Sweet Cheeks Q: Smoked Meats and Southern Treats
Boston's food scene has been an exciting place lately, with an impressive number of celebrity chefs bunking down with top chef positions at established restaurants or creating their own visions of what's needed next. From Jason Santos and Blue Inc. to Jamie Bissonnette's head honcho position at both Coppa and Toro, all areas of Boston are flourishing when it comes to dining out.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Tiffani Faison, who placed second during the first season of Top Chef, opened her first solo restaurant project in Fenway — Sweet Cheeks Q. Her concept is a challenging one in Boston — traditional Texan barbeque, focusing on smoked meat and all the usual accompaniments. There is definitely a lack of good ol' Southern food up here.
I was a bit nervous heading into the restaurant this past Tuesday because there had been so much hype around this opening... though that is what you get when a celebrity chef opens a restaurant. However, once I stepped inside and was met by the smell of sweet, smoking meats, I knew I would not be disappointed.
The interior layout does justice to the laid-back, casual feel of any true smokehouse. A bar on the left is mirrored by an open kitchen to the right, where chef Faison can be seen bustling around setting orders straight. The restroom can be found at the end of a makeshift hallway lined with old, empty, giant tin cans.
My friends and I plopped down quickly and ordered some drinks. I did not order any of their cocktails, but I did go for a Sprecher's ginger beer which, at $5, was a bit pricey, but once placed in a big mason jar full of ice really is a perfect libation.
As far as food goes, first thing is first — order a bucket of buttermilk biscuits served with honey butter. These arrived, followed shortly by the most tantalizing smell. The biscuits were gargantuan and although four for $10 made for a good deal, I think it would be better to price them individually... I shudder to think abput how many of these beauties get tossed.
As for the meat, there are a couple ways you can navigate the menu. I would opt for the meat by weight option. At $19 per pound, you can order by the quarter, so my friends and I ordered a quarter-pound of each type of meat — Great Northern brisket, Berkshire pork belly, Berkshire pulled pork, and pulled chicken. Everything comes served in delightful tin trays, and the meat is served alongside traditional fixings, aka white bread, pickles and onions. The meats were all delicious — so tasty and tender, they must have been smoked with gentle, tender, loving care for days.
Sides are a must as well, and one cannot (and should not) resist their fried items, such as the fried green tomatoes and okra. We also ordered their mac and cheese and coleslaw. The latter two did not show up at the table however, having been forgotten by our waitress. This actually ended up being a blessing, as we found we could not have done them justice anyways.
We decided to skip dessert — no matter how tempting the giant nutter butter looked, I could not even begin to image getting through it without ice cream... something they unfortunately did not have on the menu.
In the end, despite the little slips of memory and menu shortcomings, our meal was absolutely incredible. We finished our food feeling full and warm, ready to venture back into the cold outdoors.
I am already very much looking forward to my next visit. Lucky for me, I also have some leftovers in my fridge at this very moment... second dinner anyone?