Come And Get It!

Come And Get It!

Silver Dollar City becomes barbecue giant

Mystic River Falls may have the tallest drop on a raft ride in the Western Hemisphere and the wettest splashdown in the history of Silver Dollar City. It may have used more than 22 semitrailer loads of re-enforcement bar, 187,650 cubic yards of concrete, 6,000 tons of landscaping rocks and 220,000 board feet of rough sawed timber. It may be a $23 million investment. And it may be something completely new for the Branson theme park, which celebrates its Diamond Jubilee 60th Anniversary this season.

But Mystic River Falls doesn’t sound any more impressive than the restaurant built to complement it. Rivertown Smokehouse, which will open along with Silver Dollar City on March 17, isn’t huge in size, but it is gargantuan in scale.

Sam Hedrick has been with Silver Dollar City for 27 years and, as director of food and beverage, has been the team leader on the restaurant’s creation. He and his staff have traveled all over the country considering barbecue. They’ve gotten advice and help from other Herschend Family Entertainment parks, members of the “larger family” of theme parks and industry leaders. And they’ve tasted a ton of barbecue.

“At tastings, you’ve got to remind yourself you’re not supposed to eat the whole thing,” he says with a laugh.

The $4 million fast-casual restaurant, nestled in the footprint of Mystic River Falls, has two giant wood grills where patrons will see grillmasters finishing up ribs and chicken; two giant smokers, each capable of smoking 600 pounds of brisket or 150 slabs of ribs or 250 half chickens at capacity; two carving stations where guests will be served their single- or double-meat entrees; and a selection of hot and cold sides that are making this reporter’s mouth water as I type: cilantro corn salad, creamy macaroni and cheese, fresh coleslaw, molasses baked beans, and, for dessert, blackberry gooey butter cake, cinnamon roll bread pudding and bananas foster pudding with caramelized sugar sauce.

But ask Hedrick his favorite, and he doesn’t hesitate. His “go-to” is the brisket, he says, but “we have a tremendous smoked turkey as well, something you’ve been seeing more often on barbecue menus in the last 10 to 15 years. We take a whole turkey breast, marinate and inject it, and it’s the best smoked turkey I’ve ever had. It’s more a question of what am I in the mood for today? One is really rich, and one is really flavorful.”

Hedrick knows, though, that it doesn’t matter how good the food is if the patrons can’t get to it. That’s why Rivertown Smokehouse has been constructed with two service lines capable of serving up to 500 people an hour plus seating for 456, 350 of them under cover of a roof. Some of the expertise came from giant barbecue halls in Texas, Hedrick says, where they serve 500 to 600 people at a time. “It’s serious business down there.” It will be serious business at Silver Dollar City, too, with the capacity to serve 3,500 to 4,000 barbecue meals a day.

Maybe the best part, Hedrick says, is that Mystic River Falls — which will open sometime in early summer — wraps around the restaurant, and diners “can watch families having a great time while they’re have a great meal.” And of course, the riders can smell what Sam Hedrick is cookin’.

Prices will run $6.99 for kids, Hedrick says, and $12 to $15 for adults.



Silver Dollar City

Diamond Jubilee 60th Anniversary

WHEN — Season begins March 17

WHERE — Branson, Mo.

COST — $72 with multi-day discounts available


Categories: Maker Space