By Peter Covino
4 Rivers Smokehouse is known for both its barbecue and long lines.
So it should be no surprise that the first location in Osceola County included a crowded parking lot and a line that almost stretched from order counter to door on a weekday visit close to 1 p.m.
This is yet another restaurant in the burgeoning corridor of restaurants and shops that stretch seemingly all the way from the toll booth on Osceola Parkway, east, almost into Buenaventura Lakes. Yes, driving to 4 Rivers or just about any location on the busy parkway can be an experience.
Inside, 4 Rivers is a rather cheery place, pretty much what we come to expect from a barbecue joint. This place is the emphasis of casual. Nothing fancy about the seating. You won’t want to linger in these seats (many tables are of the long, table variety so you will be dining with new friends) for much longer than it takes to finish your meal. There is free wifi though, and that is always a plus for me in any dining adventure.
This was a Tuesday and the special of the day, and the bargain of the week is Tacos on Tuesday. Yes, I said tacos at a barbecue place. But these are barbecue tacos, featuring any of the 4 Rivers smokehouse meats. And you can choose a different kind of meat for each of the three tacos. I went with brisket, chicken and pulled pork. The BBQ tacos are topped with cilantro lime crème fraiche, guasacaca, pico de gallo, queso blanco and cilantro. Each of the flour tortillas was nicely filled with the ingredients and this was a tasty alternative to the usual barbecue offerings. It also is a nice fusion on barbecue in market that loves island and Hispanic cuisine.
The $6.99 price (plus tax) includes a fountain drink and won’t break the bank.
The large menu features a variety of smokehouse sandwiches most priced at $8.99 to $9.99 and includes Angus brisket, Southern pulled pork, Burnt-Ends, sliced pork, Texas sausage and more. Each sandwich also includes two side items and there are 20 to choose from. Sides include a few exotic items like cornbread salad, baked cheese grits, as well as sides you expect at a barbecue restaurant: fried pickles, barbecue beans, potato salad, French fries, Texas cornbread, etc. You can also make a meal of the side items if you choose, picking any three and a biscuit for $6.99 or five and a biscuit for $8.99.
My lunch companions were fairly satisfied with their selections: the 4R Style Burnt Ends and the Longhorn Signature Stackers (chopped Angus brisket and Texas sausage served on a grilled hoagie roll over smokehouse relish, topped with onion rings, melted Provolone cheese and signature sauce). The burnt ends are $13.99 on the menu and come with three sides and a biscuit. The Longhorn is $8.49. Sides are extra.
Both diners were pretty much pleased with their selections, but were not so sure about the value. And both here hesitant about a return visit, and agreed they had had better barbecue elsewhere for the money.
Elsewhere on the menu, from the smoker, there is the Pitmaster Combo, which gives you your choice of four meats, two sides and a biscuit for $19.99. You also can opt for a whole side of St. Louis Ribs (half-side also available), for $26.99. It comes with two sides. More wallet-friendly is the smoked quarter chicken (two sides) for $6.99, half-chicken, $11.49.
Other Signature Stackers include the Smokehouse Cuban (a twist on the traditional favorite), Smokehouse Sliders and Texas Destroyer (brisket on a bun with onion rings, jalapenos, provolone and signature sauce).
If you are really, really hungry, you might want to opt for the most expensive item on the menu, the Brontosaurus Beef Rib (which I will go out on a Jurassic limb here and venture a guess it really is not Brontosaurus) for $28.49. It comes with two sides and a biscuit. There also is a kids menu (all items include a side item and fountain drink for $5.25) and some dessert options (cupcakes, cakes, pudding, fried Oreos) that just might call to you from the glass cases as you pay for your order.
4 Rivers Smokehouse is open Monday-Saturday. Closed Sundays. You also can order ahead at 844-474-8377 or on line at 4RSmokehouse.com.