a Groupon that made it more affordable), we weren’t planning to hurry back.

    The business model for Firelake was always off-the-mark. It seemed to want to cater to a K St. business lunch clientele and didn’t seek to incorporate itself into the neighborhood. Any future restaurant in this space should recognize that the area has a varied economic base (students, families, empty-nesters, etc). It also should draw on the great patio space outside. Something like Open City or Busboys & Poets or Ted’s Bulletin or Surfside would likely do much better here. I say “like” those because I would love for something that’s not a chain, but I really doubt that will happen. Nando’s and Cava are evidence that this particular part of town is not as dead as some might think. And with the AU Law School moving 2 blocks up the road in the next year, it should continue to improve from a retail perspective.

  • FIRELAKE WAS TERRRRRRRRIBLE! One of the worst restaurants, huge disappointment, what a failure for their management and execs. They’ll be digging themselves out of their debt for years to come.

  • Their biggest sin in my mind was being generic American but having a name that indicated it would be something more. I was just starting to get into tiki drinks around the time I heard this place was opening so I was expecting a Polynesian restaurant with crazy cocktails and cool fire motifs. Instead it was just a more expensive Ruby Tuesday.

  • Hey, I will admit this isn’t the hippest part of the town, but that doesn’t mean the people who live here are boring! We would love a Ted’s Bulletin-type place and I promise you, it would be busy. Right now my neighbors and I are taking advantage of the Nando’s happy hour specials, but clearly we’d like some options.

    In fact, I was at an industry event a few months ago and met the owner of Ted’s. I BEGGED him to consider the Firelake space (his response: “Is that open?” me: “No, but it will be in a few months.”) His response was tepid, something about it not being the right part of town. But seriously, the people here WANT something like that, we just haven’t had it so it hasn’t been proven that a place can do well here.

    And there is a Ted’s in RESTON for pete’s sake! If it can thrive there, it can do well in a high-income area with lots of students and no real competition.

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