4 Rivers is a little different than most barbecue restaurants. Your dining experience starts with a cafeteria style entrance. There is a winding line leading up to where you place your order. That’s right, there is not hostess to seat you and no waitress to take your order.
Of course, there is plenty to read while you’re working your way through the line up to the order point. A large board with your menu options includes everything from their signature 18 hour cooked brisket to ribs, turkey, pork and even pulled chicken and if you read the whole menu and have yet to order you can always strike up a conversation with the people in line with you.
Just before you order you’ll encounter the old-fashioned soda assortment. Again, another interesting point on the way to order. This is not your typical grocery store soda selection. Everything from Grape Nehi to Sarsaparilla soda (and a few I’ve never heard of) are available.
After you work your way past the wide variety of sodas you will find yourself at the order point. Here you are met by a bevy of friendly faces waiting to serve you. The first person takes your order and writes it on plain brown paper lining your cafeteria tray which doubles as your plate.
Once your order is taken, you then continue through the line to select your sides. Sandwiches include two slides and entree dinners come with 3 sides. Again, a large selection ranging from the expected fries to traditional southern favorites such as collard greens and baked cheese grits to smoked jalapenos wrapped in bacon.
On our first visit, I ordered the Brisket. For just $2.50 you can add a side meat with your entree. So, of course, I took advantage of this offer and added the smoked sausage. As sides, I chose fries, bacon wrapped jalapenos and baked beans. Be prepared as they will ask you if you want “lean” or “moist” brisket. Being indecisive, I asked for both. They also throw in a biscuit.
Donna (or as I passionately refer to as “my woman”….who tolerates me) ordered the Six Shooter, which may not be as self explanatory as Brisket. The Six Shooter is pulled pork on top of baked cheese grits with cole slaw and pickles. In true southern style (she is from Georgia) her sides included fried okra and collard greens.
Before I get to the summary, I’ll tell you that we came back in less than one week and ordered the ribs. I just didn’t feel that I could complete this review without having the ribs. I mean, can you do a barbecue review of a restaurant without eating the ribs?
The dining experience is very casual. There are a few tables inside the restaurant and about that many more outside under a covered deck with fans blowing misted water. Most folks know it’s hot in the summer in Florida, so this is a very clever touch. But, then again, this restaurant pays a lot of attention to detail. What do you want to do after eating those ribs? Beg for more wet naps? There is no need at this restaurant because they’ve thought of everything. Within 10 feet of or table is the answer. A wash station to conveniently eliminate the remainder of deliciousness from your fingers.
The brisket…..best I’ve ever had. I ordered the brisket because it’s hard to make and in my opinion good brisket is a sign of a good barbecue restaurant. I preferred the lean over the moist. The lean was served without the fat but was still very moist. The ribs were fall off the bone tender. They are seasoned nicely and no barbecue sauce is required for the purist. I enjoyed the 4 Rivers hot (a.k.a. tangy) barbecue sauce with the ribs and the brisket.
Now for the Six Shooter pulled pork. This was pulled pork piled high atop a baked cheese grits cake and then piled even higher with cole slaw and topped with pickles and jalapenos…the perfect combination. The pork was moist with a delicious smokey flavor. Now for the cheese grits I had to consult Donna (sorry, I just don’t care for anybody’s grits). The cheese grits were creamy and cheesey (being born and raised in Georgia, she seems to think she knows a thing or two about grits…and according to her, so does 4Rivers Smokehouse. These are good grits!) and the cole slaw added a sweet and tangy crunch.
So, what’s the verdict? 4 Rivers food taste is excellent. Price is very reasonable. It is one of the very best barbecue restaurants in Jacksonville. We’ve eaten there twice in one week and will no doubt eat there again soon. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we called the 4 Rivers folks and now Armadillo Pepper offers their rubs and sauces in our on-line store. So, check out the 4 Rivers Smokehouse restaurant and if you are looking for 4 Rivers rubs or sauces, check out Armadillo Pepper.