Alex: Let me preface this by saying; growing up, I was a terrible Southerner. I couldn’t stand the taste of sweet tea, barbeque gagged me, and I had doubts that the Civil War really was the War of Northern Aggression. Fast forwarding to today, I’m figuring that two out of three isn’t all that bad, and I’ll line up for the sweet tea and pulled pork like any other Good Ol’ Boy. Due to my peculiar tastes as a child I never developed a keen sense of the varieties of barbeque, and thus I cannot judge whether 4 Rivers Smokehouse is truly “Texas Style” (Thankfully, that’s where my Texan fiancee steps in). However, I can certainly agree that it was pretty darn tasty when we met up with Amanda and her fiancée for dinner recently.
The building itself is brand new, and has that sort of faux rustic look to it that many other barbeque places adopt. We decided to eat inside, even with the fans misting water over the patio area it was simply too hot and sticky to enjoy ourselves. The interior is a massive greatroom, with two cafeteria style stations at either corner, one for the general kitchen area and another devoted entirely to sweets. Long tables dominate the center of the room, and if you don’t feel like rubbing elbows with your fellow barbeque enthusiasts then there are plenty of booths and tables along the walls.
We’d heard great things about their burnt ends, which was a combination of pulled pork and smoked brisket all mixed together with sauce. On top of that, we got their fried pickles, bacon jalapeno poppers, a biscuit, and finally their bread pudding. They also had a big cooler filled with a variety of specialty sodas, from Cheerwine to Fizzes, and everything in-between. Heather happily grabbed the butterscotch soda while I went for a classic root beer (they don’t serve alcohol here). With food and drinks in tow, we found a comfortable table and proceeded to chow down.
They don’t use plates at 4Rivers. Instead, they just slap a piece of butcher paper on a tray and table the barbeque on that. I really enjoyed the homey feel that lent the meal, especially since the server had shaped our portion into a giant heart of delicious meat. The burnt ends were great, tender with the proper smoky flavor. Their barbeque sauce is top notch; it really complements the meat instead of masking the flavor. The fried pickles were nothing to write home about; they weren’t bad, but they also weren’t as interesting as other fried pickles I’ve had. On the other hand, the jalapeno poppers were spectacular. Most times the spiciness of the pepper is too much for me, but they managed to even the heat out between the cheesy filling and the bacon covering it. To top it off, the bread pudding was delicious, studded with raisins with just the right amount of sweet and cinnamon.
Naturally, we couldn’t miss the sweet section of 4Rivers. We got the Cheerwine cupcake while Amanda and her fiancée got the maple bacon cupcake. Normally I love cherries, and I love Cheerwine, but the icing on the cupcake was far too rich and had too much of the artificial cherry flavor sweetness to it without any sour that comes with carbonation to balance it out. On the other hand, Amanda’s Maple Bacon cupcake was excellent, and completely redeemed their sweets section in all of our eyes.
We ended up staying long past closing time, deep in conversation with our Somewhere in the City friend. By the time we left, it was pitch black, which is no mean feat only a few days past the longest day of the year. We’d had a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and would love to go back again to try some more Texas Barbeque.
Have you visited 4 Rivers Smokehouse? What is your favorite thing on the menu?
4 Rivers Smokehouse
9220 Baymeadows Rd