ORL. 407. That cute, clever “Walt Life” take on the Salt Life brand.
These are the car stickers of Orlando. Some of them, anyway. Small indicators that the vehicle in front of me is driven by a local. This week I spied a tie-dye version of a 4 Rivers Smokehouse bumper sticker and as I had recently sampled the homegrown chain’s new summer offerings — along with what later felt like 13 additional pounds of meat — I felt nostalgic.
Years back, when 4 Rivers’ own modest Winter Park birthplace was drawing swarms of meat-craving moths to the “Hot Brisket Now” sign blazing in the window, those “Peace, Love, 4R” emblems were their own blazing symbol of Orlando-localness. It seemed more cars had them than didn’t.
I don’t see quite as many stickers these days as back then, but what we all see is more restaurants. 4 Rivers has since proliferated well beyond its humble beginnings.
I hit up the UCF outpost to sample items from the new Endless Summer of BBQ menu (available now through August 3 at all Florida locations), figuring Father’s Day might inspire a few locals to treat dad to whatever he loves — or isn’t supposed to be eating. I got quite the surprise when John Rivers happened to be there, too.
As such, I got an impromptu butchery lesson on where baby back ribs come from. Appropriate, since these tender summer additions complement the staple St. Louis ribs nicely. Petite and smoky and served with a limited-edition peach habanero BBQ sauce, the meat fell easily from the bone.
Far larger was the 4R Footlong Hot Dog, a fat wiener that’s split and grilled, which helps (barely) contain the pile-up of pulled pork, melted cheddar, slaw and 4R signature sauce. Between bites, I explained the decidedly NYC-term, “dirty-water dog,” to Rivers, a Jacksonville native.
Summer is for lighter eats, so they saw fit (at least, Rivers’ wife, Monica, did) to add the light crunch of salad to the menu. In fact, she’s been — gasp! — a vegan for the past two years. “It’s our way of bringing balance to the universe,” he jokes.
Each of the Summer Salads (Farmhouse, Texas Caesar and Tangy Thai) pile the crunchy, farm-grown goodies high, but throw in things like roasted chickpeas and cornbread croutons for good measure. And of course, you can “upgrade” your greens with smoked turkey or tri-tip, too. It will keep you fuller longer.
The rest of the menu? That could keep you full until the not-precisely endless promotion ends on Aug. 3. Check out the rest of the summer offerings online — and if you’re a Foodstagrammer, tag your 4 Rivers pix with #4Rsummer for a chance to score some 4R freebies, which are still pretty neat — even if they’re not quite as local as they used to be.
Father’s Day: meat & more
Sure, dad and grandpa and your weird-but-awesome uncle may love Q, but if not — there are a ridiculous number of area restaurants with specials going on.
Bulla Gastrobar: Papa can enjoy the holiday all weekend long here. Bulla is known for shareable tapas and other Spanish delicacies, but he probably won’t want to share the FD special: a bone-in ribeye entrée (available June 14-16). What’s more, during brunch and dinner, Bulla’s got gifts for dad in the form of a $20 gift card usable for their next visit. For the kids: a brainteaser crossword. If they solve it, the table wins a complimentary order of churros! More info: 110 Orlando Ave. in Winter Park; 321-214-6120; bullagastrobar.com
David’s Club Bar & Grill (at Hilton Orlando): David’s has Dad covered with prime ribeye cap, loaded mac and cheese and red-eye gravy, along with a 14-ounce craft beer for $32. More info: 6001 Destination Parkway in Orlando; 407-313-4300; thehiltonorlando.com/dine/davids-club
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse: They’re open early on June 16, 11 a.m., and in addition to its usual upscale carnivore staples, a specialty menu for dad featuring slow-roasted, herb-crusted prime rib for your papa is up for grabs. More info: 9150 International Drive in Orlando; 407-351-5074; delfriscos.com/steakhouse/orlando/
Paddlefish: Disney Springs’ beautiful paddlewheeler-restaurant adds some surf to the Father’s Day turf with a special offering. Priced at $47, the entree includes a ribeye and shrimp skewer with whipped potatoes, topped with a rich Bernaise sauce. A holiday-centric craft cocktail, the Bourbon Daddy ($15) features Medley Brothers Bourbon, apricot liqueur, Orleans Bitter and a splash of Sprite. More info: 1670 Buena Vista Drive in Orlando; 407-934-2628; paddlefishrestaurant.com.
The Pizza Press: Pizza’s ideal for family-style outings and Winter Garden’s Pizza Press is throwing fathers a beer-centric bonus: one free craft beer, in-store, with purchase of a pizza or salad. You must mention or show the offer to get the freebie, and it can’t be used in conjunction with any other promotion. More info: 16406 Independence Parkway in Winter Garden; 407-395-8418; thepizzapress.com
Rocco’s Tacos: Beer here! Rocco’s is offering half-off draft and bottled beer for dad with the purchase of any entrée, including enchiladas, tacos and other specialties. Inexpensive … but not cheap! More info: 7468 W. Sand Lake Road in Orlando; 407-226-0550; roccostacos.com
Sonny’s BBQ (all locations): Can Dad really put it away? Strap on his feedbag and head to Sonny’s where for $18.99, he can enjoy all-you-can-eat baby back ribs all day long on June 16. sonnysbbq.com
Taverna Opa: Beef tenderloin and belly dancing are on the Dad’s day menu at I-Drive’s Taverna Opa, along with value. Dads eat free with a family of four or more when they select the family-style dinner menu. More info: 9101 International Drive in Orlando; 407-351-8660; opaorlando.com
For the late & the guilty….
Make missing Father’s Day up to dad, big time, with the Macallan Scotch Dinner at Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster at 7 p.m. Friday, June 21. Co-hosted by Ricky Ly of Tasty Chomps, the four-course menu features a USDA prime ribeye, along with Christner’s delectable chateau potatoes, among other goodies. The superstar, of course, is the sublime Macallan scotch, among those on the roster is the Macallan Rare Case Batch No. 3, 2019 release. More info: Reservations required; $145/per person includes tax and gratuity; 729 Lee Road in Orlando; 407-645-4443; christnersprimesteakandlobster.com