I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to 4Rivers Smokehouse. Though I find the food good and prices competitive, I don’t gush over the place like a lot of people I work with. They just can’t get enough of it. There must be something I’m missing because the line at lunchtime is always literally out the door. And if you check out the publicity page on their website, you’ll see that everybody’s talking about 4Rivers Smokehouse.
Chef and owner, John Rivers, wasn’t always a BBQ master. He spent 20 years working in the pharmaceutical industry. Originally, his interest in great Texas-style barbecue was only a “backyard passion,” but after organizing a barbecue fundraiser for a young child’s cancer treatment, John saw how popular his BBQ was. He left the corporate world to open up his first restaurant in 2009.
Since then, 4Rivers Smokehouse has become one of the fastest growing restaurants in Central Florida. Currently there are three locations, Longwood, Winter Park and Winter Garden, but soon they will be smoking meats in Jacksonville and Gainesville, Florida.
The menu includes your regular BBQ fare: angus brisket (pretty popular with my colleagues), pork, chicken, turkey, wings and St. Louis style ribs. They have your traditional sides like cole slaw, French fries, potato salad, corn bread, beans, but also mac & cheese, sweet potato casserole and fried pickles. And what I found very unique was their huge variety of bottled beverages including Cheerwine and many types of root beers.
The first time I tried 4Rivers Smokehouse BBQ was at a company party. I thought the pork was very tender and tasty, but I didn’t care for the sauce. (I like the Sweet sauce at Sonny’s Real Pit BBQ.) So, at my last visit (also a company function) I got the smoked chicken salad sandwich. It was very good – smoked chicken with grapes. For my sides, I had cole slaw and macaroni and cheese. Everyone raves about the mac & cheese and I agree it was very good.
The Longwood, Florida, location has a Sweet Shop next door where you can partake of all kinds of cakes, cupcakes, pastries and other goodies. (The other locations have desserts from the Sweet Shop available.) I was quite looking forward to the Orange Creamsicle cupcake that I got, but found it only average. Perhaps other flavors are better like the red velvet, carrot cake, coconut or birthday cake. They even have some unusual cupcake flavors like Mountain Dew with crushed Doritos and the Grape Nehi.
Since my work colleagues are totally obsessed with 4Rivers, I’ll be trying it again in the near future. At our office, we have an annual pre-Thanksgiving lunch catered by 4Rivers. Maybe I can bring my own sauce!
Dates of Visit: November 2011, October 2012
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