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Firefly is TC‘s new party place

Al Parker - July 28th, 2008
When they decided to transform their riverfront restaurant 310 into a new eatery, veteran restaurateur Jeff Wiltse and his wife Trish knew exactly what they wanted.
“It was a sign of the times,” explained Wiltse, who also owns and operates Bubba’s Restaurant and Bar, Giovanni’s Roadhouse, Grandview Catering and TC Food to Go. “Fire Fly (Lounge) had always been the most popular part of 310, so we kept the Fire Fly concept and expanded it into a restaurant.”
For whatever reason, the public had wrongly pegged 310 as a high-end, upscale, sort-of-stuffy restaurant, with its Fire Fly Lounge forging its own reputation as a fun, casual party place.
The Wiltses want people to know that the casual party vibe is alive and well in the Fire Fly restaurant. “We want to be known as the party place, a fun-loving bar with killer food,” said Wiltse.

The physical transformation of 310 to Fire Fly began early this year and was finished in May. Amazingly, during three months of renovation, the restaurant remained open – closing only for two days during the process.
The result is a beautifully appointed eatery in warm tones of blue and pale gold with a splash of orange-red that wraps visitors in serenity. Several interior half-walls have been added to give diners an intimate and casual vibe.
Still, it’s not hard to imagine a party simmering somewhere nearby as the music system cranks out oldies ranging from Iron Butterfly to the Beach Boys.
Chef Tom Kelly, a graduate of NMC’s culinary program who’s worked at Tapawingo, Dill’s and Kelly’s, is responsible for providing the great food.
“We offer something for everybody,” explained Kelly. “A lot of our items are seasonal. For example, in the summer we have a watermelon salad, in the fall a butternut squash and in the winter more satisfying, comfort foods, like mac and cheese and shepherd’s pie. We also work with local produce providers for things like greens and honey.”
Every day there are specials, some of which are seldom seen on northern Michigan menus with any regularity. One recent day featured a marinated venison rack with white cheddar grits, asparagus, and cherry compote, all for $25.
For sushi lovers, Fire Fly’s menu features more than 15 offerings, including some with a distinctive northern Michigan twist, such as the Leelanau with cured salmon, dried cherry cream cheese and scallion.

Fire Fly Manager Troy Blanton relocated from Grand Rapids to oversee the operation of the restaurant. He’s brought along a few ideas, including an emphasis on small plate meals with big flavors, called tapas at some places.
These pick-and-choose portions allow a group of friends to order several different small plates, and then share the items. It’s a casual dining style that Fire Fly makes user-friendly.
The small plate selection includes crispy calamari, sweet potato fries, spinach and artichoke dip, Buffalo chicken wings, spicy Thai chicken wings, sesame crusted tuna, crab and lobster cakes and a daily flatbread. There’s also seared salmon, sautéed lemon-garlic shrimp, chicken lettuce wraps, hand-made egg rolls, pot stickers, seafood fondue, hummus and pita, pan-seared scallops and steamed dumplings.
“Troy has re-invigorated our commitment to the small plates,” said Wiltse. “There’s something for everyone here that folks can mix and match and share.”
The entrée selection includes six different steaks, ranging from a petite 4-ounce filet to a hefty 24-ounce porterhouse. Poultry and seafood choices include honey-chipotle BBQ chicken, General Tso chicken, spiced encrusted yellow fin tuna and grilled salmon.
Pasta lovers will want to try the angel hair puttanesca with chicken or shrimp, or the red curry noodles with chicken, shrimp or vegetables.
For lighter appetites, there’s a full assortment of wrap sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads.
Diners at Fire Fly will find specials every night of the week:
• Monday is half-off all small plates.
• Tuesday is half-off sushi.
• Wednesday is half-off ladies drinks.
• Thursday and Sunday are $10.95 New York strip steak dinner.
• Friday and Saturday are one-third off the entire menu from 10 p.m. to midnight.
Every day is one-third off entire menu from 3 to 5:30 p.m.
“These are our efforts to show the community that we’re aggressively pricing our food,” explained Wiltse. “We’re able to do this because we buy at a great price and we have the chef behind it to make sure the food’s all top quality.”
Located at 310 Cass St. in Traverse City, Fire Fly is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight with the bar open til 2 a.m.; Sunday, 4 to 10 p.m. For reservations, call (231) 932-1310 or learn more about Fire Fly at

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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