by Caroline Gentile ‘17
Compared to my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, Boston has a lot more to offer. In terms of culture, things to do, and most importantly, things to eat, the difference is like night and day. In fact, I think Harvard Square alone has more diversity in fare than my homogeneous suburb of Cincinnati. However, the one category in which I’ve found the greater Boston area—and New England in general— has fallen short, is barbecue.
Until I found Sweet Cheeks Q.
Finally, a place where I could stuff my face with smoked meat and biscuits the size of my face – and wash it all down with a towering glass of sweet tea! At first, I will say, I was skeptical. Given the scarcity of barbecue in New England, I did not have high hopes for Sweet Cheeks. Located in Fenway, the restaurant itself seemed a bit too polished with to serve truly authentic barbecue compared to the dive-like barbecue establishments I’m used to.
I was quickly proven wrong. When a large bucket, overflowing with warm, fluffy, buttery biscuits was placed right in front of me, with a side of honey butter, I could barely control myself. After a 5-minute-but-felt-like-5-years walk in the 15-degree weather from the T to the restaurant, let me tell you that there are few things better than coming in from the cold and being given a bucket of biscuits to slather in melted honey butter deliciousness.
Approximately two minutes elapsed until my table had demolished all ten of the massive buttery biscuits. Our next victim? The drinks. I should have known from the bar vibe that Sweet Cheeks gives off—think bar stools and massive TV—but they have some damn good drinks. The legal members of my fellow diners decided to go for the John Daly Scorpion Ball. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a John Daly is the alcoholic twist of an Arnold Palmer: lemonade, sweet tea, and sweet tea vodka. When the drink finally arrived, we were in shock; the Mason jar, filled to the brim with the sweet, yet tart elixir, was literally bigger than our faces. For the under-21 crew, the non-alcoholic version of this beverage was just as tasty, and also served in an absurdly massive mason jar.
Now, for the star of the show: the barbecue. By this point in the meal, I was already overflowing with biscuits and sweet tea, but I soldiered on so as to make room for what I really came for. A friend and I decided to split the Fat Cheeks Tray, which allowed us to pick three kinds of meat, a cold side, and a hot side. We decided on pulled pork, pulled chicken, and brisket, with sides of mac n’ cheese and potato salad.
While the pulled chicken was nothing impressive, the pulled pork and brisket were everything smoked meat should be: tender, flavorful, and well, smoky. Their tangy, savory barbecue sauce went perfectly with their meat. The potato salad was crisp and fresh. Honestly, though, I think the best part of the Fat Cheeks Tray—even better than the barbecue itself— was the mac n’ cheese. Not too thick, creamy, or cheesy, and covered in toasted breadcrumbs, this mac n’ cheese was probably the best I’ve ever had.
Frankly, because I am not truly from the South (although Cincinnati does share an airport with Kentucky…), I am not entirely qualified to make informed decisions and recommendations about barbecue. I am, however, a mac n cheese expert. Rest assured, one of my friends who accompanied me to Sweet Cheeks Q hails from San Antonio, and she, too, was impressed with not only the mac n cheese, but also the barbecue. And if a Texan likes it, you know it must be good.
Sweet Cheeks Q
Location: 1381 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
Reservation: TableUp or call at (617)-266-1300
Stand-out dishes: Brisket, Mac n’ Cheese
Overall Rating: 4/5
Editor’s note: Tiffani Faison, the head chef and owner of Sweet Cheeks Q, recently opened an Asian-inspired restaurant, Tiger Mama. Check both of them out!