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BBQ Heaven in the Middle of Central Florida

21 Jul

I was first introduced to the marvelousness that is 4Rivers Smokehouse about 3 years ago when visiting their location on Fairbanks Avenue located in Winter Park, FL. This location became so incredibly busy that they actually had to move to a much larger location a little further down the street. As the demand for their succulent BBQ continued to grow, they proceeded to open their second and third locations in Winter Garden and Longwood, Florida.

Hot Brisket Now at 4 Rivers

Hot Brisket Now at Four Rivers

Four Rivers' wide variety of bottled sodas

Four Rivers’ wide variety of bottled sodas

4Rivers is currently rated the #1 BBQ establishment in Orlando and rightfully so. They offer some of the best BBQ this side of Texas! Their signature menu item, which also happens to be my go-to meaty entrée, is the 18-hour slow smoked beef brisket. You can’t help but watch them slice this juicy masterpiece. Be careful not to drool.

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Other magnificent meats offered include their southern pulled pork, juicy Texas sausage, pulled chicken and smokehouse turkey. You can order any of these tasty options on a sandwich, in a quesadilla, or part of a dinner plate. One of the best values I have found is their set of 3 Smokehouse Sliders – just pick your meats and load them up with some of their mouth-watering sauces!

One Brisket, One Texas Sausage, One Pulled Pork Slider

One Brisket, One Texas Sausage, One Pulled Pork Slider

BBQ isn’t complete without some pretty rockin’ sides and 4Rivers has it covered! Their mac-n-cheese is super creamy, the smokehouse corn is fantastically seasoned, their baked cheese grits are rich and smooth, the cornbread is moist and their biscuits are buttery. And make sure to order a side of their amazing Krispy Kreme bread pudding, you won’t regret it.

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They’ve created some awesome signature sandwiches too. One is affectionately dubbed the Texas Destroyer. They pile their tender smoked brisket, onion rings, jalapenos and provolone cheese all onto a soft bun and then smother it with their signature 4R sauce. I’ve also had the pleasure of trying their fried pork cutlet sandwich which is topped with chipotle aioli! Admittedly, you can put chipotle aioli on anything and I will eat it but on this sandwich, it was just the icing on the cake. The pork, being the main event, was juicy and fried wonderfully and the aioli delivered an ideal amount of heat.

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In the mood for wings? Fear not – 4 Rivers offers perfectly smoked wings which can be ordered in either 6 or 10 increments. Add a side of their wonderful BBQ sauce and you can’t go wrong. Oh, and you can’t forget their St. Louis style ribs. These can be ordered in either full or half rack servings, sure to satisfy anyone’s cravings.

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On one of my more recent trips I tried a bowl of their brisket chili. I was completely blown away before I was even done with my first bite! It starts with a layer of Fritos on the bottom that’s topped with a huge serving of their out-of-this-world brisket chili and that is finished off with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. I would dare to say this is my favorite item on their entire menu. The combination of seasonings and huge tender chunks of their smoked brisket create pure perfection!

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4Rivers not only prepares crazy good BBQ, they also create some of the best desserts Central Florida has to offer! Being blessed with the luxury of space, their Fairbanks and Longwood locations have a Sweet Shop attached where you can watch their pastry chefs create some pretty amazing confections. I’ve devoured so many of their treats I’ve lost count. Their chocolate covered cake balls are to die for and their cakes and cupcakes are moist and decadent. Love ice cream? Well you must try some of their amazingly creative flavors – the red velvet alone is worthy of a trip! Any of their spectacular creations would be a delicious end to any meal at 4Rivers.

The Sweet Shop full of delicious desserts

The Sweet Shop full of delicious desserts

4Rivers Red Velvet and Biscoff Cookie Ice Cream

4Rivers Red Velvet and Biscoff Cookie Ice Cream

So don’t wait, run to your nearest 4Rivers Smokehouse! Just look for the never-ending line, you can’t miss it.

4 Rivers Smokehouse

1600 West Fairbanks Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789

1047 South Dillard Street
Winter Garden, FL 34787

1869 State Road 434 West
Longwood, FL 32750

http://www.4rsmokehouse.com

A Taste of the Coast at TJ’s Seafood Shack

11 Jul

Since I’m from Louisiana and always on the search for great seafood, I was excited to discover TJ’s Seafood Shack in Oviedo, Florida, about 30 minutes North of Orlando. They specialize in the freshest and finest seafood this side of The Gulf – anything from catfish and cod to lobster rolls and shrimp po-boys. The owners, Tim and Mary; a brother and sister pair, are very passionate about providing their customers with the very best and it shows in every dish they serve. Speaking of, here are some of the mouth-watering items we were privileged to try.

We dove right in with an appetizer sampler consisting of moist hushpuppies, crisp onion petals dredged in homemade breading, irresistible sea salt sprinkled sweet potato fries, and freshly fried pickle coins. These are all served with TJ’s homemade sauces – dill, creole, and cilantro. For a little piece of Heaven, make sure to dip the fried pickles into the dill sauce, you can thank me later.

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Next we were served their smoked mahi mahi fish dip which is masterfully crafted from a few simple ingredients – perfectly (and I mean perfectly) smoked mahi, jalapenos, cream cheese and some secret seasonings. You are going to want to slather this on everything! It is mind-blowingly good! It’s smoky and creamy, leaving you wanting an endless supply.

