Where can you find great local BBQ in the city of Orlando? We only have a few good places in my opinion and I just recently wrote about Bubbalou’s which serves good CUE. But who has the best BBQ in town? According to the 2011 Dining Awards held at Dubsdread Golf Course on Sunday May 15th 4 Rivers is clearly the best in town according to the “readership” of Orlando Magazine. 4 Rivers received several awards. They won for best BBQ, Best Ribs, and Best Take Out. This tells me they are doing something right in the Smoke House Department. I could not wait to give their new restaurant a try. So we headed out to 4 Rivers in Winter Garden. It’s right off of West Colonial Dr/ W Highway 50. The building 4 Rivers occupies was a Chinese place that went under and before the Chinese place it was a Taco Tico that’s a name from the past. Unlike their other location in Winter Park, the Winter Garden location has a drive thru, but it’s only for orders called ahead, so beware. The other noticeable difference is their new location has indoor seating, which is a crowd pleaser. Plus they have a lot of room outside to eat compared to the Fairbanks location.
So we get there an open the door to get in, and on this occasion this is where the end of line was, and it’s challenging to determine where the end of the line is. There is no organization or structure in their queue line. In the area by the door where you are waiting can be more congested then I4 during rush hour. Also in this congested area it gets even more tangled due to the soda machine being in this space by the doorway where people are waiting in line. I felt we were constantly dodging people that were taking their orders outside or inside and dodging people leaving and dodging folks getting their drinks or refills. It was just a very combobulated line. A simple queue line with ropes or something would do wonders.
After waiting in the circus line, you get up to the person behind the counter and you place your order. Then you tell the next person what sides you want as you can see them from the counter area, and then you pay. You are supposed to receive your food when you pay, I will get to that interesting part. I had the half rack of St Louis Style Ribs $11.99 with 2 sides. Plus a side of smoked sausage for $2.00 extra. My wife had the bbq quesadilla $5.49. We paid for our order. I got my food and my wife was given a number to set on the table and they would bring out her BBQ quesadilla. After about 8- 10 minutes of waiting we finally asked the girl cleaning the tables to please check on the quesadillas because “it has been awhile”. To make a long story short, it took almost 17-18 min for her quesadillas to arrive and I was more then half way done eating my meal and I was eating super slowly. How long does it take to prepare quesadillas when the bbq meat is already done?? No where on the menu states extra time is needed for this dish to be prepared. We displayed our dissatisfaction with the same girl that brought out the order, however no one came out to apologize and no manager showed up.
My smoked St Louis Style Ribs were very good. The ribs had a great Smokey flavor, they were charred up just right, and were very tender, falling off the bone as you would expect. I love 4 Rivers selection of fine southern style side items. I went with the greens and mac n cheese. My greens were good, but not great. Their collard greens are served chopped style. They season their greens with pork or bacon but they don’t use a ham hock and yes there is a difference in flavor. I also had the mac n cheese. It was good, and cheesy enough, could have been warmer in my opinion, but overall good tasting mac n cheese. I also had the smoked sausage that I added for a side. The smoke sausage was good in flavor but it did not seem fresh out of the smoker. It kind of tasted like it was sitting around for awhile. I have had it before at the Fairbanks location and remember it being very good that day. Well for my wife’s quesadillas that took almost a quarter of an hour to come out, were very good. The tortilla was grilled just right, and the bbq meat was very tender as expected.
I also like the fact that the inside part of the restaurant has an ole classic western sink where you can clean your messy hands inside the restaurant without going to the restroom. Nice amenity in a BBQ place for sure. My BBQ ribs came with enough sauce to my liking but extra sauces are on the tables if needed. 4Rivers does a great job overall with its CUE. I can see why 4 Rivers stole the show at the Dining Awards for its BBQ. But when you wait in the unorganized queue line and have to wait almost 20 min for a dish that is a regular menu item, some things still need to be ironed out. Plenty of parking is available at this location unlike at Fairbanks in Winter Park. 4 Rivers is open 11-8 Mon-Thur and Friday & Saturday 11-9. Closed Sunday.
1047 South Dillard Street
Winter Garden, Fl 34787
Website – www.4rsmokehouse.com