I have found soda nirvana.
A recent visit to the new Firehouse Subs on Ridgemont Drive near Target introduced me to a whole new world.
Iced tea is my usual fallback drink when dining out, but I can only drink one glass in the evenings unless I want to be up all night. I’m not joking — all night.
Last Saturday, I had a full-caffeine soda around 7 p.m. and didn’t get to sleep until 6 a.m. the next morning.
And I can’t go with a 7-Up or Sprite or Sierra Mist because I can’t drink sugared sodas.
Finding a decaffeinated sugar-free drink in any of the restaurants, bars, movie theaters or even convenience stores in Abilene and the Big Country can be a fruitless search; though I have found one on rare occasions.
Nobody thinks about the sugar- and caffeine-challenged when stocking shelves or filling the soda machine.
Walking into Firehouse Subs, we immediately gravitated to the photos of the various sandwiches on display, all of which looked delicious. It was a little difficult to make up our minds.
I went with the meatball sub, a hot and tasty choice and my friend enjoyed his build-your-own roast beef sub.
But as good as the sandwiches tasted, they aren’t what caused my moment of joy.
It was something called the Coca-Cola Freestyle.
This magic machine allows patrons 120 different drink choices.
That’s right, 120!
The Freestyle offers 19 base sodas ranging from Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine-free Diet Coke, Sprite Zero, Dr Pepper, Fanta, Barq’s Root Beer and Dasani Lemon. So right off the bat, there are sugar-free and caffeine-free choices.
But here comes the magic. Each of those drink choices features at least one and up to seven flavor add-ins to fully customize your beverage.
I tried a Cherry Sprite Zero first, then a Vanilla Caffeine-Free Diet Coke.
Hallelujah, my thirst was quenched.
They also offer their “exclusive Cherry Lime-Aid,” sparkling water and fresh brewed iced tea.
I’ll definitely be back to Firehouse Subs and not just for the beverage choices.
The sandwiches get a treatment I’ve not seen in Abilene before.
They get steamed. Just long enough to make the bread taste freshly baked and to add a nice heat to the sandwich.
The menu offers 16 different sandwich choices, six of which are under 500 calories, salads, soups and, of course, Firehouse Chili.
The sandwiches are served “fully involved,” which means mayo, deli mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and a kosher dill spear on the side. They offer white or wheat rolls and a veggie sub option.
Picky eater? They offer a variety of meats and cheeses so anyone can custom make a sandwich with only the ingredients desired.
By the way, I learned that Heff’s Burgers at 2642 East Lake Drive also has a Coca-Cola Freestyle. Whoo hoo!
I have found soda nirvana.