The last time I tried 4 Rivers BBQ for lunch, the line was out the door. I'm not big on waiting in line for anything, especially lunch. There are just too many good places to eat quicker, faster, and just as tasty. So I was pleased when I walked into this popular 'Que shop and was able to step right up and place my order. Alright, so I felt a little out of place as I craned my neck upwards looking at a lunch menu that was 10 feet off the ground with a yellow background. 'Geez," I thought to myself. I could stand here for 20 minutes looking up at all these choices. Looking straight ahead, three 4 Rivers servers were standing in front of me with blank faces, serving tongs at the ready, waiting to hear my lunch selection. Yes I was intimidated. I wasn't about to hold the lunch line up. "Let me have the Quarter Bird and a side of collard greens please," I said in a knowing manner like I was a 4 Rivers regular. Two pieces of chicken (three with the wing) and two sides for $6.99 sounded like a decent lunch time deal. Shuffling down the line, I spied stuffed jalapeno peppers. OMG! What a pleasant surprise. I ordered a serving of that too.
You know how sometimes things just don't work for you, though, GLOBers? I've come to expect BBQ meat to be fall-off-the-bone cooked and ready to enjoy. Maybe it was because it was shortly after the lunch hour. Or perhaps this bird was at the end of the cooking line and didn't get the attention the other cluckers received. When I tried to separate the wing from the chicken breast, I couldn't pull it apart. Reaching for my handy, black plasticware my knife, I was still unsuccessful at cutting the tendons holding the parts together. So I did what any good ole southern boy would do: I grabbed each part with both hands, and twisted and pulled the wing off the breast. It would have made a good image, this larger than most carnivores wrestling a second and third joint piece of chicken. I won, I guess. I must have been a sight with sloppy BBQ covered hands biting off the almost done chicken. Being the fifth of six children, I know better than to complain. I would hear "Shut up and eat" as often as "Pass the gravy." As I reached for the still connected drumstick, I noticed a puddle of red liquid collecting on my plate. That was it for me. I enjoyed the jalapeno peppers even though most of the flavor and heat had been baked out of the pepper pods. The collard greens were excellent, really crunchy, flavorful, and delicious with generous pieces of 'cue meat nestled among the greens.
The criticism I hear most about my restaurant reviews is that I am too easy on the restaurants, but I get the pressure of preparing a meal for customers as fast as possible. Being an old newspaper guy, I appreciate the ability to work under pressure, but sometimes things just don't come out as planned. Who would know it would be my luck to get the almost cooked white meat. I'm going back to 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Next time I will be clear I want my 'cue cooked to the bone.
I couldn't resist walking by the 4 Rivers bakery on the way out. Wow! Yum! You don't know how good I felt ignoring my palette as I dashed outside before my sweet tooth won the inner battle of self-denial.
- GLOB Master
Archer Rd. Q-stand has E A's attention
Perhaps it was the fancy logo or the immaculate website that led me to believe that 4 Rivers Smokehouse was to be a more formal dine-in barbeque option than the average. Honestly, it was my friends' raves even before the Texas-style smokehouse opened here that peaked my interest long before the franchise landed in Gainesville. What I finally encountered on arrival to the highly touted barbeque eatery was beyond the typical experience -- I was not disappointed.
If you haven't had the good fortune to visit a 4 Rivers Smokehouse, whether in Gainesville or in the other four locations across Florida -- Winter Park, Winter Garden, Longwood, or Jacksonville --you have not seen a restaurant at the threshold of success and expansion.
The location of the Gainesville 4 Rivers, at 3562 SW 35th Blvd. in Butler Plaza, adds to the pleasurable occasion of dining there. I would even say that the pleasure of the experience is almost undermined by calling it "going out to eat." That just doesn't sound special enough.
I was particularly happy it was the fast-casual, go-through-the-line-and-pay-at-the-register approach to dining because, when you think of the stick-to-your-ribs, down and dirty home-style barbeque cooked in your backyard that you grew up with, was there a server and a nice dining room? Heaping helpings and outdoor/rustic seating? That's what I thought.
