Friday, November 22, 2013
4Rivers Smokehouse- Gainesville, FL
The 4Rivers location in Gainesville has been open for several months now, so I decided it was time to stop in. Returning by air from the barbecue-scarce Northeast, I passed up the temptation to sample airport barbecue during a layover in Charlotte for the opportunity to share a meal at 4Rivers with my wife and kids. Less than 30 minutes after touching down in Gainesville, we were standing in a medium-long line at this Florida chain's newest location.
The inside eating area is more spacious than the other branches I have been to. Though there are a few outside tables, this location lacks the large outdoor eating area that the others have. It sits on the end of a strip mall, surrounded by parking spaces and sidewalks. The crowd on a Thurday night was noticeably younger and louder, as could be expected in a college town, but the line moved smoothly and orderly.
As at the others, you order your meats first. While they are being sliced and packaged, you pick your side items from the display case in front of you. With the whole family along, I added a half slab of ribs and a half pound of pulled chicken to the requisite pound of brisket we ordered. The boys wanted fries and mac and cheese as sides. We got these but also ordered sweet potato casserole and an order of bacon-wrapped jalapenos.
Brisket is the main attraction here, and they do it well. It's perfectly smoky and well seasoned, and though we didn't specify, ours had a good balance of lean and fatty slices. Those who complain that the brisket is too fatty or too dry probably don't know that you have to order it how you want it; each brisket has a fatty and lean end, and if you don't specify, you just get whatever they slice. A legitimate concern, I think, is the temperature. By the time I made it past the cashier and to our table, the brisket was cold. I've noticed this during visits to their other locations, but it seemed worse here. This was a minor issue though and quickly forgotten.
The ribs were good too. They were meaty with a good combination of smoky and sweet flavors. I would consider them slightly overcooked though, with a bit too soft of a texture. I don't actually like when they "fall off the bone"- great ribs take a few teeth to chew. Pulled chicken is not something I normally would order, but our 2 year old liked it, and it was actually pretty good. It came doused with sauce, but that was ok. The sauce goes better on chicken than it does on their pulled pork.
The smoked jalapenos were epic as usual and they disappeared first. The rest of the sides were good too, but nothing stood out like the peppers.
Overall, 4Rivers has taken over the top spot for barbecue in Gainesville in my opinion. Their brisket is definitely the best in town-maybe even the state. I would still go to Adam's Rib Company when I'm looking for ribs, and Adam's or David's for pulled pork. But if you're going with a group and want to make everyone happy, or if you're even considering eating brisket, this is the place to be.
FOOD RATING: 4 OF 5
OVERALL RATING: 4 OF 5