Restaurant roundup: 4 Rivers, Blue Agave and more


Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 5:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 5:42 p.m.

John Rivers progressed from backyard chef to charity cook with a smoker on a trailer to starting a line of sauces and rubs with a cookbook on the way. Since opening a 1,350-square-foot restaurant in Winter Park in 2009, he has since moved into a larger location and opened three more restaurants employing about 500 people, with another three locations to open over the next year.

The fifth location of 4 Rivers Smokehouse opens Aug. 28 in The Esplanade at Butler Plaza, 3262 Archer Road.



After retiring as president of a $1.4 billion pharmaceutical distribution company, Rivers served 70,000 people over four years at charity cookouts. He found that he already had a following as soon as he opened the first 4 Rivers.

Rivers said he has also heard from University of Florida students and alumni who moved to Gainesville from Central Florida, “so we've got some brand recognition in that area before we even open the doors.”

4 Rivers is a quick-serve restaurant with a deli-style layout. The menu includes its signature Texas-style brisket, pulled pork, ribs, sandwiches, a bakery, and “Southern sides” that include baked cheese grits, cornbread salad and smoked jalapenos.

Waffle House plans to open in late September or early October in an outparcel in front of The Home Depot at 5150 NW 13th St., according to Jeff Cole, vice president of real estate for the diner chain.

The company signed a lease for the building last year but has been waiting to schedule its construction superintendents as they build out 80 new restaurants across the country.

Take Away Gourmet will be moving to Blue Oven Kitchens, and a restaurant called Rice Thai Sushi & Asian Fusion is moving in at 3550 SW 34th St.

Rice Thai will start working on the space Sept. 1 and try to open by Oct. 1, said Niran “Nick” Narapanya, who owns the restaurant with wife Orapin Pingkasan.

They own a restaurant of the same name in Boynton Beach. Pingkasan will be chef of the Gainesville location.

Narapanya said the restaurant will offer some sushi and Indonesian food, but 80 percent of the menu is Thai “because we are Thai.” He said Rice Thai is the only restaurant in Boynton Beach to offer authentic pad Thai “because it's really hard to prepare the sauce.”

Take Away Gourmet owner Darleen Randall said she is moving into the Blue Oven kitchen incubator to lower overhead costs. She will discontinue pickup service and go to all delivery.

Mexican food is returning to the La Pavillon shopping center with a restaurant called Blue Agave moving into the original Las Margaritas location.

The restaurant from Albany, N.Y., signed a lease last week for the spot at 4401 NW 25th Place off Northwest 43rd Street. The location last housed Tupelo Grill. Realtor Eric Ligman, who brokered the deal, said Blue Agave probably won't be ready to open for another month and a half or so.

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