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The Most Over-the-Top Desserts in Florida Are at a Barbecue Joint

The Most Over-the-Top Desserts in Florida Are at a Barbecue Joint


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Switch Texas-style barbecue for a cupcake milkshake

In Winter Park, Fla., you can satisfy even the worst sugar cravings — at a barbecue joint.

The line to enter 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Winter Park, Fla., is as lengthy as any theme park ride (or airport security screening!). Hungry diners queue up even before noon to feast on the smoky, Texas-style barbecue. But as enticing as the barbecue is, not everyone is there for the piles of meat and country sides. Below an "Eat More Sugar" sign hung from the ceiling, kids and adults alike satisfy their sugar cravings at the Sweet Shop with some over-the-top desserts that will send the tooth fairy into overtime.

The candy-colored confections perfume this little corner of the barbecue house, drawing fans to skip the barbecue and head straight for the goodies arrayed here. Think 3/4-pound cookies, red velvet "Twinkies," and quixotic flavored cupcakes guaranteed to bring a giggle at the names alone.

Although the too-cute Birthday cupcake and Mississippi Mud cupcake are sure to please, the best of the bunch must be the Junk Food Collection. How can you not love a Mountain Dew green cupcake festooned with orange Doritos? That's right. It's a Mountain Dew and Dorito cupcake designed for those who love sweets but love sweet with a hit of salty the best. There's a screaming purple Nehi and Nerds (we all remember Nerds, right?) cupcake, a Coke and potato chip cupcake, and, because this is the South after all, a pretty in pink Cheerwine cupcake.

Want to go even more over the top? How about a cupcake dropped in a milkshake? No joke. You pick a house-made ice cream flavor. You pick a cheerful cupcake. And the two shall become one, with the help of a heavy-duty blender, begging the question — do you use a straw or a spoon (both!)? Staff members say these shakes are especially popular amongst the mothers-to-be who frequent the Sweet Shop. But you don't need to be in the throes of crazy cravings to hit them up — just ready for an epic sugar buzz.

If you can't make it to Florida, try your own hand at a junk food cupcake with this recipe.


The Q Kicks Off SOBE Wine & Food 2012

In a tent full of bright lights, loud music and some of the country's best barbecue, chefs like Chris Lilly, Tim Love and Elizabeth Karmel joined The Q, formally known as BubbleQ, to kick off the 2012 South Beach Wine & Food Festival last night. With the air smelling of sweet and smoky barbecue sauces and spices, the event featured chefs' signature dishes cooked on grills and smokers, and was hosted by Emeril Lagasse and Food Network's Guy Fieri.

When people think of barbecue, the usual comes to mind: chicken, steak, burgers, ribs and hot dogs. While they were all present, they were all reinvented classics. Pulled pork was transformed into tacos and egg rolls, lamb ribs were served instead of pork ribs and yellowtail even made an appearance.

One specific dish that stood out last night was Marc Forgione's pig-head cakes with a farm egg and micro greens. Imagine a crab cake made out of succulent pork instead. It was unforgettable and I can admit I went back for seconds — and thirds.

Other Food Network chefs busy barbecuing the night away included Aarón Sanchez, Masaharu Morimoto, Guy Fieri and Scott Conant, who served Crispy Pork Shoulder With Apple Mostardo, Testa Pickled Onions and Micro Celery.

Where did that yellowtail come from? From the sushi master himself, Morimoto. He served his own version of a surf and turf: Beef Brisket and Yellowtail Pastrami With Pickled Vegetable Salad.

Guy Fieri had some of the longest lines of the night as fans lined up to meet the Triple D king — they even got to meet his wife as she helped serve his Banh Mi Taco With BBQ Chicken Fried Rice all night.

Nadia G. from Cooking Channel was also busy working hard to create her Slow Smoked Pork Belly With Balsamic BBQ Sauce, Green Onion and Cucumber on Open-Faced Challah Bun that had many guests talking.

To top off the night, ticket holders toasted with champagne and were offered desserts-galore: Godiva chocolates, milk shakes from The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck and carrot cake from Daisy Cakes.

If you can’t make it to the festival this year, tune into FN Dish for our coverage all weekend long.


Bidding Adieu to Peggy Sue BBQ

The nostalgic Dallas restaurant was where I first fell in love with Texas barbecue.

