4 Rivers Smokehouse

4 out of 5 sprouts

4 out of 5 sprouts

In October 2009, 4 Rivers Smokehouse opened its doors on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park and the restaurant scene in Orlando has never been the same.  We recently made a visit and we were pleasantly surprised and mildly disappointed at the same time.  As someone who rarely eats meat, we decided that we didn’t want to miss out on all the buzz, we thought we would go and order a handful of the sides and make our own a la carte veggie meal.

4 Rivers Somekhouse Winter GardenOn the menu you will find smoked brisket, pulled pork, BBQ sausage sandwiches and signature BBQ platters.  However, we wanted to see if there was something that we, as non-meat eaters, could find and enjoy at this establishment that has developed a major cult following.  We have yet to drive past any of the 3 locations and not find a line out the door.

4 Rivers SmokehouseLucky for us, the line moves fairly fast.  Almost too fast.  I wanted to have the opportunity to ask a few questions about the “homestyle” sides, mostly which contained meat and which were meat-free but the line was moving too quickly (the whole service was counter style- place your order, move down the line, watch them schlep your order onto a tray and then pay.)  We ordered a total of 9 sides:

4 Rivers Smokehouse homestyle sides-Mac & Cheese

-Smoked Jalapenos

-John’s Potato Salad

-Southern Green Beans



-Sweet Potato Casserole

-(2) orders of Fried Pickles



As I watched them putting together our order, I saw two giant pieces of bacon put on the tray- wait!!!  It was too late, the girl behind the counter had already put together our order.  Another gentleman behind the counter offered to remove the bacon wrapped baked jalapenos but eh….what was done was done.  We do eat meat, just not a lot.

Anyway, we found one of the few open tables inside (they have a huge patio at the Winter Garden location to sit at- it was just a tad too windy for us and we didn’t feel like chasing napkins across the parking lot.)  We dug right in.

Baked Jalapenos 4 Rivers Smokehouse

First thing I tried was the bacon wrapped baked jalapeno.  They weren’t too spicy, the bacon was smoked and the pepper was filled with cream cheese.  Honestly, it was the best thing I had there.

Mac and Cheese 4 Rivers Smokehouse

The Mac and Cheese was good but nothing special.  It was probably made on the premises but it easily could’ve passed as something pre made and trucked in.  Same goes for the cornbread.

Southern Green Beans 4 Rivers Smokehouse

The Southern Green Beans were good- but be forewarned- if you do not want meat, you will not enjoy the bacon in there.

Sweet Potato Casserole 4 Rivers Smokehouse

I very much enjoyed the Sweet Potato Casserole.  It looked almost like baby mush food- however, it was sweet and full of spicy flavor.  No marshmallow topping here either.  This was the real stuff.

John's Potato Salad 4 Rivers Smokehouse

John’s Potato Salad was pretty tasty.  Not too much mayonnaise, lots of fresh dill.  This was also one of my favorites we ordered.

Coleslaw 4 Rivers Smokehouse

The coleslaw looked like the slaw you would find at Kentucky Fried Chicken (which happens to be my favorite coleslaw from back in my chicken days) only there was a bit of a bite of spiciness.  My uneducated guess is that they added some type of a smoked seasoning but Chad disagreed.  We both thought it was very good slaw, we just couldn’t quite put our finger on what the seasoning was..

Fried Pickles 4 Rivers Smokehouse

While everything else was pretty enjoyable, our biggest disappointment by far were the fried pickles. Fried Pickles 4 Rivers Smokehouse It was more like fried batter with a side of pickles.  Bleh.  The pickle slices were buried in fried batter- I mean we did ask for “fried” pickles and “fried” pickles is what we got.  We were just hoping for more pickle than batter- in the end I pulled my pickle slices out of the batter to just eat by themselves.  Why get fried pickles if you can’t taste the pickles??

4 Rivers Smokehouse Winter GardenAll in all we enjoyed the experience but I doubt we would wait in line like that again for the sides.  Maybe if we decided to convert full time back to meat we would.  We had to give it a shot.  Back in the days when we did eat meat, we attended a cooking demonstration at our local Whole Foods by 4 Rivers Owner/Founder John Rivers and some of his staff and we fell in love with the brisket.  But now that we have converted to mostly Veggie Head-ism there isn’t much of anything on the menu for us to enjoy.  4 Rivers SmokehouseWe would’ve given a fish sandwich a chance even.  Oh well, I understand that they have had a tuna melt on the Friday menu but we alas went on a Monday.  Wah.  If you are a Vegan you will most likely be out of luck here too.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some type of meat broth base for some of the other stuff we ordered and just didn’t know it.

Homestyle sides at 4 Rivers SmokehouseBut hey, we did, after all, choose to eat at a BBQ joint so I don’t know what we expected.  Four out of five sprouts- mostly just because we were so limited on what we could eat and that fried batter, I mean the fried pickles really disappointed us.  4 Rivers Smokehouse is perfect if you eat meat and a place to avoid if you don’t.  Lesson learned.

Also keep in mind that all the locations (Winter Park, Winter Garden and Longwood) are all closed on Sundays.  We love places that allow their employees to enjoy Church on Sundays and have family time.  And a little birdie has told me that locations are currently being scouted in Jacksonville, Gainesville and near University of Central Florida in East Orlando.  I also understand that they have a separate person who bakes all the sweet treats they sell in their stores.  We didn’t indulge this time, maybe next time.

4 Rivers Smokehouse website

Sweet Treats 4 Rivers Smokehouse

Sweet Treats 4 Rivers Somekhouse

4 Rivers Smokehouse on Urbanspoon 4 Rivers Smokehouse on Urbanspoon
Four Rivers Smokehouse on Foodio54

3 comments for “4 Rivers Smokehouse

  1. Helen Corbin
    March 27, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I would order five or more servings of the cole slaw!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. July 15, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Funnily enough, their baked goods (at the Winter Park location at least) taste very smokey… its not terrible, but its an odd added flavor.

    I am 90% vegetarian, but I really enjoy their smoked chicken salad. Give it a try on a meat-y day :)

  3. Chad
    July 27, 2013 at 1:25 am

    I *rarely* eat bbq but did have it here once and it was good. Didn’t care for the fried pickles that were mostly batter though.

    The story of how John started this place is neat and I admire him for running his business according to his values in a modern culture that doesn’t understand that.

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