Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sweet Cheeks BBQ, Fenway, Boston

Her name was whispered in culinary circles for months before Sweet Cheeks opened its doors. Highly acclaimed, formidable competitor on Bravo's Top Chef, Tiffani Faison was opening a restaurant- in Boston. But this wouldn't be your typical celebrity chef space. No updated American comfort food here, no elegant gastropub or classic Italian or French fare here. No, Chef Faison was taking a risk, she was breaking the barriers- she was bringing real, southern style BBQ to Boston, the land of atrocious BBQ spots. She was going to bunk our reputation and fill the air of Fenway with smoke creating a spot to sink your teeth into classic BBQ and all that goes along with that.



I'll spare you the suspense. Chef Faison is nailing it. Boston's BBQ Top Chef award (should we have one) goes to her- in a heart beat.


That isn't to say that there are a few missteps. If you don't feel like having awkward conversation with your too close neighbors, the community dining tables may turn you off. Some of the sides miss the mark, but let's face it- if you're hankering for BBQ, you're hankering for smoked meat- and that's where Sweet Cheeks shines.


The entrees are served as "trays", of varying sizes (meaning basically one type of meat or two), a scoop of a hot side, one of a cold side, classic white bread, and, delightfully, a lovely array of homemade pickles and raw white onions. It was a difficult choice but I settled on the pulled pork tray, choosing the Broccoli Cheese Casserole and the Farm Salad for my sides. The Broccoli Casserole was nothing to write home about, rather lackluster, I had a fork of it and then pushed it aside. It was wasted calories in the face of the mountain of meat that sat in front of me. The Salad was crisp and refreshing however, with a simple vinaigrette dressing lightly coating the greens, Brussels Sprouts, red grapes and sunflower seeds. It was full of flavor and it's slight acidity actually paired really nicely with the meat. The meat...the meat was truly fantastic. Deep smoke rings, crispy ends, unbelievably tender morsels...I was rendered a bit speechless. The flavor was exactly what I've had in southern locals, robust smoke accentuating the pure pork natural flavors. Sweet Cheeks offers three house made sauces to sample with your trays: a BBQ, a North Carolina Vinegar based, and a Thai Chilli sauce. I am not actually a BBQ sauce fan. Normally I find it cloyingly sweet, a result of far too much molasses added. Sweet Cheeks however created a blend of acidic tomato, just a hint caramel sweetness, and a wonderful does of smoke resulting in a powerful punch of flavor that complimented the meat without overpowering it. The North Carolina style sauce brought me right back to my experiences in mountains of North Carolina, where BBQ is found on the road sides, and the idea of a family gathering without pork n' pickles is outrageous. The punch of vinegar was strong, and only further charged up with a blast of chili flakes making a well balanced flavor palate. Pairing this sauce with the rich meat broke through its natural fattiness and clarified the flavors. Finally I reached for the Thai Chili sauce- fully anticipating a typical, weak, watered down version of Thai heat. Not so at Sweet Cheeks. I poured a healthy dose on my fork full of pork and soon found that when Chef Faison says her stuff is spicy- she isn't holding back. My mouth immediately caught on fire, the sauce had good mix of both front of the mouth and back of the throat heat creating a very full experience. For the heat lovers out there -this stuff is great- addictive and delicious.


It must be said, if you're looking to truly experience a southern meal, and Chef Faison's genius -don't skip the bucket of biscuits. Four huge biscuits arrive in a tin can to the table, and are served with a small mason jar full of freshly made honey butter. The biscuits are the biscuits you dream about- warm, a crisp external crust, all giving way to a flakey, impossibly buttery interior. These are what biscuits SHOULD taste like, but too often resemble hockey pucks instead.


Boston has been challenged to find good BBQ for as long as I can remember. We have failed in this task time and again, often not smoking meat long enough resulting in flavorless meat, or overcooking it all until a tough piece of jerky is all that remains. Sweet Cheeks BBQ is delivering on tender meats, well flavored, and completely addictive. Any downsides of the restaurant, including those strange questions that random person sitting next to you might ask, melt away with the first bite of the meat and bliss sets in. Oh, and look into that open kitchen with the busy staff- that lovely red headed chef is none other than the celebrity herself- attentive and visible throughout the restaurant.

8 comments:

Ché @ Knight at the Restaurant said...

Thanks for the review! I've been DYING to make it to Sweet Cheeks - I'm glad to know that when I do it'll be totally worth the wait.

Aimee said...

Not gonna lie - this kind of made me want to eat some meat! For a ten years plus vegetarian, this means you made it sound pretty darn good. I want that spicy sauce! Glad you finally got some good BBQ!

In and Around Town said...

Totally agree with your review - passed on the mac and cheese and went straight into the meat, which was perfection!

Tracey said...

Great review and I agree make sure they order the biscuits! They are amazing.

Dan said...

I went this past weekend and absolutely loved everything about the place. Which is pretty rare for me. I feel like everyone needs to try and make it there before baseball season starts because it's gonna get crazy packed!

jacki mo said...

sums up my thoughts exactly! sweet cheeks is awesome, and a great place for a group night. did you happen to try any of the salads when you were there? i thought those were the best sides imo (but i've only gone during lunch so i know the selection is limited as opposed to the dinner offerings)but they were so light and fresh and the carrot salad is crunchy. their a good compliment to the heavier meats.

Jen said...

I really liked the farm salad. And you HAVE to try the ribs. So good. Couldn't agree more - this place is awesome. The smell of smoke alone in there is worth the trip.

Megan said...

I love the pork ribs and farm salad. Completely agree with you on the broccoli casserole (and the mac and cheese wasn't my favorite either). I only went for lunch so I haven't gotten to try the biscuits yet, but I'll be heading back for those!

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