Peggy Sue BBQ in University Park closed for good last month. The Dallas mainstay hadn’t been open since the owners announced a temporary closure for renovations back in January. The building, perched on a prominent corner of Snider Plaza across from the SMU campus, had housed a barbecue joint for nearly 75 years. (The restaurant’s predecessor, Peggy’s Beef Bar, opened in 1946.) Peggy Sue is also where I ate my very first barbecue meal after moving to Dallas in 2001.

I remember the slices of smoked brisket, a cut of beef I had only eaten as corned beef before then. The spare ribs were red from the rub, with a smoky flavor I couldn’t quite identify, and they had a tender texture I’d never achieved with the ribs I’d cooked back in my native Ohio. The folks at Peggy Sue could have showed me their smoker, and I would have guessed it was an industrial-sized dishwasher. The point is, I knew nothing about barbecue then, but I knew there was something new and exciting about the food I was eating at Peggy Sue BBQ.

In the nearly twenty years since, I’ve had a complicated relationship with Peggy Sue. I took my parents there the first time they visited my new home. The first apartment I rented was one of the few inexpensive apartments in University Park, just a few blocks from the restaurant. Always looking for good dining deals, I noticed the take-home special at Peggy Sue, which included buns, a massive serving of chopped brisket, and barbecue sauce. I ate one of those sandwiches every day for five days straight. After the first night, the sauce had solidified in the fridge. It was alarming. Animal fats weren’t an ingredient in the grocery-store barbecue sauces I was used to eating.

At the restaurant, you could choose mild or spicy sauce. The spicy version was served in a warm pitcher on the side (keeping the buttery sauce easily pourable), and I slathered it on everything. I recently called Marc Hall, who owned Peggy Sue BBQ with his wife, Susan, from 1989 to 2017. I asked for the sauce recipe, which he politely declined to share. Hall had a good reason: when he and Susan sold the restaurant (along with Amore and Cisco Grill, also in Snider Plaza) to move to their ranch on Cedar Creek Lake, they also sold the recipes.

Hall and I discussed my fond memories, but also my criticisms of the place. In 2011, one of my first published barbecue joint reviews was of Peggy Sue BBQ in D Magazine. I praised the hoppin’ John—one of Marc and Susan’s favorite dishes—but noted, “the dry and overtrimmed sliced brisket is not the restaurant’s strong suit.” When it came to smoked meats, Peggy Sue customers didn’t ask for fatty brisket and didn’t mind that the staff reheated their leftovers. Marc said that he and Susan felt it was more important to never run out of a menu item.

As for the sides and desserts, Peggy Sue BBQ was in a class of its own, way ahead of other Dallas barbecue joints pre-2010. Susan developed recipes for squash casserole, lemony sautéed spinach, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. Her fried pies were legendary, always brought out scalding hot from the deep fryer. Marc said the previous owners were also known for their fried pies, but didn’t share the recipe. Susan worked through several batches with little success, until a eureka moment: “If you want to do a fried pie, you need to freeze the damn things,” Marc told me, laughing.

The decor of the restaurant was decidedly fifties kitsch. The Halls wanted you humming along to Buddy Holly when you walked in the door. They also wanted that nostalgic connection to their predecessor, Peggy’s Beef Bar. That burger and barbecue buffet originally opened in 1946 as Howard and Peggy’s in the same building, a former Sinclair gas station. Peggy ditched Howard, then renamed the place Peggy’s Beef Bar. A 1987 Dallas Morning News article noted that “Diners entering the Beef Bar are greeted by pictures of Murphy and Garcia, two large cardboard steers who hang over the serving area.”

Two years later, the Halls opened up. They found the letters from the old sign on the roof. The “Peggy” portion was still in good shape. Susan became “Sue,” and they added BBQ to complete the name. An old J&R Oyler smoker was left on site, and they got lessons from the folks at J&R Manufacturing on how to operate it before they opened. Oak wood was their choice after an inspirational Central Texas barbecue road trip to Luling, Lockhart, and other barbecue meccas.

Peggy Sue BBQ opened in November 1989. Marc recalled, “A couple of months after we opened, the main food critic for the [Dallas] Morning News, Waltrina Stovall, gave us a really glowing review.” That story doubled sales. When Stovall included the restaurant in her list of the ten best new restaurants in Dallas, sales doubled again. Peggy Sue was beloved, and was routinely named the best barbecue joint in Dallas.

But there was a turning point in 2011, when the Dallas Observer released its “Best of Dallas” list. The reader’s choice for barbecue was Lockhart Smokehouse, while the editors picked Pecan Lodge. I noted a shift in the barbecue tastes of Dallasites that year, thanks to the openings of this new class of barbecue joints that would come to be revered around the state over the following decade. Peggy Sue’s Dallas barbecue reign was over, and barbecue in Dallas would never be the same. Marc remembers watching the barbecue landscape shifting around them. “I wasn’t going to change much. We had had our run,” he said.

The Halls ended their run officially at Peggy Sue BBQ a few years back, and Marc is happy to be out of the restaurant business now. “I’m glad I’m not facing that,” he said, referring to the restaurants struggling through the pandemic, and he doesn’t miss the critics either. Marc laughed when I brought up some of my past reviews. “We thought your assessment of Peggy Sue was accurate,” he said, and added, “It warms our hearts to know that we were part of your epiphany.” As for me, I’ll wait patiently until I can get that spicy barbecue sauce recipe to warm my stomach.


Buttermilk Biscuits

Shutterstock

Southern grandmothers often had a bread bowl where they kept flour ready to mix biscuits for the dinner meal. They perfected the art of biscuit-making as an easy way to fill up hungry bellies at their table, and you can do the same today with a simple biscuit recipe.

Back in your grandma's day, cooks would knead in their fat of choice—butter, shortening, or lard—and add buttermilk or milk to pull it together. The best biscuits are sweet and tender on the inside and brown and crispy on the outside. The secret is to gently mix the dough, folding it over, and creating layers. These treats were often served with cane syrup or homemade preserves.


Why We Should Support Old-school Joints Like Meshack’s Bar-Be-Que Shack

Although craft smoked meats are wonderful, there’s nothing like eating ribs at a traditional Texas barbecue spot. And they are getting harder to find.

James Meshack opened the first Meshack’s Bar-B-Que on the southeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and what is now Malcolm X Boulevard (formerly Oakland Avenue) in South Dallas in 1978. He would open three others, including one in Garland, before his untimely death from a heart attack eight years later at the age of 55. His daughter Donna Mayes had eaten at the original Meshack’s many times, but never laid eyes on the Garland location until she and her husband Travis took over operations after her father’s passing in 1986.

Travis and Donna ran the place until 1996 when they closed it (the other three Meshack’s locations has also shuttered by then). Travis found less grueling work as a forklift operator at a warehouse. When they laid him off in February of 2009, he wanted to get back into barbecue, but Donna wasn’t sure. Then she had a dream about that old building in Garland. A barbecue joint had opened and closed thereabout it was for lease again. They repaired some fire damage, cleaned up the place, reopened as Meshack’s Bar-Be-Que Shack in May of that year, and haven’t missed a beat since.

They didn’t change a whole lot from their previous incarnation, and not much has changed since. Mayes was featured in a 1990 article in The Garland News. Back then they served beef, ham, ribs, and links along with potato salad, baked beans, and sweet potato pie. Today, the ham has been replaced with pulled pork, and there’s no dessert. The baked beans are still sweet and smoky, but the potato salad, which had been alarmingly sweet and whipped nearly smooth, is pleasantly chunky and more on the savory side. There are no other sides. A scoop of each comes with each plate, the most expensive of which has sliced brisket and pork ribs for just $13. Because of the current beef price spike, they have raised the brisket to $15 per pound.

If Meshack’s doesn’t sound like most Texas barbecue joints that have opened since Mayes fired up the pits again eleven years ago, well, that’s because it isn’t. It isn’t cooking for the same audience, either. Mayes isn’t checking social media trends for menu ideas. He hasn’t been asking his beef supplier to find Prime grade briskets during the beef shortage—he has been shopping at Walmart and Sam’s Club to gather the least expensive briskets he can find, just like he always does. “This is not a rich area,” he tells me. “Most of these people here are old and on fixed income. These people right here are the ones that have been with me since 1986,” so he doesn’t feel right pricing them out of the market.

