Step inside Modesto’s new Wildfire Public House restaurant
Like a phoenix from the flames, Wildfire Public House has emerged in east Modesto.
The new locally owned restaurant on the corner of Oakdale Road and Briggsmore Avenue in the former Uno Pizzeria & Grill spot opened last week with a whole new look, menu and feel. Uno closed abruptly in April, with the promise of a new restaurant coming in its stead from the same owner.
Now, about two months after the initial closure, the site has been reborn with a warm and inviting fire theme throughout. Owner John Ismail, who with his business partner and brother Bobby also owns the building, decided to change the restaurant’s concept from its original Chicago-style deep dish pizza franchise, which opened in 2007, to an independent eatery with a more diverse menu.
The result is one of east Modesto’s largest restaurants with seating for more than 200, a large new patio and a bar that is easily double its initial size. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily, with extended bar and patio hours for after hours.
“I wanted to create a warm and welcoming environment,” Ismail said. “I think fire does that for a lot of people. It relaxes people and puts them in a good mood.”
Ismail said he named it “public house” instead of restaurant because he wanted it to be a gathering place for people. The interior is filled with fire-themed decor, including “fire” planters in the dining room (which are actually just water vapor and red LED lights use to impressively dramatic effect).
Still you’ll find plenty of real fire as the dining area has a built-in electric fire wall, plus fire caldrons on the outside of the building blazing like a beacon in the night.
The menu carries on the restaurant’s fire theme with fire-grilled entrees, fiery hot sauces and even fries covered in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Ismail said he wanted to create cuisine that appeals to a broad swath of people. So you’ll find truffle mac and cheese alongside lamb lollipops, and a spicy fried chicken sandwich next to short-rib pappardelle pasta.
Ismail said they paid particular attention to the extensive appetizer menu, and hopes it will create a shared plate culture for people to come, hang out and enjoy the atmosphere. Appetizers run from $8 for Fire Fries (topped with a white cheese sauce, Sriracha hot sauce and those Flamin’ Hot Cheetos) to $16 for an ahi tuna tower (with sashimi-grade tuna, tomatoes, avocado, fried wontons and a ginger soy and wasabi sauce).
Entrees include a variety of flatbread pizzas ($12-$15), dinner salads ($6-$16), and everything from burgers to Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and even vegan Beyond Burgers ($13-$15). The other entrees include pastas ($17-$22) and fire-roasted chicken and salmon entrees ($20-$22).
“We just want good food and for a shared experience that appeals to a wide variety of people,” Ismail said. “From people who are on a budget to people who want rack of lamb or something special.”
The restaurant’s new look includes a round, rentable private dining room — complete with a social media table and selfie wall backdrop. The new outside patio, which is still being completed, has been built on the Briggsmore/Oakdale-facing side of the restaurant that used to be the Uno entrance. Ismail said it should be ready for people to enjoy, complete with a fire pit, by early July.
Despite only opening earlier this month, the restaurant was packed on a Friday night with almost no spaces left in the parking lot. So while many new businesses clamor to be in the city’s northwest and northeast corridors near Vintage Faire Mall and Village One, Wildfire seems to prove that a place serving the under-served eastside of town can still attract quite a crowd.
Wildfire Public House, 1533 Oakdale Road, is open 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday (full dinner service ends at 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday). For more information call 209-521-8667 or visit www.facebook.com/WildfireModesto.
Marijke Rowland: 209-578-2284, @marijkerowland