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Just as I was thinking it couldn’t get any better, they brought out their Louisiana-style Yumbo Gumbo! It was full of shredded chicken, Andouille sausage and more of their secret spices. They served it with just the right rice to gumbo ratio, which is sometimes difficult to find. It also had just the right amount of heat which would make my grandma proud! I made sure not a drop was left behind!

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I was beyond elated about our next dish – fried catfish! Catfish has such a great distinct flavor and TJ’s knocks it outta the park! They dredge theirs in cornmeal breading, fry until golden brown and serve them in bite size pieces. This is some of the best catfish I’ve had outside of Louisiana. Incredibly crunchy French fries and homemade tartar sauce come along side and definitely should not be overlooked!

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One of my favorite sandwiches is a shrimp po-boy, so I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into TJ’s! It arrived toasty warm; overflowing with deliciously fried jumbo shrimp drizzled in their yummy creole sauce. The bread was crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside creating pillows, if you will, for the delightfully fresh crustaceans. The creole sauce added a new level of happiness, melding with the shrimp beautifully. Definitely one of best po-boy’s I’ve ever had!

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Then arrived the dish I had been looking forward to for quite some time, their famous tilapia fish tacos covered in their equally as famous cilantro sauce! The tilapia can be ordered either blackened or fried, we opted for the former. They arrived and I immediately wanted to crawl inside their soft tortilla shells! The tilapia was flakey, wonderfully seasoned and nicely complemented by the cilantro sauce. Each taco was juicy and flavorful – it can get messy, but it’s totally worth it!

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And last but certainly not least we tried their sautéed Maryland style crab cakes. Every bite was full of tender crab meat and the tasty remoulade sauce made for a perfect flavor combination.

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I’ve also heard great things about their 100% Angus beef cheeseburger but since we were stuffed to the gills we decided to save that for our next visit, which I hope is very soon since I’m dreaming about their mahi dip right now.

Their dishes were all outstanding but it’s the level of hospitality that comes along with them that puts TJ’s above all the rest. And they are actually already adding to the success of their shack. They recently acquired a food truck that serves some of the same great seafood, like their famous fish tacos and also new additions like their shrimp and grits that you can only get from the truck! Visit their website http://www.tjsseafoodshack.com for their locations and a schedule of events!

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This was my first visit to TJ’s Seafood Shack and I am absolutely hooked! The food and the atmosphere make it impossible not to return!! I’ll see y’all there! Oh, and save me some catfish!

TJ’s Seafood Shack
197 East Mitchell Hammock Road
Oviedo, FL 32765

A Delicious Dinner at Brio Tuscan Grille

21 Jul

It was the night before Christmas Eve and my friend and I were heading to The Mall at Millenia in Orlando. We finished our last minute shopping and decided it was time for dinner. We were a little nervous wondering if we would be able to find a restaurant that didn’t have an hour long wait. Low and behold, there was Brio. I’ve been to their sister restaurant, Bravo, many times so I was certainly intrigued. We walked up to the podium and crossed our fingers…they sat us immediately!

After taking our drink order, our waitress brought over our bread basket. My first impression of a restaurant always comes from the bread…and this bread was yummy; warm and fluffy on the inside and crusty on the outside – perfect for melting butter! After serving such great bread, I knew only good things could come. We ordered the spinach and artichoke dip and the lobster bisque for apps. Both were delectable! Their lobster bisque is some of the best I’ve ever tasted! It was very flavorful and absolutely enough for two people. The spinach and artichoke dip was extra creamy and the flatbread that’s served with it is also delicious.

For entrees I ordered the Pasta Brio, rigatoni topped with grilled chicken, mushrooms and roasted red pepper sauce, and my friend ordered the Gorgonzola Crusted Bistecca, an 8 oz filet topped with Gorgonzola. When our dishes arrived, we quickly dug in….annnnd then I realized I wasn’t brought the actual dish I ordered. I was brought was the Chicken Pomodoro Classico, which was actually my second choice. It consisted of angel hair pasta topped with perfectly grilled chicken, ripe tomatoes, pine nuts, fresh basil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It was delish!

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Since our waitress wasn’t the one who brought over these entrees, she noticed right away this wasn’t the dish I ordered. It took her about five minutes to bring the dish I had actually ordered and then let me keep both! Even though The Chicken Pomodoro was really tasty I still preferred the Pasta Brio. It was absolutely heavenly! The rigatoni, the seasoned grilled chicken and velvety red pepper sauce put it over the top! It was a wonderful pasta combination!

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We couldn’t leave without having a little something sweet, so we decided we would try their Dolchino Sampler. It came with five of their individual desserts – each being about the size of a shot glass. My favorite was the Milk Chocolate Caramel Cake. The moist chocolate cake was layered with chocolate ganache and caramel and then topped with chocolate frosting – completely decadent! When the bill came our waitress explained that dessert was going to be on the house due to the entree mix up! It felt like Christmas had come two days early! Excellent service and an excellent meal, what more could we ask for?! We will definitely be back!!

Brio Tuscan Grille
4200 Conroy Rd
Orlando, FL 32839

http://www.brioitalian.com