Mayes serves old-school barbecue at old-school prices with old-school values, but it’s not the kind valued by the rapidly changing barbecue world. Modern barbecue establishments are often expected to serve beautifully arranged slices of smoked meat, house-made pickles, and local craft beer. The plethora of options for appetizers, sides, and desserts have shifted the image of a barbecue place from a joint or a shack to what could only be described as a restaurant that features smoked meat. It’s almost like a different category of cuisine, which makes comparisons difficult.

Lining up outside Meshack’s in Garland. Bring a hat and a mask. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

Barbecue historian and author John Shelton Reed tried to define those barbecue categories in a recent article. He identified three barbecue categories—folk, haute, and mass. Mass barbecue is done purely for profit and does not adhere strictly to tradition, nor is it inventive. Think big barbecue chains. Haute barbecue is what we’ve seen grow mostly over the last decade. It’s what I’ve called “big city barbecue” in the past, and according to Reed, “is produced by individual chefs … who feel free to put their own stamp on what they cook.” Folk barbecue is rooted in tradition. “Like other aspects of folk culture,” Reed writes, “it is tied to particular places slow to change inherited by communities, not created by individuals.” Because of this, folk barbecue is insulated from change and not as easily influenced by current trends.

If you’ve ever visited a barbecue shack selling unfussy barbecue sandwiches for cheap, be it whole hog in the Carolinas or chopped brisket in Texas, that’s folk barbecue. If you’ve ever described an idealized barbecue joint, imagined or not, that’s rural and rustic, with a scant menu and run by an old pitmaster, that’s a folk barbecue joint. When critics and laypeople alike call a particular strain of barbecue “traditional” or “real,” they’re talking about folk barbecue. Meshack’s Bar-Be-Que is unquestionably folk barbecue, even if it’s just twenty minutes from my house in the big city.

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A slice of tender, juicy Prime grade brisket from any number of haute (sometimes called “craft”) barbecue restaurants charging more than $20 per pound would likely win in a head-to-head tasting over a smoky slice of Meshack’s $15-a-pound brisket, which needs a dip in the tart and sweet barbecue sauce to be considered juicy. But is that the only item of merit? What about the rest of the menu, and the rest of the experience? With folk barbecue, there’s often a level of enjoyment that’s hard to quantify.

I was stunned by the size of Da’ Jasper sandwich from Meshack’s when I opened the Styrofoam lid on a recent visit. It’s really two sandwiches, yet not a sandwich at all. Two basic white buns are topped with enough chopped brisket and hot links to fill four buns, so it’s nearly impossible to eat it like a sandwich. Dipping slice after slice of the smoked links into the pint-size tub of the spicy sauce provides immediate gratification. The sauce is amber, a few shades darker than the mild sauce. Mayes said both options, adapted from his father-in-law’s recipes, are the same besides the spices, but fewer people ask for the spicy. They’re both kept warm in crockpots that sit side by side in the kitchen. Because the spicy sauce sits mostly untouched, it reduces to get thicker. In 1980, the Dallas Morning News called James Meshack’s sauce “the hottest sauce you’ve ever tasted,” but Mayes has tamed it a bit.

The bottom half of Da’ Jasper is best eaten with a fork because the bun is soaked through with fat from the chopped brisket. The meat weighs it down, compressing the bread, and the brisket’s warmth and fat seem to confit the bun. Maybe you’d call it soggy, sure, but that’d be like disparaging a potato chip for being crunchy instead of being a mashed potato. Just take a forkful of brisket and the fat-soaked bun, drizzle on a little more of the hot sauce, and enjoy. Then remember it cost only $10.

Folk barbecue is sometimes imperfect, and the ribs are the best example of why that’s a feature and not a bug. Each rib is an adventure in textures. Bites of the fat spare ribs from the center of the rack are juicy and salty. Mayes uses no black pepper. The smoke and seasoning are concentrated at the ends of the racks and the tips, where the meat gets a bit crunchy. They’re good on their own, or dipped into the vats of barbecue sauce. Getting lost in a half rack is a pleasure that shouldn’t be interrupted with napkins. Save the cleanup until the end.

Mayes said he didn’t learn much about barbecue from James Meshack because he never cooked with him. Mayes’s brisket method was born of an accident in which he forgot about a pit full of briskets overnight. After a panic-laden drive to the joint, where he thought for sure he’d be greeted with burnt beef, he found those briskets to be wonderfully tender and smoky. A man named Van who worked for Meshack taught Mayes how to cook ribs. He uses spare ribs seasoned with a duo of commercial spices that he doesn’t want to divulge. He starts 25 racks on the cooler bottom shelf of the pit and finishes on the middle shelf, where it gets up to 300 degrees. They’re so popular that he sometimes sells out of the first batch before the second batch is done.

James Meshack left behind a family link recipe too, but Mayes doesn’t make it. “I’m tired,” the 71-year-old Mayes tells me. He can’t imagine adding in the labor required to make his own sausage. He orders Smokey Denmark’s hot links from the Packing House Market, which sits kitty-corner from the old site of the original Meshack’s. Mayes remembers the flavor of those links well. He recalls a trip down to Smithville years ago and a visit to Zimmerhanzel’s BBQ to eat similar links. “They put them on butcher paper, and they gave you some crackers with them, and you sit down with a Big Red soda,” he remembers. The sauce was thin and hot.

As a child, Donna Mayes spent her summers on the family farm outside Smithville, where her father was raised. He was one of 21 children (his brother Claude joined him in Dallas and ran an independent Meshack’s BBQ on Harry Hines in the fifties and sixties). “She never went to the hospital. She had a midwife,” Mayes said of her paternal grandmother, Pinkie Meshack. Pinkie’s husband, Charles, is credited with the original link recipe.

The family’s history in Texas started with Ephraim Meshack, described by Donna’s aunt Mabel White as “a freed slave” in a 1991 Dallas Morning News article. He moved to Texas starting in 1836, when he was nine, according to his DeWitt County voter registration in 1867. An Austin resident in 1871, he and a crew of four others were paid $142 each to clean and repair the Texas senate chamber in preparation for the state’s Twelfth legislature. By the turn of the century, Ephraim was living with his son Abraham in Upton, near Smithville. The Meshack family has had a resident in that area ever since. Donna Mayes said it’s the only area a Meshack ever came from, and the family lore is that the surname began with their family. “If there is someone with the name Meshack, they are kin to us,” she said.

Maybe Ephraim gave himself the name, which phonetically is no different than Meshach from the book of Daniel in the Bible. Along with Shadrach and Abednego, he survived the furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. That Meshack name survives through the family and through the little barbecue joint in Garland, even if a Mayes is keeping the fire burning.

Travis said he’d like the barbecue place to stay in the family. His son Travis II (“not junior,” Donna insists) helps him at the restaurant, as do his daughters Ashley and Jaimie. The latter was working the window when I visited recently. Travis’s concern for her health led him to require face masks for any customer. It’s a takeout-out only business, but customers have to say, and sometimes yell, their order to her through the screened window. Only one person has really been angry about the mask requirement. Travis recalls: “He was cussing and wanted his money back. We just gave him his money back. He said, ‘I ain’t coming back no more,’ and we said, ‘Thank you. Please don’t.'”

The only other other rule at Meshack’s is to be patient. The menu is hand-painted on the brick building, and above it reads the simple warning, “Can’t wait, don’t order. No Refunds.” If that first batch of ribs goes quickly, you might have to wait a little extra time to get yours. Those ribs are worth the wait, and Meshack’s is worth a visit even without the ribs. I love the inventiveness and the variety of haute barbecue, and I’ll continue to support and praise the restaurants that serve it. But while new operations that serve high-end barbecue open seemingly every week (even now) in Texas, folk barbecue, especially in cities, is a rare commodity that’s becoming more rare. Unless we intentionally support and praise joints like Meshack’s, and share those Styrofoam containers on Instagram with the same fervor that we share those curated barbecue trays, we’ll lose an important part of Texas barbecue’s tradition and culture.


The Best BBQ Joints in Every State in the U.S. (and DC!)

With help from our friends over at Foursquare, the city guide app, we found the top-rated BBQ spots in each state. See which spot has the best reviews near you&mdashand let us know if you think there's a better option out there.

Saw's BBQ, Birmingham

"As soon as you walk in this place you will smell the most amazing BBQ smell you have ever smelled. If you love BBQ the smells are free, but the food is amazing" - FourSquare user Brandon Johnson

"Everything! The pig out platter is worth EVERY dime. I'm here from Texas and this place blows my mind. Eat here.. NOW.." - FourSquare user Lauren Barbee

"Tried everything and it was all outstanding! The brisket is just melt in your mouth phenomenal, the pulled pork super moist, and the lamb neck so tender and unlike anybbq I've had. Can't go wrong!" - FourSquare user Victoria Kelley

"Nothing like a real good BBQ joint to make you miss the southern cooking and lifestyle. place is nice and staff have a nice southern charm. Good to come from Cali and get that good ol southern BBQ. " - FourSquare user Jonathan Spangler

Junior's BBQ, Culver City

"Lots of meat. all delicious. Baked beans and potato salad are worth it. Collard greensare on point too..not too salty." - FourSquare user Queenie C.

"Great place for brisket or pulled pork. [The] 1/2 pound [is] more than enough for 1 person. If you are there for the 1st time, you will be offered samples. Don't miss it when in Colorado Springs" - FourSquare user Michal Osoba

"I could literally eat the bear attack with burnt ends FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!! So good!! Perfectly juicy and amazing!" - FourSquare user Kate Burton

"Great outdoor seating and an even better burger" - FourSquare user Hannah Bozian

"Our family favorite. Get a sampler. Get a Manhattan with your favorite bourbon. Try the St. Louis ribs, the cheesy corn, the baked beans, the brisket sandwich and everything else."- FourSquare user Chris H.

"There's literally nothing at this place that isn't delicious (try the bbq!) and the atmosphere is great. It's always packed, so have a friend hold down a table while you order." - FourSquare user Lauren Swisher

"The Little Five Points favorite serves up Texas-style faves like pulled pork and Flintstones-sized ribs. The sides are equally tasty, especially the mac and cheese, tater tots, and Brunswick stew." - FourSquare user AFAR Media

Bob's Bar-B-Que , Honolulu

"This place looks like something out of American Graffiti but it's been here forever and clearly, a lot of the customers are regulars. If you are in Kalihi and hungry for some beef ribs or a chocolate malt, check it out.." - FourSquare user John H.

"Pork ribs were AMAZING! The BBQ sauce is good enough to lick off your fingers. Got the coleslaw & brisket baked beans both were delish. Service was awesome too! Brisket was sold out :( Will be back!" - FourSquare user Jackie Hardy


Sauces, Retail, Gift Cards, Turkeys & More

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.


Crimes Against BBQ Brisket

Aaron Franklin spends a lot of time thinking about brisket. Considering lines at his cult Austin joint Franklin Barbecue, a slew of accolades (he's one of F&W's best new pit masters in Texas), and the incredible number of hours and pounds of brisket he dedicates to his craft (Franklin starts tending his smokers daily at 2 a.m. and goes through 20,000 pounds of brisket a month), it's probably safe to say he's mastered his approach. The result is super tender and flavorful slices of beef served by the pound, plate or piled into sandwiches. Here, Franklin saves home cooks and their summer guests from the worst crimes against Texas-style barbecue brisket.

1. Using the wrong cut of meat.
Proper Texas-style brisket is made with the "Packer" cut from a cow. Many grocery stores will only sell the "flat" cut, which has the fatty point cut off the meat. "You really need that fatty half on there. If you only have that flat cut, then you're just going to be doing a Jewish-style, pot-roasty kind of thing," says Franklin. Most butchers will be able to provide this cut of meat.

2. Positioning the meat incorrectly in the smoker.
To ensure a tender brisket and to prevent it from drying out, position the meat as far away from the fire inside the smoker, with the fatty end facing the flames.

3. Choosing the wrong wood.
It's easy to over-smoke brisket due to its long cook time. This will result in a piece of meat that "tastes like liquid smoke." To prevent this, it's necessary to use very dry wood. Franklin prefers to use Post Oak that's been cured for 9-12 months. This particular type of wood creates very little soot when it burns and imparts a mild smoky flavor to the meat. He uses 20-inch-long logs for his restaurant smokers, but suggests buying pre-cured wood chunks ("Wood chips should only be used to get a smoky flavor when using a gas grill,") from a sporting goods store for a smaller backyard smoker.

4. Smoking at the wrong temperature.
It's important to keep the temperature even and calibrated according to the size of the smoker. The meat gets much closer to the fire in smaller cookers, so for those, Franklin recommends keeping the temperature around 225 to 250 degrees (temps inside the trailer-sized custom smokers at Franklin Barbecue can get up to 375 degrees). Also be sure to position the smoker's temperature gauge as close to the grate -- and the meat -- as possible. Many are at the top, which often leads to an inaccurate reading since heat rises.

