4 Rivers Smokehouse was never supposed to be a restaurant. John 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, after hearing of a young girl who attended the same church as him had cancer, John Rivers was inspired to help raise funds for her treatment by doing the thing he knew best… Thus, the Barbecue Ministry was created.
The following years saw many more successful fundraisers put on by the Barbecue Ministry, which eventually led to the opening of The First 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Established in an old transmission shop on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park, FL. 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.
It wasn’t just the barbecue though. The southern homestyle sides and fresh bakery items soon get just as much attention as the smoked barbecue meats. That’s because John Rivers painstakingly searched for the best southern comfort food recipes and perfected them to complement his award-winning meats.
It wasn’t long until 4 Rivers had outgrown the original location and a larger smokehouse was necessary. The perfect location was available just a few blocks down across the street and so the current 4 Rivers Smokehouse Winter Park was built.
A second and third location were opened in Winter Garden and Longwood, respectively, but 4 Rivers maintained the same family-owned, homestyle dining experience and continued support from the community.
A Jacksonville native, the fifth location was close to John River’s heart. Bringing his thriving vision of BBQ and homestyle southern cooking back to his hometown of Jacksonville, but also the first foray into a new town was thrilling and terrifying at the same time. The location thrived and led 4 Rivers to look at other locations outside of the Orlando Metropolitan Area.
Gainesville was sixth location and the first 4 Rivers Smokehouse in a college town. UF home games bring lots of UF alums from Orlando, many of them 4R fans into town, but the school and local community also gave this location lots of love, inspiring the seventh location near UCF in east Orlando.
North Tampa’s Carrollwood location was next followed by Tallahassee, then South Tampa, Downtown Orlando’s City Hall breakfast, and lunch location, then Kissimmee by the theme parks, and Coral Springs down by Fort Lauderdale.
We’d like to invite you to experience the 4 Rivers Smokehouse difference in person. From our friendly staff to our delectable meats, our mouthwatering sides to our decadent desserts, see for yourself what all the fuss is about.