Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >
Nov 10, 2011 01:29 PM

Sweet Cheeks

I was walking down to Citizen last night when I happened to see that Sweet Cheeks seemed to be open. Upon entering, I learned that I had stumbled upon an informal soft open in preparation for their official opening this Friday. Despite already having dinner, I couldn't resist the chance to try some barbecue. As a born and bred Tennessean and having frequented 17th Street in my college years, good barbecue is one of the things I have missed the most since moving to Boston. Having tried Blue Ribbon, Redbones and Soulfire multiple times each, only the latter was even worth reconsidering (granted, I have not been out to BT's). As a result, I had somewhat low expectations of Sweet Cheeks.

I didn't have the appetite for an entire meal, but I did want to try various offerings on their menu. In the end, I decided to split a pulled pork sandwich, a quarter lb of brisket and a couple pork ribs. Lo and behold, I was actually pleasantly surprised. My favorite was perhaps the pork ribs, which turned out to be short ribs instead of the baby back ribs I was expecting. Although the ribs were rather thin, the ribs were deeply smoked and had a good texture. The pulled pork was perhaps a bit on the dry side, but tasted pretty decent after a good dousing of sauce. The brisket was just barely falling apart, with the fatty bit being the most flavorful. All in all, textures were good and smoke was evident.

There were 3 sauces: something close to a Memphis-style vinegar and tomato-based sauce, a spicy version thereof, and a Western Carolina vinegar sauce. The only one I didn't try last night was the spicy sauce, but the other two were pretty tasty. Notably, there was not a KC style sauce, which I personally find too sweet, but which seems popular at the other barbecue joints in town.

One big point was what seemed to be the lack of any dry rub, or a very minimal rub. For my tastes, I like my barbecue to have a rub on it, but I do understand that there are some regional styles that are rub-free. Back home, we just don't call those styles barbecue ;). I would personally prefer to see some Memphis-style dry rubbed baby backs on the menu, but for now, I'll take what I can get.

In addition to the meats I tried, there is also chicken, beef short ribs and pork belly on the menu. I didn't have any stomach space for sides, but the menu had a wide variety of both traditional sides (collards, beans, fried green tomatoes, etc.) and some sides you would never see down South (ie. a farm salad that was Brussels sprouts based). One notable omission was the lack of cornbread.

They didn't have any sweet tea last night, so I had a Porkslap instead. The drink menu is very American centric, with a focus on beers and spirits. The bartender mentioned that all the offerings are brewed or distilled in the US, with the exception of a couple tequilas. There is even moonshine.

Again, in my humble opinion, barbecue needs a healthy bit of rub to be the most flavorful. All in all, though, I was pleasantly surprised by how well-smoked the meat was, and I look forward to trying it more fully in the near future.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. have you tried East Coast Grill? Too bad about the cornbread which is quite good at ECG.

    That said, you have convinced me to give it a whirl.

    East Coast Restaurant
    1456 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester, MA 02122

    1 Reply
    1. re: cambridgedoctpr

      During several happy visits to ECG throughout the years, I've found their cornbread to be terribly bland, dry, and overall barely edible. Oh well, different strokes...

    2. Great report. Definitely sounds promising.

      1. In a video, she, and I quote, "...rubs the dickens out of it...", although, maybe you had something different last night?

        In any case, I look forward to trying it out for myself. If you don't mind me asking, how would you say it is priced (seeing as there is no menu on the site yet)?

        4 Replies
          1. re: Msample

            Sandwiches are $10 and don't include sides. Meat can be bought by the lb for around $18/lb. Trays with one meat and 2 sides are around $18, two meat combos are $24, and three meats are $28. Sides are $7 for small, $12 for large. It certainly is not cheap.

            In reading the Pigtrip review, I am glad i'm not the only one that would have liked the cue to be more heavily rubbed. Perhaps she does rub the meat, but it just was not as spiced and flavorful as I am accustomed to. Perhaps the idea is to let the pure flavor of only the meat and smoke shine.

            1. re: Msample

              $26 for four ribs, one slice of brisket, and a turkey leg, served on butcher paper on a plastic tray? Yikes.

          2. it'd be nice if they had their menu online...

            10 Replies
            1. re: CambridgeFoodie

              When I went, the hostess said they were still tinkering with the menu and would finalize it soon

              1. re: rlee21

                No carryout until Monday - is the parking situation bad over there?

                1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                  Plentiful meter parking and several garages in the area. Parking is easy when the Sox aren't in season.

                  1. re: Gabatta

                    I read the review online at pigtrip and the food sounds very good but when I saw the photo of the plate of 3 ribs and 1 slice of brisket with a couple sides for $24, I was floored. A little too pricey in my opinion for a small plate of bbq.

                    1. re: bakerboyz

                      Gotta love the slogan on their website "IF YOU LEAVE HERE HUNGRY, IT'S NOBODY'S FAULT BUT YOUR OWN"....that you are unwilling to pay nearly $50 for two meals.

                    2. re: Gabatta

                      I have to disagree. Unless you're there at an offtime, Boylston St. parking is usually pretty full and 95% of the Fenway is resident. I guess the lots are an option, I refuse to pay unless a last resort. That said, the place has looked quite crowded when I've driven by several times. WAY more than Cambridge 1 ever was.

                      1. re: total13

                        Other than during a Sox game I have never failed to find a meter, particularly since I am willing to walk a few blocks. I'm just lucky I guess. My time is limited, so I will pay if necessary, just not the gouge rates during a Sox game.

                        1. re: Gabatta

                          Landmark Center around the corner has a totally jacked parking garage but I think the rates are generally pretty reasonable.

                          1. re: Gabatta

                            I'm always willing to walk so a few blocks away is fine. In general though these days, it seems the Boylston St. spaces are pretty full.

                            Still no menu on their web site but the prices don't sound promising.

                          2. re: total13

                            If you don't mind an easy 6 block walk, you can always find parking around St Mary's St

                    1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                      Menu is now available here:

                      We did lunch there yesterday. "Natural Chicken Thighs" are nowhere to be seen on the menu at the joint, so I'm guessing we had the Main Menu, not the lunch menu, although there were sandwich options. We chose not to do sandwiches or trays, but to order the meat and a couple sides. You can get their meats by the quarter pound (or more), for $4-5 a 1/4 pound.

                      We got 1/4 each of the pulled chicken (really smoky and good), the pulled pork (also very good), and the pork belly (like bacon, but very thick -- 1/4 pound = 3 3/4" slabs of delicious, fatty, meat. We added a side of fried green tomatoes ($7 got you 5 THICK slabs, quite yummy), and a small hot scoop of Mac & Cheese, which came in a large coffee mug, which kept it hot all the way to the bottom. Very good M&C, best I've had in the area, second only to Hill Country, in NYC, which we kept comparing this place to, as that's the best Texas BBQ we've had in the past.

                      Service was very attentive, the place was nicely decorated, the big screens had both early NFL games on (but no satellite it appeared, as over the bar the same game was on 2 sets).

                      Noise level was good, and overall, this may be the best BBQ inside 495 (I also haven't been to Blackstrap yet, and this was (obviously) different from BT's in Sturbridge, which we love, but pretty damn good.

                      If you love Hill Country, though, I think that's better. Will have to come back to try the ribs and brisket to make sure.

                      1. re: L2k

                        Thanks for reminding me I had meant to post about this place (and many others). I tried it a few weeks ago and really enjoyed the quality of the BBQ here. I had the trio combo so I tried the brisket, the pulled pork and the pork belly. My friend had ribs, chicken and also the belly. We both really enjoyed our meals. Yes, it's a little spendy, but the quality was there and the flavor was really good. I actually think Jenny would like the brisket -- best I've had around here and appropriately fatty. I also had the mac n cheese and collards to round out my tray and took home enough leftovers for another couple of meals, so it's not THAT bad a deal. It was also nice that Tiffani was in the house, clearly in charge of her kitchen and FOH staff.

                        A picture below, to tempt you who crave meat.

                        1. re: yumyum

                          Forgot to mention, we had the homemade Nutter Butter cookie, and it is HUGE and better than the original. Probably 6-7" in diameter (for $8 it better be huge), and half of it is dessert for us tonight at home.

                          1. re: L2k

                            Ironic, as I've been called a nutterbutter on more than one occasion.

                            We couldn't even look at the dessert menu, but my friend enjoyed her beer and I liked the house red well enough (they have two wines, red and white). Rough and ready and served in a juice glass like I like, even before it got trendy and ironically "homespun".

                          2. re: yumyum

                            My husband and I have been twice in two weeks. Love this place and I intend to enjoy it until we begin our annual Fenway avoidance in the Spring.

                            I loved the farm salad with Brussel spouts, the collards were wonderful, the BBQ beans were great and I may be addicted to the ribs. The pulled pork was also a hit.

                            Photos here:

                            On our first visit the couple next to had the half chicken and raved about it. Second visit the guy next to us at the bar was completely enjoying the pork belly. That goes to the top of the list for the next visit.

                            I'm hoping to fill one of those hightop tables with friends and try a big part of the menu right after the holidays.


                            1. re: yumyum

                              The brisket does look promising, though that picture suggests a couple worrisome flaws. I'll definitely go give it a try eventually.

                              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                I'd love to hear what flaws you noticed. I can debunk them or verify them.

                                1. re: yumyum

                                  It may be a trick of perception based on the angle in the photo, but based on that pic, I would have trimmed away at least half that fat cap (it doesn't all render properly if it's too thick) and that slice looks to be about twice as thick as you'd find in a place in the hill country: the whole point of cutting brisket against the grain is to shorten the fibers, so thick cuts against the grain don't have the proper effect.

                                  Again, it looks promising, and neither of those things are dealbreakers.

                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                    Like others in this string, I am a huge fan of Hill Country in New York - the best barbecue that I have ever far.

                                    We tried Sweet Cheeks tonight and it was pretty good. I was disappointed with the much hyped short rib - not very flavorful.

                                    The brisket, however, I thought was outstanding. Salt andpPepper rub was flavorful but as Jenny Ondioline mentioned, there's a lot of fat on their brisket - even too much fat for me (and I like my brisket on the fatty side). And yes, the brisket was sliced thickly...which did not bother me.

                                    Sides - farm salad & brocolli caserole - were outstanding.

                                    Bottom line: the best barbecue in Boston and I'll be a regular for the brisket. That said, not a transcendental experience as Hill Country is for me.

                                    1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                      If I told my Texan friends that Hill Country up here meant NYC, they'd shoot me.

                                      Jenny, I guess I thought we were lucky there was a fat-cap at all (apparently they're cutting deckle). Either way, not sure I'm a fan of their stylistic preference for thick-slicing either.

                                      I sampled some pulled pork and a slice of belly and would say that was some excellent barbecue - the po-po chockful of bark with good texture and smoke flavour. The belly, though, is maybe what might actually get me in the door (I'd only sampled a friend's takeout). Having lived in both Eastern NC and Central TX, it's gonna be hard to swallow a $30 plate of barbecue, but my small samplings suggest it may be worth it to fulfill that jones if you can't smoke at home.

                                      1. re: Nab

                                        Yeah, I gotta give it up for them for leaving the fat cap on, but it's gotta be trimmed properly. (They wouldn't be wasting it if they did: a good barbecue restaurant grinds the trimmed brisket fat and adds it to the sausage mix.)

                                        Hill Country is the best barbecue I've had in the northeast for sure, but back home it would be, to paraphrase a favorite Calvin Trillin line, almost as good as the place I go to when I don't feel like going all the way out to the place I really like.

                                    2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                      I like the fatty brisket which is not all that fatty when smoked correctly. Will have to try Sweet Cheeks since so many raves and I think Tina Faison is from Texas. You are reminidng me that a vist to Lockhart is coming up at the end of January and the usual battle of Smitty's vs, Kreuz will come up. I am partial to Smitty's although the extra drive to Luling for City Market is also a possibility (:-

                                      1. re: Northender

                                        her name is Tiffani and she is mostly from around Boston

                                        I agree with Jenny about properly trimming a fat cap and slicing it thinly ...