The Firebox/The Shortline: Sister Restaurants Provide Artisan Experience

Cuisine options in downtown Belvidere are becoming more and more diverse thanks to the addition of two new restaurants.

Sushi rolls are a main attraction at The Shortline Sushi Bar, in Belvidere, but the menu includes a wide variety of Japanese-inspired dishes.

Thanks to the existence of two novel restaurants, diners can enjoy a taste of both Italy and Japan while strolling the streets of downtown Belvidere.

The Shortline Sushi Bar, 118 Buchanan St., and The Firebox Restaurant & Pizzeria, 120 Buchanan St., are helping the neighborhood’s revitalization efforts.

“There’s something quaint about Buchanan Street,” says Heather Steines, daughter of Russell Caldwell, who owns both restaurants. “Perhaps it’s the one-way street or the cobbled look of the sidewalks, but we quickly knew a restaurant would be a great addition to Buchanan Street.”

The Shortline Sushi Bar opened in December of 2017 in an old insurance building, which also doubled as the Boone County Fair Office for several years. An old desk left behind in the building has been refurbished into a 16-foot bar that now stands near the middle of the restaurant.

The Firebox Restaurant & Pizzeria opened right next door in the summer of 2019.

“After opening The Shortline Sushi Bar, we purchased the adjacent properties,” Steines recalls. “It was our thought that two adjacent, artisan eateries would be a successful and interesting combination. At both restaurants, you’ll be met with an artisan interior and friendly staff.”

Since these restaurants are essentially siblings, it’s only right that they do some sharing – especially in these crazy times.

“As we operate in the current mitigation strategies, diners can experience our brand-new heated patio area,” Steines says. “The patio offers a retractable roof system and heating to allow for comfortable dining year-round, while simultaneously meeting the ever-changing dining guidelines.”

The Firebox is a two-story restaurant that takes visitors to the bustling streets of Italy. Piancone, a tomato sauce from Italy, and Bacio Italian cheese are on a majority of the pizzas served there.

“Handmade, stone-fire pizzas are our namesake dish,” Steines says. “We also have rotating draft beers that many diners look forward to.”

There are traditional pizzas, including The Chicago, with red sauce, Italian beef and giardinera, or the Red Wine, with red sauce, tomatoes, green olives, basil, black olives and Parmesan cheese. The barbecue chicken pizza embraces bolder flavors with a combination of grilled chicken, red onion and banana peppers, while the White Top mixes alfredo sauce, bacon and arugula.

Pasta is also on the menu, and the bottled beer, wine and specialty cocktails pair well with any dish.

Next door, The Shortline has a Japanese-inspired menu. Tasty sushi rolls and specialty rice dishes bring more diversity with options including the California Roll, with crab meat, avocado and cucumber, or the Unagi Roll, with barbecue eel, cucumber and unagi sauce.

There are also several sandwiches on the menu, such as spicy steak, teriyaki chicken and tofu.

“Fresh sushi, fish dishes, fried rice and noodle dishes abound,” Steines says. “We are certainly known for our sushi, and we also have monthly specials.”

Both of these restaurants have been welcomed with open arms in downtown Belvidere.

“Opening a restaurant does not automatically assume that customers will come,” Steines says. “We have learned that a customer’s feedback is of high value and have taken into consideration suggestions and have modified everything from our hours to our menu. This practice of listening to the community has certainly added to our success.

“We are simply a unique artisan experience in downtown Belvidere,” she adds.

The Firebox Restaurant & Pizzeria is open Sun.-Wed. 4-9 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Delivery and pick-up are available. The Shortline Sushi Bar is open Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sun. 4-9 p.m. Delivery and pickup are available.