WINTER PARK, Fla. – Florida’s got its fair share of regional fast food chains that started right here on Sunshine State-soil.
Some that may ring a bell include Pollo Tropical, Tijuana Flats, Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi, Seasons 52, and Twistee Treat, to name a few popular ones among locals.
However, when it comes to the best Florida-based fast food chain in the Sunshine State, according to Mashed, it’s none other than 4 Rivers Smokehouse.
According to Mashed, part of 4 Rivers’ appeal is how the chain has been “shaking up long-held BBQ traditions” by not only featuring delicious barbecue classics and sides, but by also shaking things up with new creations, baked goods, and even vegetarian options.
“Voted in 2020 as the South’s best barbecue by Southern Living, the restaurant known as 4 Rivers Smokehouse is shaking up long-held BBQ traditions,” says Gene Gerrard of Mashed. “You’ll find all of the barbecue classics at its 14 Florida locations, like brisket and pulled pork. One item that people seem to lose their minds over is the Burnt Ends, which mixes brisket and pulled pork that have been tantalizingly crisped up.”
“For Lent in 2019, founder John Rivers introduced Beyond Burnt Ends, a vegan version that proved so popular it’s now a regular on the menu (via Orlando Weekly),” he adds. “As if all this meaty goodness weren’t enough, 4 Rivers Southern sides are must-have add-ons.”
As previously mentioned, founded in 2009 by John Rivers, the story behind the restaurant chain is just as great as the chain itself.
According to the restaurant chain, Rivers fell in love with brisket after visiting his wife’s family in Texas. He then spent the better part of two decades perfecting his own dry rub and preparation techniques and frequently served his signature brisket at family functions and community events.
Then, in 2004, a chance encounter with a young girl sparked something incredible.
After hearing of a young girl who attended the same church as him had cancer, Rivers was inspired to help raise funds for her treatment by doing the one thing he knew best… barbecue.
Thus, the “Barbecue Ministry,” a.k.a. a series of fundraisers featuring his barbecue, was created.
The barbecues became so successful over the years, that this eventually led to the opening of the first 4 Rivers Smokehouse in an old transmission shop on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park, Florida in 2009.
The original 4 Rivers Smokehouse attracted herds of barbecue connoisseurs, who flocked to the neon “Hot Brisket Now” sign and seductive smell of slow smoked meats.
However, what also drew in crowds wasn’t just the delectable meats, it was also the southern, homestyle sides, southern hospitality, and fresh bakery items.
It wasn’t long until 4 Rivers had outgrown the original location, and the rest is history.