Bar to Bar Through Beantown
“Long wooden tables lend to a family-style, almost picnic feel, which is amplified by the high ceilings and overall open nature of the space.”
Address: 1381 Boylston Street
Date of Visit: Thursday, February 2, 2012
Server Name: Unknown! (fail on our part…she was great!)
We were invited to Sweet Cheeks BBQ by Google Places Boston because Eric has reviewed so many places on Google Places that he is considered a “Power User,” yep, that’s right, a “Power User” (hopefully the name doesn’t get to his head). From the outside, Sweet Cheeks seems kind of…nondescript? Aside from the BBQ sign with the curly-q tail, you could walk right by and not really notice the BBQ goodness that lies within (please don’t walk right by…it’s AMAZING!). Upon entering, it quickly dawned on us that we had been there before…but not in Sweet Cheeks – the restaurant sits in the same space that the pizzas-gone-mad Cambridge One used to reside in; however, gone is the swanky low-lit space fit for trendsters looking for upscale pizza, and now is the warm, down-home feel of Sweet Cheeks. Long wooden tables lend to a family-style, almost picnic feel, which is amplified by the high ceilings and overall open nature of the space. From the door, you can pretty much see the entirity of the restaurant (aside from the sticker machine in the ladies’ room and old-school supermarket-lobby prize machine in the men’s room *bring two quarters along*!), including the open kitchen and good-sized bar. This place is perfect for groups large or small, and would be fine for a date (but not a first one) as long as you both enjoy meat.
So as we sit and chat with our Power User companions, we begin to notice the little details in the space. The “86” board scribbled on the side of a stainless steel machine in the kitchen, the pay phone sign high above the entrance to the cooking space, and many other little intricacies that give the space the warmth of a local bar or a friend’s home. We began discussing the fact that the establishment is “Top-Chef” finalist-owned, and commenting that we would doubt that the Executive Chef/Owner would actually be on premise, let alone helping out on the line in the kitchen. We. Were. Wrong. Not two minutes after the conversation starts, Tiffani herself turns around in the kitchen and walks over to our table! We have to say that as a group, everyone was pretty excited to meet a celebrity in the flesh, and to have her be one of the ones cooking for us!
Because we had a group of ten, we ordered the “Big Rig” which basically includes a large sampling of everything on the menu: “2lbs ea: pork belly, pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, full rack of ribs, 1 whole chicken, 2 shorties includes one quart of each side, one of every fried – still hungry, just ask!”
The amount of food that came out of the kitchen over the course of the next 45 minutes was exorbitant. The sides and frieds came out first, followed by an entire SHEET PAN of meat. We can only say that this rivals the Brazilian Steakhouse in terms of bang for your buck. The pork belly and brisket were life changing and only surpassed by the shortrib. Everything else was absolutely delicious as well, and by the end of the night, the entire pan was emptied (okay, okay…the last of it went into boxes). Check out some pictures below, then read on for our drink reviews!
A special double feature of drinks!
Valerie’s First Drink of Choice: Dollywood Ingredients: Tito’s handmade vodka, Limoncello lemon juice, Kenwood sparkling wine
Review: Fun fact…Tito’s Handmade Vodka comes from the first legal distillery in Texas. I wondered what made this vodka unique, and apparently it’s made from yellow corn (as opposed to wheat or potatoes), which gives it a sweeter aftertaste. This drink was indeed sweet, but the lemon juice gave it a nice mix of flavors, resulting in a light and refreshing cocktail. The raspberry garnishes were fresh and tasted great once soaked in the drink! The Dollywood was like a light white sangria, and would have been perfect on a hot summer day.