Joining me on this dining venture was none other than the Gainesville Lunch Out Blog GLOB Master himself, Mike Sanford. "I've done this food thing for a long time; I don't want to wait in this line," he said. I understood his feeling: The line was spilling outside and wrapping around the outdoor sidewalk. I assured Mike that taking in the full experience — long line and all — would be well worth it, as it would give us time to browse the unfamiliar menu and learn first hand the level of craving this establishment was creating in its hungry audience.
Being the "professional eaters" that we are, it only felt right to order a variety of dishes, namely the Texas Destroyer, the Smokehouse Sliders, and the Six Shooter. The side dishes looked too appetizing to pass up, so we added mac and cheese, fried okra, Texas cornbread, collards and— after being offered to try them first —smoked jalapenos to our trays. The entire 4 Rivers crew was accommodating throughout, checking on us at the long, crowded, rustic wooden tables spanning the length of the dining area. We wondered if our eyes were bigger than our stomachs (image at top of this feature).
The sliders proved perfect portions of each of the meats: chicken, pulled pork, and brisket. Needing no other topping than the smattering of 4 Rivers sauce, the chicken was tender and refreshingly different; the pulled pork smoky and hearty; and the brisket chewy and thick. The sliders were winners for both myself and Mike, although he thought the smoked jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and encased in a blanket of crispy bacon sealed the deal and certainly the spice.
I'd heard remarkable things about the brisket that took 18 years to perfect, so the Texas Destroyer with smoked brisket, onion rings, jalapenos and melted provolone cheese was what I was most anxious to try. After an extra dollop of 4R sauce, I eagerly took a very big bite to experience every flavor at once. Although I am not typically a brisket eater, this proved to be a smoky change from the kind my mom makes, it had some different flavers that melding in a welcome way. The Six Shooter was a feat in itself, composed of cheese grits topped with pulled pork, pickles, southern slaw, jalapenos — starting to see a trend — and of course that 4R sauce that Mr. Rivers himself concocted. This proved to be the most interesting array of ingredients - the tender, juicy pulled pork combined with the cole slaw, thick grits and heat from the jalapenos to create a tantalizing sensation on my taste buds.
With all the sides, from the cake-like cornbread to the crisp fried okra and the pot licker-immersed collards, we were satiated, perhaps a tad too much in fact, as I could barely roll off my stool. I couldn't let the barbeque defeat me just yet, as no 4 Rivers experience is complete without a trip to the Sweet Shop where Mike and I ventured to the S'more Brownie, Double Chocolate Cake, and a Gainesville specialty orange and blue cake surrounded by orange and blue sprinkles. One bite of the rich Gator cake, moist mousse-filled chocolate cake, and marshmallow-topped thick brownie — I'm a sucker for a good brownie — and the 4Rivers extravaganza was complete.
Although the amazing array and combinations of food left this foodie in awe, it was the friendly and accommodating service and the warmth radiating from owner and chef John Rivers that really distinguished this already one-of-a-kind smokehouse from other places in Gainesville and, dare I say, across Florida. It's this personal touch from 4Rivers staffers like Cara Smith that sealed the deal for so many loyal customers, myself now included.
The Pluses and Minuses of 4 Rivers Smokehouse
4 Rivers Smokehouse + indicators: Stuffed jalapeno peppers, brisket sandwich.
4 Rivers Smokehouse- indicators: Popularity could create long lunch lines.
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- Phone Number: 1-855-Four-Rivers
- Address: 3262 SW 35th Blvd., Gainesville, FL
- Urban GLOB Location: Archer Road
- Web Site: Four Rivers Smokehouse
- Latitude: 29.6235212
- Longitude: -82.3775578
CamoGirl Wednesday, 25 September 2013 13:51 Comment Link
4Rivers, did enjoy the time I went. Going between 11:30-11:45 is the key time, no rush hour line to stand in. Can't wait to go back and try something different. I had the sliders the first visit. Brisket out of this world, yummy moist pulled chicken, and pulled pork. I got fries and the grilled jalepenos, which were really tasty and Hot! Prices a little high for lunch. Will return one day.
Jasmine Tuesday, 24 September 2013 14:38 Comment Link
4 Rivers really does know their BBQ! YUMMY!!!
Jules Tuesday, 03 September 2013 18:40 Comment Link
It all sounds great! I cannot wait for the crowds to thin out.
Great new writer on staff!