4 Rivers Smokehouse
Had to make a run out to Orange Cycle in College Park on Saturday to get the bike worked on and have some clip-less pedals installed (finally – goodbye sliding feet), which meant that I was going to be within 5 mile radius of my favorite Orlando BBQ joint, 4 Rivers Smokehouse. And anytime I get within that radius, it’s odds on I’m going. My love for 4 Rivers violates 2 of my longest held and most treasured barbecue beliefs: 1. Barbecue is by definition a pork product and 2. There is a direct inverse quality relationship between the condition of the building and the food (i.e., if the building looks unfit for human occupation and can best be described as “squalid,” the better the ‘cue will be). I’d like to just think that 4 Rivers is the exception that proves the rule.
Normally when I go here I make a b-line for a heavenly delicacy called the Six Shooter, which is a bed of baked cheese grits, topped with pull pork, slaw, pickles, sauce, and jalapenos. It is, in the dialect of JLo, nothing but good.
For this trip out, I took the advice of friend of the blog Klainie and tried two new items that she recommended. The first was the Santa Maria Tri Tip Steak, which is fork tender slices of smoked beef topped with a chimichurri sauce. This sandwich was so good that it actually hurt a little, which bizarrely makes it the food equivalent of a John Cougar song.
The other recommendation was a Sausage, Jalapeno, and Cheese Kolache, which you find on their dessert menu, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense until you taste it. Kolache’s have a semi sweet dough which often comes filled with fruit. This one contained a couple of slices of smoked sausage to go with a healthy serving of cheese and just enough jalapenos to let you know that they are there. A very nice surprise indeed (checking my text log I believe the real time reaction was “Sweet fancy Moses that sausage thing is good”).
No trip to 4 Rivers is complete without some of their sides, which quite honestly are my favorite things on the menu (this violates a 3rd early JLo BBQ principle, the one that says sides should only consist of baked beans and white bread – in retrospect this was a very stupid rule). First up, the best collard greens on the planet. I will admit that these do not look particularly appetizing smashed into a little cup, but do not judge this serving of greeny, porky goodness by it’s cover.
As good as the collards are, the baked cheese grits are twice as good. Again, do not judge by the admittedly poor iphone 3G picture here. These things taste like a mother’s unconditional love in creamy, cheesy grit form. And yes, I realize that is at best an odd metaphor, but dear god man, these grits are so ‘effing good! They force you to stretch the normal boundaries of descriptive language.
My dining companion, Lord Byron, scourge of the first grade, mowed through a smoked turkey sandwich, mac and cheese, fries, and the business end (the frosting top) of a red velvet cupcake the size of his head. Literally. See below moments before his powerful Mayan jaw tore through it.
In short, another trip to 4 Rivers that was well worth the drive to Winter Park and the wait. It remains the only BBQ restaurant that I will go to and NOT order a pork entree (though there’s enough pork in the collards to make up for it, but the point remains). The best take away I got on Saturday though was the news that they are considering opening a branch near my neighborhood in Waterford Lakes! In retrospect though, it’s probably good for me (from a calorie consumption standpoint at least) to have a buffer between me and 4Rs. And there’s always a danger of the quality getting watered down the more locations they open (there’s already a new one in Winter Garden). Those are risks that I’m willing to run, however, all in the name of the best and most adventurous ‘cue in Florida – hands down.