Valerie’s Second Drink of Choice: Heartless Jezebel
Ingredients: Prichard’s Cranberry Rum, Sailor Jerry, triple sec, Clear Creek Cranberry liqueur, Orange Juice
Review: Although the Dollywood was a delicious drink, I found that the Heartless Jezebel was a much better pairing for the hearty barbecue food Sweet Cheeks has to offer. Normally I’m not the biggest fan of Sailor Jerry, but when paired with this cranberry concoction, it worked well. While this drink was fruity due to the orange juice and two types of cranberry alcohol, the multiple liqueurs made it have a definite kick!
Eric’s First Drink of Choice: Damn Yankee
Ingredients: Weller Bourbon, Sapling Maple Liqueur, Maple Bitters, house brandied cherry
Review: This cocktail was truly a Bourbon drinker’s drink. The Weller stood out from other Bourbons I have had in the past, but the unique flavor was more than likely attributed to the various maple flavors present in the libation. I’ve never had Maple Liqueur, but I think I like it! When paired with the Maple bitters the drink truly took on smooth taste with a buttery mouth feel, which was truly enjoyable. This drink is perfect for sipping during the cold winder months, but would have been equally as delicious with an ice sphere during the warmer months. The one thing I’d like to know is where to buy these maple bitters…I know there is a company called Urban Moonshine that distributes them as somewhat of a herbal remedy (thank goodness I had them…with the amount of food we ate I needed the digestive help that they apparently provide. They also supposedly provide a liver cleanse…which I need after working on this blog.) Sweet Cheeks, if you’re out there…are you making these yourself or bringing them in?! The world wants to know!
Eric’s Second Drink of Choice: B.L.L. Michelada Jug
Ingredients: Lunazul tequila, Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt, Bud Light Lime
Review: A 24oz. oz. cocktail served in a mason jar would probably intrigue anyone…especially someone who writes a blog about drinking in Boston. First and foremost, you, my reader, are hereby forewarned that this drink contained Bud Light Lime…which is not on the ingredient list aside from its initials in the title. I would imagine that the lack of advertising Bud Light Lime in the cocktail is that most patrons would respond exactly as I did, by saying to the server, “Wait, it has Bud Light Lime? I HATE Bud Light Lime,” (sorry to those who enjoy “B.L.L.”). After much convincing by the server (and some prodding from some new friends at the table), I decided I would try out the cocktail, trying my best to ignore the many condiments used in its creation. While I waited for it to be brought over, I pondered silently about who in their right mind would mix these specific ingredients together in the first place, and whether the bartender was currently laughing at the fool that ordered it. It was delivered with much gusto and fanfare, and as you can tell, dwarfed most of the other drinks on the table. On first sip, I think I nearly choked (I wasn’t expecting the Tabasco and Worcestershire to stand out as much as they did), but honestly the flavors got better as I sipped (this could be due to one of two reasons: my aggressive stirring to try and blend the ingredients more effectively; or, the fact that my tongue was under some sort of sensory deprivation caused by the flavors). I have to say that while it wouldn’t have been the first drink I would order (I’d rather another Damn Yankee), I would recommend it to friends who are intrigued by challenging themselves to experience new and different flavors. The Jug, as I affectionately call it, is absolutely what one would deem a novelty cocktail.
Wine Prices: Two white and two red options are available by the bottle for $36 or by the glass for $8 each. They’re listed under the “Tap’d” section of the menu, so perhaps Sweet Cheeks is in on the new craze of wine kegs? We will need to investigate next time! But seriously…who has wine with BBQ food?
Beer Prices: Five different beers are offered on tap for $6 each, or $20 for a Growler (64 oz). Sweet Cheeks has a menu chock full of bottled beer – 53 varieties be be exact- including the usuals, a substantial craft beer section, as well as a handful of 22 oz bottles. Most of these are $5-7 each, obviously a bit more for the larger sizes, around $14-18 each.
Other: Sweet Cheek’s cocktail menu consists of eight options, all of which are $10 each (so I guess you can say we had half the menu!). Other options include a Rocky Top, made with apple cider moonshine, and the Houston AFB, a gin drink with violet liqueur.