Do you remember that feeling you had as a little kid when your hands were too small to handle a water glass by yourself? That’s how I felt as I fumbled over the giant lemonade at Sweet Cheeks Q, served in a mason jar larger than my face (I compare all large food items to the size of my face). It reminded me of my childhood trip to Texas, where all the food was just as big and beautiful.
To complete the picture, my dining partner that day was also a born-and-raised Texan. So naturally, he was skeptical that anything in this Boston BBQ restaurant (wait, we don’t go up and get the food? It comes to us?) could trump his grandmother’s or his familiar Texas BBQ circuit’s (Cooper’s–Stubbs–Salt Lick) recipes. But then, he tasted the biscuits. Quite honestly, it’s something you simply must hold in your hands and shove in your face to fully appreciate. One order ($10) comes with four of the flakiest, most buttery biscuits I’ve ever seen, that pull apart to a soft, pillowy interior. It’s already too delicate and rich on its own, but you should go ahead and apply a generous smear of the house-whipped honey butter anyway. The biscuits were so good that they almost made him cry.
Then, I had to get myself ready for the meat. For most diners, opting for a single tray (between $19 to $22), a big cheeks tray ($24) or fat cheeks tray ($26, and what we ordered) is the best way to experience a variety of menu items. Each of the trays comes with a selection of meats (we chose the brisket, pulled pork, and ribs), a hot scoop and cold scoop. These “scoops” include sides such as macaroni and cheese (served in an adorable enamel camping mug), collard greens, coleslaw and potato salad. It also comes with some bread n’ butter pickles and onions to provide a bit of textural and acidic contrast. The brisket and ribs were done very well, while the pulled pork was good but not particularly memorable. And if sauces are your thing (though unacceptable in some BBQ circles), they’ve got a great lineup of homemade options on the table for you to choose from.
Sweet Cheeks Q has the comfort and ease of a Montana’s in the suburbs, but serves items dry-rubbed with an artisanal quality that could attract the most hipster San Fran meat connoisseur if labeled as such. Overall, the food was outstanding. And overall, the service was too. We did however, have a very bizarre experience with one of the staff (not our assigned server) who made a variety of awkward and inappropriate jokes that left us fairly uncomfortable. However, I am inclined to attribute most of that to the individual rather than the establishment.
Final Note: Half the restaurant is filled with foodies who clearly Yelped or Top Chef pilgrimaged their way there (Chef and Owner Tiffani Faison is a force to be reckoned with), while the other half is filled with low-key Bostonians who could care less about the components of the dredge used in their fried chicken. They come because the food is damn good. That’s all they, and you, need to know.
Location: 1381 Boylston St, Boston, MA (Fenway Park)