4 Rivers Smokehouse, a Winter Park-based company with three Central Florida locations, plans to open in its first Jacksonville restaurant by April in Baymeadows.
In a news release from the company, chef-owner John Rivers said Jacksonville is his hometown and the Baymeadows restaurant, a former Roadhouse Grill at 9220 Baymeadows Road, will be the largest location to date with 125 seats.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity to extend our brand north into Jacksonville,” Rivers said in the release.
He said the restaurant will provide “our award-winning brisket and Texas-inspired cuisine, as well as serve the North Florida community as a whole.”
The Jacksonville Smokehouse will include The Sweet Shop, a bakery concept begun in 2011 featuring Southern-inspired cookies, bars, cupcakes and cakes.
Rivers also intends to open a restaurant by June in Gainesville at 3262 S.W. Archer Road.
He said in the release that both locations are not far from a college campus – the University of Florida in Gainesville and the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Site development plans filed with the City on Friday show the company intends to redevelop and improve the vacant 6,938-square- foot Roadhouse Grill building in Baymeadows into a 7,155-square-foot restaurant along with two patio areas that total 1,861 square feet of covered space.
The property occupies a 1.13-acre site.
Property records show the Baymeadows restaurant was built in 1983 and sold in 1998 by Quincy’s Restaurants Inc. to CNL APF Partners LP, which sold it in July 2000 to CNL Funding 2000-A LP, the current owner.
According to the 4 Rivers Smokehouse site, 4rsmokehouse.com, Rivers had experience managing a pharmaceutical and distribution operation before “opening one of the fastest growing new restaurants in the Southeast with his Texas-inspired 4 Rivers Smokehouses.”
The first three are in Winter Park, Winter Garden and Longwood. The website shows those restaurants are open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
The Sweet Shop opens at 7 a.m.
An online menu lists sandwiches; smoked ribs, chicken, wings and jalapenos; “stackers” such as the “messy pig” of pork between two layers of slaw, pickles and jalapeno smothered with 4R sauce; premium items such as leg of lamb; salads; sides; and a la carte items, such as smoked prime rib.
Dinner plates include brisket, pork, turkey, sausage, chicken, prime rib, ribs and “burnt ends.” Prices start about $11. Kids’ meals are available, too.
Desserts include several offerings, including puddings, cupcakes and fried Oreos (three for $2.25). There’s also kolache, a pastry that comes filled with fruit; sausage and cheese; or sausage, jalapeno and cheese.
According to the website, Rivers is the former president of CuraScript Specialty Distribution, described as a $1.4 billion pharmaceutical operation. He also held the positions of director of the Strategic Business Group for Johnson & Johnson, Cordis Division and vice president of National Accounts for American Home Products.
“These experiences parlayed into the business strategies for his new company formed in 2007,” it said, which was 4R Ventures LLC, the parent company of 4R Restaurant Group, which opened its first location in October 2009; 4R Foods; and 4R Signature Products, which manufactures and distributes the 4R line of sauces, rubs and smoked brisket throughout the United States.
“Brand awareness for 4 Rivers Smokehouse has been in development since John launched what was dubbed his ‘BBQ Ministry,’ a continuing charitable initiative for local schools, churches and charity organizations,” says the site.
Since 2004, 4 Rivers has contributed more than $300,000 to organizations and families in need, it says.
“The company strives to provide great customer service, top-quality ingredients and a business model that gives back to its respective communities and faith-based organizations,” said the release.
According to the site and the release, 4 Rivers won recognition for “Best Barbecue” from at least four publications, including the Orlando Sentinel.
Rivers has appeared on morning news shows and has been recognized in magazines and websites as well as being featured in the “Cooking with Paula Deen” magazine.
He’s a graduate of the Florida State University College of Business.
Rivers filed articles of incorporation with the state for 4 Rivers Smokehouse of Jacksonville LLC and for 4 Rivers Smokehouse of Gainesville LLC, both effective Aug. 27.
The Longwood LLC was effective April 1, 2011; the Winter Garden LLC took effect March 15, 2011; and the Winter Park LLC took effect Aug. 25, 2008.
Rivers, the owner and pit master, also launched a line of sauces and rubs along with mail-order brisket, turkey and desserts.