5. Impatience.
"The biggest mistake I see is that people simply don't let the meat cook long enough," says Franklin. Trying to rush the process by taking the brisket off the smoker and finishing it in the oven, or wrapping the meat in foil to speed up cooking time will increase cooking time because the meat doesn't have a chance to cook efficiently. Franklin recommends smoking the meat for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours per pound of meat. Finally, let it rest to seal in all the juices. "You just can't force it -- it's done when it's done. And then you eat it."


The 10 Best Grilling Cookbooks to Read in 2021

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products you can learn more about our review process here . We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Best Overall: "The Thrill of the Grill: Techniques, Recipes, & Down-Home Barbecue"
"First published in 1990, this book showed Americans they could—and should—do more with their grills."

Best for Beginners: "How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques"
"Every recipe features full-color, step-by-step photographs to make grilling foolproof for newbies."

Best for Charcoal Grilling: "Weber’s Greatest Hits: 125 Recipes for Every Grill"
"A collection of 125 adventurous yet approachable recipes from the makers of the ubiquitous kettle-style grill."

Best for Gas Grilling: "How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food"
"Food writer Mark Bittman gives equal attention to both charcoal and gas with every easy-to-follow recipe."

Best Vegetarian: "Charred: The Complete Guide to Vegetarian Grilling and Barbecue"
"A collection of 70 inventive recipes for beautifully grilled vegetarian dishes."

Best for Entertaining: "Rob Rainford's Born to Grill: Over 100 Recipes From My Backyard to Yours"
"More than 100 grilling recipes inspired by flavors from around the world, organized by menus meant for hosting a crowd."

Best Specialized: "Franklin Steak: Dry-Aged. Live-Fired. Pure Beef."
"A love letter to steak from Austin pitmaster Aaron Franklin that’s more textbook than cookbook."

Best Chef-Driven: "Charcoal: New Ways to Cook With Fire"
"A Michelin-starred chef pushes the bounds of what one can do with charcoal."

Best Recipe Variety: "Big Green Egg Cookbook: Celebrating the Ultimate Cooking Experience" (Volume 1)
"The best grilling book for someone who would love to cook every single meal outside."

Best Gift: "Mallmann on Fire: 100 Inspired Recipes to Grill Anytime, Anywhere"
"A stunningly beautiful book about cooking with fire that just might end up on the coffee table."

Grilling—not to be confused with barbecuing—is all about cooking food quickly over a fire. What that food is, however, is up to you, as is what style of grill you use and whether you choose to cook with charcoal or gas. Luckily, no matter what you want to grill and how you prefer to do it, there’s a book for that. Whether you want to learn the basics of grilling, up your grilling game, cook for a crowd, or discover completely new ways to use your grill, here are our top picks for the best grilling books to buy this year.


The Most-Over-the-Top Burritos in the Country

A combination of meat, rice and salsa rolled into a tortilla, a burrito is one of the easiest foods to gussy up. See how chefs from coast to coast are giving the hand-held meal a crazy-delicious makeover.

Photo By: David Jacobson, Tao Group

Diablo Burrito at Allan's Authentic Mexican Restaurant, Portland, Oregon

This aptly named burrito at Allan's is not for the faint of heart &mdash daredevil foodies who want to tackle the dish are even required to sign a two-page waiver. The filling starts with slices of New York strip, pinto beans and rice, but takes a spicy turn with the sauce. A who's who of chile peppers goes into the fiery mixture: habaneros, jalapenos, naga vipers and the Scoville-topping ghost pepper, to name just a few. The flour tortilla-wrapped burrito is then blanketed in a vibrant red salsa made from California and guajillo chiles and finished with two serrano "horns."

Giant Burrito at Natura Cafe, New York City

Inspired by San Francisco's Mission burrito, the one at this all-day cafe may seem daunting at first glance &mdash after all, it does literally measure the length of your forearm. Choose chicken or steak and Chef Brad Warner will squeeze it inside a massive tortilla with sour cream, guacamole, black beans, cheese and fragrant green rice.

