If you like BBQ and meat, please, get thee to Sweet Cheeks.
Contrary to what some of my friends initially thought, Sweet Cheeks is – nope, not my new nickname – but it is, in fact, one of the newer restaurants in town which is already sweeping Bostonians off our cold, Northeastern feet. “It’s the American south north of the Mason Dixon,” claims Tiffany Faison, chef, owner,and Top Chef alum.
It’s dry-rub Texas BBQ, ribs, brisket, chicken. It’s creamy mac and cheese, porky collard greens, salty fried okra, and sweet, sweet honey butter, slathered on generous, crumbly, golden biscuits. It’s food I want in my belly, now.
As soon as you walk in, you’re enveloped in the captivating smell of smoked meat. It’s loud, it’s packed, it’s cheerful energy pulsing throughout the space. The food is served in trays, the utensils are in a can in the middle of the table. You know it’s going to be laid-back, no-nonsense grub.
Of course the sweet tea is served on mason jars. What did you expect?
There are house-made sauces on the tables: the biggest bottle is classic barbecue, the middle-sized one is a vinegar-based sauce, and the smallest one, with the star, is the one that packs a punch: fiery hot sauce.
We ordered some fried okra to share (oh Texas, thank you for introducing me to these. Ever since I visited the Lone Star State last year, I’ve been seduced by fried pickles/jalapenos/okra). I was wondering if it came with a dipping sauce but after one bite, I knew it didn’t need anything else. The batter is light and well-seasoned, the okra clean tasting and crisp, with none of the sliminess that I associate with it.
We also ordered a bucket ‘o’ biscuits and those biscuits – oh, those biscuits! – were PHENOMENAL. All week long I found myself thinking of them and that sweet fluffy honey butter. All week long I found myself wiping saliva off my mouth.
We ordered “trays” – a choice of meat, served with one hot scoop, one cold scoop, white bread, pickles, and onions.
And a half chicken. This was my tray.
I blanketed the chicken with hot sauce and barbecue sauce. While it actually didn’t need it (I could taste hints of maple and a tantalizing smoky flavor), I couldn’t resist the brown sugar-based barbecue sauce and the mouth-puckering hot sauce. It was also a big portion (yes, I know I ordered a half-chicken) which was perfect because I had leftovers for lunch the next day. I got some potato salad on the side (really good, with the sharp tang of mustard) and collard greens (really, really good, with little bits of meat and an almost vinegary braise). I read somewhere that a good test for a restaurant is how they do their roast chicken; in this case, the smoked chicken aced the test.
An alien took over me that night as I didn’t have room for dessert, but that only means that I will have to return soon so I can try the much-adored giant nutter butter. I also heard rumors that Sweet Cheeks serves shots in little baby mason jars – and since I’m obsessed with cocktails adorable, miniature things, I would want to try those.
My friends and I savored every bite at Sweet Cheeks. Tiffani Faison hit a home run in Boston, I think. The food is excellent, the type you remember long after your first bite. If you visit the Sweet Cheeks website, you can read the little intro where the owners state that they fell hard for Texas BBQ. I get it. With each rib, shred, crumb, and drop of their food, we can feel that love, too.
And if you’re wondering how it got the name, the chef and owner said that it came from what she and her line cooks at Rocca (which is now unfortunately closed) would say to each other when they are lagging: “We’d yell, ‘Let’s pick it up, sweet cheeks.’”
One more thing -
I used a random number generator to pick two winners for my tablea (Filipino hot chocolate) giveaway: