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Sweet Cheeks Q... worth the trip to try it?

  • m

Anything unique? Is it even good? Been doing Blue Ribbon and Red Bones but curious to try this place by Fenway.

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  1. It is excellent. Neat space kind of Industrial looking. Excellent cocktails and fun and delicious food. Ribs are excellent. Pulled pork and brisket sandwiches delicious on each visit. The sides are good too. Butterscotch pudding for dessert. I really like this place!

    1 Reply
    1. re: cherrytomato

      Thank you! You got me off the fence. Hopping in the car and heading over.

    2. the biscuits. get the bbbbbbiscuits.

      3 Replies
        1. re: Mayee

          This place is worth it just for the biscuits!

          1. re: gini

            I totally and completely agree about the biscuits

      1. Sweet Cheek's is definitely better than Blue Ribbon, but if I was getting in the car, I'd be heading to Blackstrap instead of Sweet Cheeks.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Gabatta

          Likewise. The advantages that I see Sweet Cheeks as having is that they're in the city and they have booze. I wouldn't bother going to them if it entailed a trip into the city.

          That said, I echo the "get the bbbbbbbiscuits" comment above. Those things are phenomenal.

          1. re: jgg13

            +1 to 5thAndNowshere, Gabatta and jgg13 replies. Hey, if you're up for a bit of a road trip, go to B.T.'s in Sturbridge, not far from the Pike exit. THAT Q is worth the trip.

            You could pick up the biscuits and take them with you. :)

            1. re: CookieLee

              I second B.T.'s; best Q i have ever had, and much better than anything in Chi-town, SF, Boston or NYC.

        2. Second the biscuits!

          And, get the Salt & Pepper potatoes. Now that you've reminded me, I may have to wander that way today.

          Yes, it is worth a trip!


          2 Replies
          1. re: BostonZest

            Although I haven't been to Blackstrap, I finally made it to SC a couple weeks ago and came away very impressed. The one thing I'd recommend, which most other places don't have, is the pork belly. Simply amazing.

            It certainly blows away Redbones and Blue Ribbon.

            1. re: Msample

              I liked the short rib, and the biscuits of course. Thought it was all a little overpriced. As for Redbones and the Blue Ribbon, I think it's time they got out of the bbq business.

          2. Absolutely have the biscuit and the pork belly! I dream of that biscuit.


            1. Just a heads up as far as the biscuits.... A few months ago, we went for lunch and they said the biscuits were only available after 5. We were very disappointed having had them at a previous visit(that visit was after 5). Does anyone know if that's changed?

              3 Replies
              1. re: catsmeow

                I thought I saw a tweet that said they do biscuits all day long now.

                1. re: LStaff

                  LStaff...I stand corrected. I just called them. They are now available for lunch and are also now available for take out whereas before they weren't.

                  1. re: catsmeow

                    They were happy to serve us the biscuits on Sunday. Mm-mm Good!

              2. I thought it was worth it to at least try it.

                Out of the three meat platter I got, I thought the pulled pork was the best traditional bbq item - nicely smoky, soft texture without being mushy and the right amount of fattiness. The pork belly was quite unique - like pork candy - I would definitely order it again. I wasn't a fan of the ribs - they were ok, but no bark, small, and not as smoky as I like. The plain salt and pepper rub left them lacking in texture and flavor imo. I would like to go back at some point and try the brisket and get more pork belly and pulled pork.

                Pigtrip Gary updated his review somewhat recently.

                2 Replies
                1. re: LStaff

                  I was there on Friday night. around 7:30. The wait was about 30-45 min to get a table. Most people in the restaurant were wearing their winter jacket. It was that cold. The table next to us complained at the end of meal and the waitress said they had no control over the heating system as it it is their landlord responsibility.
                  Pork belly was really good. Biscuits are a must-have but I won't be back until the weather is warmer.

                  1. re: LStaff

                    My recent meal there was a 3 meat platter ( plus 2 ribs ) and I'd agree that ribs were the weak link . They weren't bad per se, but in ascending order the pulled pork, brisket and esp the pork belly were all better.

                  2. Biscuits and farmhouse salad (salad with brussel sprouts)are amazing, must trys. Really enjoyed the meats we tried, pork belly and fried chicken. Our friend really enjoyed his short rib which was a HUGE serving on the bone, looked oustanding (I want to get this next time).

                    It was worth the trip to Boston but not worth fighting a sox crowd. Definitely better than Blue Ribbon BBQ (my usual go to).

                    1. We had some young visitors in town and were trying to think of somewhere fun to take them. This thread motivated me to give Sweet Cheeks another shot. We arrived on time for a 5:30p reservation and were told that the table was “being cleared”. 10 minutes later I asked which table and was told it was one with someone sitting with a nearly full drink in front of them - that certainly didn’t look like being cleared to me. I asked if we might sit at another table I saw open and was told that it was being saved for another party. Apparently their reservation was more important than someone holding a toddler while waiting for their table for 15 minutes. The atmosphere was lively and good for the kids, so we sit down excited to eat. There were a few definite hits, but even more misses:

                      -Biscuits: Excellent as mentioned several times here. As huge as they are, our 2.5 year old put down more than one. However I’m not sure why the force them so hard as a starter prior to the meal. I would prefer to have them served with the rest of the food. The good news is that it’s OK to fill up on these as it’s mostly downhill from here.

                      -Fried Chicken: This is some of the better fried chicken I have had in Boston. It may have more breading than some would like, but it was very flavorful (well seasoned) and extremely moist. We did pick off a good deal of the coating, but overall I would get this again (as takeout). I like cold fried chicken at tail-gates, and this might fit the bill perfectly.

                      -Pork Belly: WAYYYY too salty, and actually a bit lean for pork belly. Everyone had a bite, and 80% went untouched. Epic fail.

                      -Pulled Pork: Pretty good, but a bit lacking in flavor. Everyone was dumping sauce on this.

                      -Pork Ribs: The 11 year olds liked them, but the adults thought they were meh. A bit fatty, not seasoned adequately with rub and overcooked (falling off the bone).

                      -Mac & Cheese: Pretty tasty and creamy. The toddler seemed to enjoy.

                      -Farmers Salad: The combination of Brussels sprouts and pecorino really works well. This was the best cold scoop.

                      -Cole Slaw: Virtually flavor at all. The large hunks of cabbage coated in more mayo than vinegar were hard to get on a fork. Another thing that went largely untouched.

                      -Beans: Again, 2 hot scoops largely untouched.

                      Service was friendly enough, but the waiter disappeared for 20 minutes after we were done with the meal. He was surprised that we just wanted the check instead of desert at that point.

                      All in all the food is way too inconsistent and the price of $140 (all in for) 2 adults (1 alcohol beverage in total), 2 children and 1 toddler just seems like a really terrible value. The kids loved the huge sodas, but my nephew still asked if we could go to Tasty Burger instead before Sox games this year – smart kid. Also, if the parking garage is attached to the same building, validate for it.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Gabatta

                        I didn't know they took reservations!

                        1. re: Gabatta

                          One quick correction to my post, I was just checking what AMEX bill and the $140 was actually BEFORE tip. That means the grand total to over $170! I sort of wish I had the itemized receipt see if I was overcharged somehow. That is absurdly expensive for (very inconsistent) BBQ for two adults, two children and a baby.

                          1. re: Gabatta

                            Good but expensive and salty is my best summary as well :-P

                            Their lunch prices do *not* match prices on their web site. The plate cost is supposedly $12-13 on the web site, but when you go there, the menu lists $18-23 which is expensive for the small amounts they give you :-P

                            I got the pulled pork sandwich which was only supposed to be $12 on their menu, but was $18 on the bill...should have questioned it then, but thought they might have given me the plate instead until I got back and checked their web site :-P

                            Baked beans were salty (tasted more like chili than baked beans which are supposed to taste more like brown sugar and bacon, though if they used that overly salted pork belly you mentioned, that might explain it :-)

                            The carrot salad was my highlight. And I liked the pulled pork with my custom mix of sauce on it and part of the carrot salad...very tasty. The ribs were four smallish ribs for lunch and I think $18, though I actually prefer ribs w/o bark so that made this better than redbones or blue ribbon for me. Broccoli side was salty as well.

                            Biscuit was also good an buttery, but overly salty to me as well :-P The honey butter was excellent though.

                            1. re: Spike

                              Yikes, thanks for the warning on prices. I was considering this for a lunch and would have been really mad to see prices so much higher than they are on the website!

                              1. re: Chris VR

                                As a followup, went for lunch today and the prices on the website did match the menu, so I am not sure why there was a discrepancy when Spike went. The pork belly tray was billed at $13, the brisket sandwich $11, both matching up to what the online and printed menus said.

                                Loved the pork belly, biscuits, farm salad, and salt and pepper potatoes. I'm usually pretty salt-sensitive and didn't find anything too salty except the salt and pepper potatoes, but it is right there in the name so I didn't expect otherwise. I didn't find a lot of smoke flavor in the pork belly (but it's in my hair and clothes!) The butterscotch pudding was much thicker than a typical pudding, with some sort of syrup and crystals of salt on top and was swooningly good. After a full meal, it was too rich for one person to eat alone but perfect for two to share. I'd definitely go back.

                                The bill was $50 for all of the above (plus one sweet tea) which, while on the high side, didn't seem too unreasonable to me for the quality.

                                1. re: Chris VR

                                  might be a weekend vs. weekday lunch menu?

                                  1. re: L2k

                                    That's what I was wondering. Also I should amend my previous post.. upon reheating the leftover pork belly at home, there definitely is a nice amount of smoke flavor.

                        2. Finally tried Sweet Cheeks yesterday. Shared pork belly, ribs, farm salad, cheese broccoli casserole and a tin of biscuits. I agree with the overly salty comment and the lack of smoke. Meats were good quality and I liked the farm salad, broccoli not not so much. The biscuits rock. Quantity is reasonable and price is a dollar or two higher but given the location that is understandable. I would return but not a destination the way that BT's in Sturbridge is. i view it as a toss up with Soulfire and better than Blue Ribbon or Redbones at this point.

                          16 Replies
                          1. re: gourmaniac

                            Have you been to Blackstrap in Winthrop? The ribs were v. good, pretty close to B.T. 's. I didn't like the burnt ends, they did improve after "resting" in my fridge for a day, and adding some sauce. I liked their sides, the sweet potato mash was sublime.

                            1. re: gourmaniac

                              finally went today.....just two of us and we weren't that hungry so we split a pulled pork sandwich, no scoops, and two sides, fried okra and hush puppies. The pulled pork was great, I'm from NC, and was very impressed. Better than East Coast Grill and far better than Blue Ribbon and Redbones. A bit pricey especially with no included sides, but it was definitely the advertised Berkshire pork and nice smoke.

                              The nicely toasted bun was also a treat and we enjoyed all three sauces on the table...a typical Texas, a typical NC vinegar, and habanero. We couldn't eat 4 biscuits and I had just made some at home, so we didn't get those. Pickles with the pulled pork were also wonderful. We wanted to get a side of those; not available. We also enjoyed the okra...nicely fried, non greasy, huge portion.

                              Real disappointment were the hush puppies. Large portion, but very greasy and drenched in honey. One bite was enough. I was disappointed there was no offer to take them off the check. Inedible. Hush puppies at All Star Sandwich bar are much better, no sweetness.

                              Service a bit distracted; not very crowded at just after noon and we had to look around for the waitress for a while to get another beer. We'd go back, just for a pulled pork sandwich.

                              1. re: Madrid

                                IMO you can't be disappointed in the absence of an offer to comp the hush puppies if you didn't open your mouth to either the server or management.

                                Further, simply seeing uneaten food shouldn't necessitate the offer of a complimentary dish. This is especially true if they came out as advertised. It doesn't seem like there were an defects, like undercooking, oversalting, etc. that the restaurant could have corrected by remaking.

                                Do you think that not liking a dish should result in a comp? That seems rude to me. Especially at a casual bbq joint.

                                1. re: Beachowolfe

                                  uh, we did speak to the server about how the hush puppies were inedible to us and explained why. They set there ignored while the rest of the dishes were taken away. There is nothing on the menu about how they are drenched in honey. We didn't expect seeing uneaten food would get a comp without explanation. And I would still go back. The pulled pork is amazing. It may be casual but it's far from inexpensive.

                                  1. re: Madrid

                                    THATS for sure. I believe it is the most expensive bbq place i have ever eaten in.

                                    I still like BT smokehouse better.

                                    1. re: hyde

                                      My plate below was $22 I think and I thought it was a fair value for a Boston restaurant entree.

                                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                        Granted, it just that when i ate with a friend the final tab around 60 bucks.

                                        The last time I got food at B.T.'s it was 65usd and i got
                                        a pint of pulled pork
                                        a pint of brisket
                                        a rack of spares
                                        mac and cheese
                                        corn bread
                                        and a half a dozen slices of bread.

                                        I will give you that it is not on Boylston but I will wait.

                                        1. re: hyde

                                          I hear ya on the value for sure and definitely would check out B.T. next time through Sturbridge. If you think of the plate below in comparison to a high-teens cheeseburger in the Back Bay though, Sweet Cheeks is much more palatable.

                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                            You are absolutely correct. A 20 dollar cheeseburger (or worse a 60 dollar steak) makes this place "reasonable" in comparison.

                                          2. re: hyde

                                            Need to add in the gas money to get from boston to timbuktu

                                            1. re: jgg13

                                              I have had this argument before. Its 50 min from my house in Newton, its not something i do on a regular basis, for for decent bbq....

                                              a friend of mine who will drive to Gloucester on a whim categorically states that Sturbridge is "Too Far".

                                              Its almost exactly the same

                                              1. re: hyde

                                                Obviously I'm being hyperbolic when I say one might as well go to TX. However, where does one draw the line here?

                                                if Sturbridge is a reasonable suggestion on this board, why not CT? And if CT is reasonable, why not NYC? There's a separate board for more far flung places in the region. Providence, RI and Portsmouth, NH are both a closer drive from Boston than Sturbridge is - should we discuss restaurants in NH & RI regularly here as well?

                                                I understand why BT's comes up - I too find it is typically superior to the (generally fairly poor) options in the region, but I find it somewhat irritating that every single BBQ thread brings in the people advocating people pile in their car and drive off to the hinterlands. As I said above, if we're going to include places just outside of Greater Boston on the Greater Boston board, where do we draw the line?

                                                Then again I also find it irritating when (for example) there'll be a question about places in harvard square and people are suggesting spots in allston or union square somerville. Y

                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                  understand your point and even agree, (though you seem irritated a lot) , possibly its just that having lived out west a 50 min drive for the best of a specific food group hardly seems "The Hinterlands".

                                                  When I lived in Tacoma we would periodically get out of work Friday, get a couple of cases of beer and drive to Spokane for the weekend, without a plan.

                                                  Its over 300 miles.

                                                  i will try to reign in my geographical largesse, and stick to the o.p.'s question:

                                                  " sweet cheeks is quite good though overpriced but then their rents are probably heart stopping. There is better BBQ in the state should you be willing to drive"

                                                  1. re: hyde

                                                    Much better ;)

                                                    Really it's just the frequency of it. If BTs came up now and then in BBQ threads that's one thing, but it comes up in every single one. I'd imagine people would get annoyed if every single thread on ramen came with the answer "momofuku noodle bar" or every pizza thread was met with "modern apizza". And yes, perspective is a funny thing - I've lived places where a 2 hour drive was de rigueur and i've lived places where a 5 mile trip was asking too much (I suppose the two categories aren't mutually exclusive either!)

                                                    As for Sweet Cheeks, IMO the biscuits are sublime and I've heard the fried chix is as well. I thought the BBQ was ok (it's been a while, I can't opine on specifics anymore) and the prices, well ... as long as one compares the prices to the neighborhood and not some dude with a cart on the side of the highway you'll be fine ;)

                                                  2. re: jgg13

                                                    my plan is that when driving back from new haven - my final stop on the way to and from nyc - then sturbridge is a quick detour.

                                    2. re: Madrid

                                      You can get 2 biscuits. Or even just 1.

                                      It's a shame they don't advertise this, but if you ask, they gladly supply, at half (or 1/4) the price of four.

                                  2. First time here a week ago during the snowstorm - St. Louis ribs, Mac n cheese and great coleslaw - just fantastic. Will post a pic below, and I am not a food photo guy.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                      want to try the mac and cheese, coleslaw, and collards next time.

                                      1. re: Madrid

                                        Here's the pic - I think I *might* have received more than the usual amount of ribs because of the snowstorm. The mac-n-cheese is really creamy - very good. Honestly, the cole slaw was amazing...I may have liked it as much as the ribs, just a little bit. The other thing in the pic in the upper left is pickles and pickled onions.

                                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                          ok, you got me on the mac and cheese and cole slaw. We loved the pickles so much we were fighting over them, but we got raw onions. Next time we'll ask for a big side of the pickles.

                                    2. if you want to make a trip for barbecue head out to Sturbridge to BT's Smokehouse. Now that's worth a trip. Best brisket hands down, best sides, best smoked chicken, etc.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: teezeetoo

                                        Depends on one's definition of "a trip". As a public transportation-bound city dweller, Sweet Cheeks is something I'd define as "a trip" as I have to go out of my way to go there. BT's might as well be in argentina as I'd have to rent a car or something like that. Yes it is good, but not nearly good enough for me to justify going to those lengths (besides, I must be the only person out there who doesn't think BT's brisket is sublime - good for the area, but not objectively great).

                                        I suppose if we're going to start extending "make a trip" beyond the geographical boundaries of this board we might as well point people to Lockhart,Tx or somesuch - no?

                                        Based on the OP's descriptions, I'm thinking their definition of "a trip" is closer to mine considering they're mentioning things like Blue Ribbon & Redbones and not things like Blackstrap or Lesters.

                                      2. Me, I just think it's odd that everyone always says "Go to BTs in Sturbridge!" when Lester's in Burlington is as good (pulled pork, sides) or better (brisket, links) and is half the distance.

                                        18 Replies
                                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                          I've never been to Lester's. Oddly, for me Burlington is unknown geography while Sturbridge is on my way to the Berkshires, so BT is my normal stop as I'm headed to Great Barrington. But I'll go some distance for good barbecue so Burlington will be on my list.

                                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                            I guess I'll have to give Lester's another look. When I worked near there a few years ago, I gave it three tries at lunch, all quite disappointing, especially the sides.


                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                              More trips to western Mass in the last few years have placed me in this camp also.

                                              I see error in my ways.

                                              I must cop to the fact that inconsistency in the past has taken Lester's (possibly unfairly) off my mental radar.

                                              I will return, faith renewed, but believe that the brisket would have to be VERY good to beat B.T's

                                              And the possibility of a weird food crawl with lunch buffet at Ritsu and take-out at Lesters for dinner holds great appeal for me.

                                              And think of the dreams i will have that night.

                                              In addition, I will say perspective is in order here (for me). As a Mass resident pushing 60 I have had BBQ brisket in NEW HAMPSHIRE (Goody Cole's) in the past few years that I would have flat passed out had it been served to me in this region in the 1980's.

                                              Good to very good BBQ is easier to find than, say, comparable mexican food. Its not Lockhart, but it aint bad.

                                              1. re: hyde

                                                To each their own, but I don't particularly like the brisket at BTs at all, although the pulled pork is really quite good. At this point, the brisket at Lester's is merely the best of a really really bad Massachusetts lot that otherwise ranges from "meh" to "are you fucking kidding me?"

                                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                  I hope I can get to Lester's to try it for myself. I asked my friends in Waltham who have gone to both Lester's and BT's. They asked if you were kidding? They wouldn't go back to Lester's unless they were, apparently, stuck in the Burlington Mall and starving. Like everything else, barbecue is personal I guess.

                                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                    Jenny Ondioline what is it about BT's brisket that you don't like?? BBQ is much more of a subjective taste than other foods so just trying to get more information than "it's worth the drive" or "it sucks", thanks

                                                    1. re: lc02139

                                                      Lesters recently changed hands. I went a couple weeks ago and it wasn't as good as past visits, but one visit is obviously not a trend necessarily. I do wonder if turnover ( of food ) was a reason - the location is in a relatively quiet area.

                                                      Overall I'd still give the nod to BT's, but Lesters is certainly more convenient for a lot of people in the Boston area.

                                                      Whether you like the brisket at BT or not, one other advantage of them is that they always have specials, some of which are quite creative. This sets them apart from most other BBQ places. They post them on their Facebook page...its all I can do not to drive down there when I see of them.

                                                      1. re: lc02139

                                                        The times I've had it, it's been tougher and fattier than it should be, evidence that it was smoked using a higher heat for a shorter time, which almost always results in a subpar product.

                                                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                          I find the brisket at BT's meltingly tender though it does vary in fattiness. Never had a dry piece of barbecue there and I've tried most of what they make. The young man who owns it clearly knows what he's going for: the sides are often exceptional and he clearly cares about what comes out of his kitchen. Cannot comment personally on Lester's. Sweet Cheeks ok but too expensive and not, in my mind, as good as BT's. If I want local barbecue and can't hold out for my next trip to the Berkshires, I go to Soul Fire on Harvard. Nothing exceptional but it fills the momentary need. I no longer go to Blue Ribbon: too many overcooked and tasteless ribs in the last two years.

                                                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                            I realize you said "almost always" but it depends on how you do it. The recent trend for home smokers has been the so called high heat brisket method - which while somewhat fussy takes (obviously) a lot less time and works pretty well.

                                                            1. re: jgg13

                                                              Yes, I'm well acquainted with the high-heat home smoker method, which I've used with great success myself on many occasions. But that's a different thing: the briskets I've had at BT's just tasted like they had been smoked at a higher heat for less time than a brisket should take.

                                                              I tend to agree with the other posters that a place should pick a specialty and stick with it. You wanna specialize in pulled pork and ribs, don't serve brisket and chicken, and vice versa, But that's not likely to happen, and anyway, we've drifted way the hell away from the point of the thread by now. Sorry about that.

                                                        2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                          I'm with you on this one. We stopped at BT's this summer after a day at Brimfield and I don't get what all the fuss is about.

                                                          Brisket was the biggest disappointment, it was almost nothing but fat and what little meat that was there certainly didn't make up for it in terms of flavor. Sides were all fine to good but none were outstanding. Pulled pork was flavorful but dry.

                                                          I'm not sure if my expectations didn't line up because I've been reading in these threads over the last few years that BT's is pretty much the only legit bbq in the area and thus expectations were overinflated or because I've made a number of trips down to Texas over the past year, but it just didn't strike me as a place worth driving that far for.

                                                          I think of one of the issues with any "traditional regional cuisine" restaurant in another area of the country/world is that they try to do everything. Sort of like how some Chinese restaurants will have dishes from a number of regions. The best BBQ places I've been to tend to specialize in one thing, whether it's whole hog, dry-rub ribs, brisket, etc and one of the issues with all of these BBQ places in Mass is that they're trying to be everything to everyone.

                                                          Maybe my "yankee palette" is immature in the nuaces of BBQ, but my personal favorite for Mass-style BBQ is still the burnt ends from Blue Ribbon.

                                                          1. re: Klunco

                                                            IMO you hit the nail on the head about the multi-region thing. I've been saying for years that the 2 largest issues w/ local BBQ joints are:

                                                            1) Exactly what you said: They try to be pan-regional instead of focusing on one specific regional style of BBQ, which causes the whole to suffer. When you're competing against people who have been raised with, live with and breath one very specific type of BBQ you're never going to be able to match them when you're all over the (literal and figurative) map.

                                                            2) Too many of the local yokels expect incorrect flavorings, sauces (or sauce at all!), etc for the regional style that's being presented to them. To continue your american-chinese analogy, that's the same thing that happens there where if the place wants to stay in business they'll bend to local preferences and away from the way it's properly done.

                                                            Just look at the yelp (i know, i know) reviews of places that have tried to eastern carolina style bbq and you'll see a plethora of negative reviews about how the sauce is too vinegary and not sweet. Or similarly w/ BBQ properly served with a southern carolina mustard BBQ sauce you'll see the same thing.

                                                            1. re: jgg13

                                                              yeah, highland kitchen warned us that the pulled pork was very vinegary.......we said, just the way we like it! I'm just going to make my eastern NC pulled pork at home now. MF Dulock has the great pork ....bring it home and do it.

                                                      2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                        My last trip to Lesters, late spring of last year, was really disappointing. I was planning a BBQ for my husbands birthday and had heard it was worth the drive. Maybe it was a bad day but the pulled pork was *really* greasy and my brisket sandwich was dry and very flat tasting.

                                                        I am headed to the N Shore this weekend, might have to give them another try.

                                                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                          I've had some pretty good ribs and brisket at Lester's but only a couple times in 20 something visits since they opened.

                                                          A while ago Pigtripper mentioned that their brisket has ranged from good to great for him, so I have stopped in once a month or so for the last 6+months, with the latest being yesterday, and I have yet to experience that range - its been somewhat consistent - good smoke flavor, nice sweet/salty bark, but usually dry and somewhat crumbly - which varies slightly in dryness.

                                                          Last visit was probably my last for brisket and may try some ribs next time. They now have you order at the counter and bring the food and check to the table which just adds few bucks onto the bill for tip and nothing to the experince imo - I would rather just pay upfront and pick up my own food when its ready and be able to leave as soon as I am done eating - so I will just do takeout from now on.

                                                          Best brisket I've had in the area was at Soul Fire (I too got mostly fatty parts at BT's on my only try - good flavor and texture on the pieces that were meat though). SF has been most consistent over the last few years imo. Spare ribs, brisket, and pulled pork has been solidly done each time I've been.

                                                          1. re: LStaff

                                                            Soulfire is my "resort to" when I need to have barbecue in town. Not stellar, but solid.

                                                            1. re: teezeetoo

                                                              I agree on Soul Fire. I haven't found a better spot in the Boston area, I prefer the food there to what I've had at Blackstrap, Blue Ribbon and Red Bones. To my taste, the Ribs and Brisket have been slightly better at Soul Fire than at Sweet Cheeks - while the sausage has been a bit more flavorful at Sweet Cheeks. For ribs, East Coast Grill is the one other spot, I'd put put alongside Soul Fire in the area code 617.

                                                              I can see why some would like the setting at Sweet Cheeks better, but you definitely pay for it. By area BBQ standards, servings at Sweet Cheeks are small and prices are high.

                                                        2. What I find interesting in this sub thread of BTs vs Lester's etc., is that most people are talking about the brisket! That stuff is so flavorless compared to ribs, at least to me. I assume "brisket" is akin to Baltimore pit beef - roast well done meat sliced thin? If so, don't understand the attraction.

                                                          As you can see from my pic up thread, the ribs at sweet cheeks were glistening.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                            It is the hardest to do right item on most bbq menus. Some places give you a choice of "juicy" or "lean", its the same cut which most corned beef is made with, point or flat. Most of the lean cuts are sliced thin and can be dry, the juicy has more fat and is cut around 1/2" thick and if done right melts in your mouth and is smoky beefy ruby mess.

                                                            1. re: lc02139

                                                              Agree. Good brisket is harder to find than pork, unless you're in TX.

                                                              I've done a little home smoking and never really been able to get a brisket right. I've made serviceable ribs and shoulder. I know brisket generally takes a lot more smoke time. That said, a good brisket is a thing of beauty.

                                                              Also agree that most places that try to do "everything" usually don't do things very well. The "best" tend to specialize.in 1 style.

                                                              I've had very good experiences at BT's. It's not convenient but I try to work it in for any trip that brings me close. I might make a special trip but that's what it would be.Not to make comparisons but I've gone 100s of miles out of the way to visit bbq places like Sweatman's in Holly Hill, SC and Arthur Bryant's in KC; when they were considered best of class.

                                                            2. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                              Brisket is worlds different than baltimore pit beef. The latter is really just a gussied up roast beef - you start with a lean hunk of beast (typically round I think?), cook it and sliced real thin which gives it the mouthfeel of tenderness.

                                                              Brisket is fatty (although you trim it to amount that's up to the preferences/experiences of the pitmaster) and contains a lot of connective tissue. Just like with a pulled pork or ribs, yes you're cooking beyond the point of well done but what you're after is the transformation of the connective tissue and such into collagen. In theory that should leave the brisket "juicy" in mouthfeel, unctuous, tender and flavorful. As others have mentioned, it's a tricky thing to get right though - the difference between a few degrees of internal temp can be huge in the final product and every brisket is a bit different.

                                                              1. re: jgg13

                                                                great. Now I am jonesing for some good pit beef. It's our first stop when we go visit my husbands family.

                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                  I was thinking the same thing.

                                                                  Pioneer pit beef, not far from the 70/395 nexus.

                                                                  Totally different animal, but oh!

                                                                2. re: jgg13

                                                                  App true, I've tried smoking brisket a few times and getting it right (I have not gotten what I want yet) is HARD

                                                                3. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                  Get thee to Lockhart, TX and have some brisket. It will change your entire outlook on life!

                                                                4. In all the "BT's vs. Lester's" I don't see any mention of Blackstrap in Winthrop. Reasonable distance from Boston, reasonably priced, and definitely worth discussing in the same breath as BT's and Sweek Cheeks.

                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                  1. re: L2k

                                                                    I've only gone once (and long enough ago that I don't remember specifics) but I remember thinking it was at least as good as any of the other local (read: *local*, not BTs, not stuff in Argentina) spots. Not long after I went I got my own smoker so going remotely out of my way for local BBQ just doesn't happen anymore, and Winthrop isn't really on the way to anything for me :(

                                                                    Now that I think about it, they did cater a lunch at my work once - it was alright but suffered from everything a normal giant catering would suffer from (e.g. stuff being held in bins & thus steaming, etc) so it would be unfair to compare it to others.

                                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                                      I have heard good things about Blackstrap. Problem is that it really is off the beaten path for me and many others I suspect; the temporary closure of the Callahan making it even more so.

                                                                      1. re: Msample

                                                                        Yeah, as much as I gripe about the BT suggestions that pop up on this board, while much much much closer as the crow flies Winthrop is a pretty circuitous route for most unfortunately :(

                                                                        1. re: jgg13

                                                                          For anyone inside of 128, Blackstrap is considerably closer by time and distance, crow or no.

                                                                          1. re: black_lab

                                                                            Closer yes, but still out of the way. I don't drive out to BTs as a destination, but rather hit it when I am travelling to/from CT on 84 . Its literally about 1 minute off the highway. Winthrop is pretty far off the beaten path when I am in the Boston area.

                                                                    2. re: L2k

                                                                      While I have mentioned it before I think their wednesday deal from 4p-6p of:

                                                                      4LBS. of Chicken cut into 8 pieces, 2LBS. of Mashed Potatoes, Garden Salad, 4 Biscuits + Gravy on the side.

                                                                      For 19.99 is one of the best deals around

                                                                      1. re: hyde

                                                                        Wow, I must have missed that, hyde. Do you know if it's takeout as well?

                                                                        1. re: hyde

                                                                          At. Blackstrap or at Sweet Cheeks?

                                                                          1. re: catsmeow

                                                                            Oh, good call. I wasn't paying attention to the sub-thread and assumed it was Sweet Cheeks.

                                                                            1. re: catsmeow

                                                                              sorry to all.

                                                                              That wednesday special is at Blacksrtap.

                                                                              1. re: hyde

                                                                                Thanks, hyde! Sounds like a great deal with an order of ribs to round things out.

                                                                                1. re: bear

                                                                                  There is also a 12 to 9 tuesday special:

                                                                                  Slice Brisket, Jack Cheese, Coleslaw, Russian Dressing, Choice of 2 Sides

                                                                                  For 9.99

                                                                                  Actually the better deal as the sides come with, but I like B.T's rendition of a reuben at 9usd better as they use swiss

                                                                                  ( and you can drink your own beer at B.T's available at Yankee Spirits , 5 minute walk away. I usually order, walk down buy beer and by the time I get back, all is ready, its kind of like heaven, really.)

                                                                        2. The bbq here is good but not amazing. Surprisingly, the fried chicken is the best choice in my opinion. Very crunchy and incredibly moist meat inside.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: trillen

                                                                            I asked for ( and received) a gift card to this place for Xmas just for that chicken. It's up there with Soulfire as my favorite on the area. The other dishes we enjoyed (dinner Q4 '13) were the fried tomatoes (cut thick with a good no flaking crust), the biscuits, and the pork belly (not too fatty or dry). The sides were ok, but didn't seem like a great value and might have been too salty. Expensive, but the portions are large enough that I think next time the BF and I will ignore the suggestion on the menu and share a platter.

                                                                          2. I went to Sweet Cheeks for the first time today. Overall good experience, though I wish I'd read this thread before ordering.

                                                                            We got: ribs, fried chicken, collards, cole slaw, and the included pickles and onions. Everything was really excellent except the ribs, which were disappointing. They were completely falling off the bone and a bit mushy. Maybe parboiled before smoking? Or maybe they'd been cut hours ago and left in a steam tray to mush up? Who knows. But next time I'll order differently.

                                                                            As many have observed, the fried chicken was outstanding. Super crunchy crust, great flavor. Collards were nicely savory and a bit tangy. Slaw was nice big cabbage chunks, vinegary with just a touch of mayo, and nicely seasoned. Pickles and onions were a great compliment. And very nice sauces: a tangy bbq sauce (no tomato), a vinegar-pepper sauce, and a supper hot habanero sauce.

                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                              1. re: catsmeow

                                                                                It just seems weird that at a place that claims to be a barbecue place, the only thing people uniformly like is the fried chicken and biscuits. Maybe open a fried chicken and biscuits place, Tiff.

                                                                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                  And possibly ramen. When we went for dinner this summer people started lining up for ramen over an hour before it was to be served.

                                                                              2. re: jajjguy

                                                                                jajj,helpful review; thx. The biscuits are very good, and i really liked the fried okra myself. I do have a question. Plse believe that I am not asking this to be smarmy, but I have never heard of a BBQ sauce that has no tomato. I thought tomato was intrinsic to something BEING a bbq sauce.

                                                                                <a piquant sauce often containing vinegar, tomatoes, sugar, and spices, used especially for basting in barbecuing meat.>

                                                                                I do see that this definition says 'often' and not 'always.'
                                                                                Was this a soy glaze or something?

                                                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                  Many regional barbecue sauces in the southeast, especially in parts of the Carolinas and Georgia, have no tomato in them at all. Some are mustard-based, some are basically just vinegar and brown sugar with some hot sauce added. That doesn't include Alabama white barbecue sauce, which is basically just a spiked mayo that goes on smoked or grilled chicken at the table.

                                                                                  Also, the word you're looking for is snarky, not smarmy.

                                                                                  1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                    Really? And I thought smarmy sounded just like what it meant.phooey. Maybe i could get extra credit for thinking up a new word?....... That's so interesting about those non tomato Q sauces. Have you had Alabama white Q sauce, and did you like it? Does spiked (mayo)refer to alcohol or spices or something else? Its being mayo-based reminds me of the aji pepper mayo from Peru that you find at Machu Picchu in Union Sq and other Peruvian chicken places (though i believe aji peppers do not exist in the South.)

                                                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                      Spiked as in spices. Type Alabama white sauce into your favorite search engine.

                                                                                      I make white sauce every time I smoke chicken..

                                                                                    2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                      Eastern North Carolina BBQ sauce has vinegar, a bit of white sugar, and red pepper flakes; with tabasco if you like it hot. That's it. Unfortunately the East Coast Grill no longer serves it; they brought us something with tomato and cumin and claimed it was Chris Schlesinger's Eastern NC vinegar sauce (his has cider and distilled vinegar). No Way!!! Of course Chris's cookbooks are no longer on display in the restaurant so I couldn't show them the recipe. The pulled pork was awful; they were nice about it and comped us but we will never go back. I have only been to Sweet Cheeks once but remember the NC vinegar sauce as quite good.

                                                                                      Western or Lexington NC BBQ sauce has some ketchup, but the tomato is not usually a big element. Neither sauce is at all sweet (just like the cornbread that is served with it). South Carolina BBQ sauce has mustard.

                                                                                    3. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                      The regional BBQ of my husband's youth [very small region indeed] eschews all tomato products in the sauce. Best darn pork BBQ I have ever had. Took us some years, but we are now able to replicate those flavors at home. In this case, it is all about the yellow mustard, spices and, of course, vinegar.

                                                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                        There were 3 sauces. One was described as "traditional BBQ" by the waitress. I was surprised, as I think of traditional BBQ sauce as looking like KC Masterpiece tomato based sweet sauce, but this was a very tasty sweet and tangy greenish brown sauce. There was also a Carolina vinegar and pepper sauce, which also has a bit of sweetness. And then the hella hot habanero sauce. Those are the facts! All very tasty.

                                                                                        1. re: jajjguy

                                                                                          this is what I remember for the three sauces the one time we went....long time ago. I thought all 3 were really good, even though I usually don't like KC sauce that much. Makes such a difference when they are made from scratch, as these tasted. I *hate* the so called BBQ sweet gloppy fake smoke tomatoey mess you get at so many places.

                                                                                    4. From Waltham, it takes me 40 minutes to get to Winthrop, and my experiences with Blackstrap (sadly only takeout) have been *at best* mediocre. I could be in Sturbridge in just under an hour. (Sweet Cheeks is a mere 24 minutes.) I completely understand why B.T.'s gets mentioned in every barbecue thread.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: KWagle

                                                                                        Thank you. Everytime I suggest this I catch hell for suggesting that people drive to "the hinterlands" to get the best in the state for reasonable dough.

                                                                                        I have made it from Newton and back in just over 90 minutes (with a call ahead), before the big dig thats the time I used to get on my Bianchi's/Kelly's run to Revere.

                                                                                        1. re: hyde

                                                                                          A trip to BTs still doesn't solve the eternal brisket problem, though. Lester's helps, but it's still extremely inconsistent -- sometimes dead nuts on, sometimes dry. A single visit to The Texas BBQ Company in Northborough was extremely promising for both brisket and the closest thing to a proper smoked sausage I've found up here, but I haven't made it back there for the all-important follow-ups yet.

                                                                                          1. re: hyde

                                                                                            My primary complaint is that it's not actually greater Boston, this isn't the right board for it