Soul Food Burrito at Brunchaholics, Dallas

Jessie Washington is addicted to brunch, and he's proud of it. His love of the indulgent meal inspired the Texan to launch his weekends-only stand at the Dallas Farmers Market, where hungry marketgoers can dig into Cajun smothered shrimp and grits, warm biscuits topped with fried chicken tenders or Washington's signature Soul Food Burrito. True to its name, it holds a trio of Southern favorites &mdash fried or blackened Louisiana catfish, mac 'n' cheese and smoked turkey collard greens &mdash in one deliciously messy bundle.

Chicken Tikka Burrito at The Bombay Frankie Company, Los Angeles

Mumbai's street food vendors have been selling their own version of a burrito &mdash dubbed the Frankie &mdash for years, and the Indian specialty has made its way to LA by way of this gas-station restaurant. Behind a Chevron in West Los Angeles, you'll find Chef Kamaljit Singh at the helm of a clay tandoor, turning out tender, fluffy naan that become Frankie wrappers. Fragrant chicken tikka masala and other familiar Indian accompaniments (cumin-spiced jeera potatoes, pickled red onions and chickpea spread) go into the burrito, along with a refreshing raita, tamarind chutney and mint crema.

Chef's Supreme at Virgil's Real BBQ, Las Vegas and New York City

A light breakfast this is not. The Chef's Supreme starts as a hash made from slow-cooked brisket, onions, Red Bliss potatoes and Virgil's housemade barbecue sauce. Once the hash is warm, it's tucked into a giant flour tortilla with scrambled eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, avocado, melted pepper Jack cheese and pico de gallo to form a hefty morning meal. That's not all &mdash each breakfast plate arrives with a side order of home fries, too.

Chip Butty at Es Todo, Los Angeles

Sarkis Vartanian has brought sandwiches from around the world together under one roof at this takeout window. Though the Chip Butty originally hails from Britain, the one here draws from Vartanian's childhood in Syria, where his mom used to whip up her version as a weekend treat. In Es Todo's cheffed-up wrap, crispy twice-cooked French fries, chopped tomatoes, diced red onions, Heinz ketchup and a spicy green schug sauce are crammed into lavash flatbread, forming a burrito that feels uniquely LA.

Kimchi Fried Rice Burrito at Seoul Taco, St. Louis

Korean and Mexican flavors come together in this hybrid burrito from Chef David Choi of Seoul Taco. Diners choose from four proteins &mdash bulgogi beef, spicy pork, chicken or tofu &mdash that get encased in a flour tortilla with the usual burrito fixings of lettuce, cheese and sour cream. In another nod to Choi's Korean-American heritage, the mashup is packed with spicy kimchi fried rice and his top-secret Seoul Sauce.

PizzaRitto at Russo's House of Pizza, Pearl River, New York

Instead of a tortilla, owner Michael Russo uses his restaurant's signature item, pizza, as a burrito wrapper. Once the bubbling pie comes out of the oven, he layers on other items offered at the New York pizza joint &mdash pepperoni, chicken cutlet, baked ziti, meatballs and mozzarella sticks &mdash and rolls it into a cheesy frankenfood that weighs in at an impressive 7 pounds. He's even spun off two variations: the DrunkenRitto, stuffed with chicken Parm, ravioli and vodka sauce and the GinzoRitto, with sausage, peppers, spaghetti and garlic knots.

Plan B-Rito at Flip Sigi, New York City

Chef Jordan Andino's cuisine is influenced by his Filipino grandmother's cooking, but presents the flavors and ingredients in a more modern way. At Flip Sigi, a casual taqueria with locations in the West Village and on the Upper East Side, one of the most-popular menu items is the Plan B-Rito, a hangover-busting bundle of three types of pork (longanisa sausage, ham and bacon), hash browns, egg, shredded Mexican cheese and salsa.

Crazy Burrito at Crazy Burrito, Hilliard, Ohio

Feeling indecisive about the filling for your burrito? There's no need to choose between meat or seafood at this Mexican restaurant, where the namesake burrito comes with grilled chicken, steak and jumbo tiger prawns, alongside golden rice, sour cream and onions. The colossal burrito arrives smothered in chipotle cheese sauce and pico de gallo with a side of fried bacon beans and guacamole, making it a serious knife-and-fork kind of meal.


Watch the video: The Ultimate Florida BBQ Road Trip (July 2022).


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