Between finding a wedding caterer for A and taking a trip to Memphis to visit friends, it seems like we've been on a serious BBQ kick recently. I'm spending a few days in Boston- not a place I'd expect to find some good Texas barbecue, but my boyfriend vouched for a newly opened place near Fenway (opinion based on roommate leftovers).
The place was pretty busy on a weeknight, but we were offered seats at a large communal high-top table. They take a no-frills, down-home approach- wood paneling and a heavenly smoky aroma make up the decor, silverware and napkins are delivered in a tin can on the table, and drinks are served in mason jars. The menu is pretty straightforward- choose your meat, choose your sides, add a biscuit or a side of hush puppies. We did a little sauce tasting while we waited for our food- the regular is a lightly doctored tomato sauce (boring), the thin vinegar sauce is slightly sweet and has a good kick (if vinegar is your thing), but the hot sauce is the clear winner- a little sweat-inducing heat that balances the tomato and vinegar components well.
I ordered the simplest "tray" option (just one type of meat), opting for a half slab of the Berkshire pork ribs ($19). Sides are broken into two categories- choice of one each from hot and cold. Everything comes piled on a paper-lined silver tray, with "hot" sides steaming up a mug. Trays typically are served with a few slices of white bread, pickles, and onions (requisites for sandwich making) but we both subbed in one of their infamous biscuits ($1.50 extra, or $10 for 4).
I honestly didn't know where to start, so I dug in to the Cita's broccoli and cheese casserole. Whole chunks of lightly steamed broccoli are drenched in a thin cream-butter-and-cheese sauce and what seemed like toasty biscuit chunks for good measure. I liked that it was creamy like a soup but still maintained crunchy, satisfying bites of broccoli. My cold side was the farm salad- I wasn't expecting anything exciting here, but Sweet Cheeks brought their A-game: a flavorful combination of arugula, brussels sprouts, chopped hazelnuts, and purple grapes tossed in a barely there olive oil dressing and topped with shaved Pecorino Romano. Yes, I could eat that salad every day.
I haven't even gotten to the good part- the ribs. Six of 'em to a half-rack, with a brilliant red color and meaty ham-like texture. The meat isn't falling off the bone, but this provides a nice amount of chewiness. I was impressed with how much meat there was- I could only get through two of the smoke-infused ribs before calling it quits (so lame). Of note- I typically love my ribs slathered in sauce, but these guys were perfect as is.
My meat-loving boyfriend snagged the most classic meat options- pulled pork and brisket- ordering the double "Big Cheeks" tray: your choice of any two meats for $24. The brisket was unlike any I have ever experienced- thick slabs of marbled "Great Northern" beef that melt in your mouth. I'm used to chewing my brisket, but that's not necessary here. I was wary of the thick strip of fat across the top (and around the sides...) but this was butter, not gristle. As for the pork- I'm a bit of a pulled pork snob, but even this had me completely in awe of the Sweet Cheeks 'que techniques. The meat was shredded, tender, and with an incredibly concentrated meatiness. Most impressive is that this flavor comes entirely from the pork- they make it devoid of any sauce. A few drops of hot sauce amped up the heat without masking the smokiness.
The biscuits were another highlight- massive balls of buttery, flaky carbs with a crispy outer surface and pillow-y innards. Can't beat that.
We brought enough food home to eat again for dinner the next night- and everything was just as tasty as leftovers (trust me, you WILL have leftovers). Although the prices were a little higher than I'm used to paying, the quality (and quantity...) of each component of the tray completely justified any residual sticker-shock. The owners of this place really did their research well- though I've never had the "real thing," my boyfriend spent a summer in San Antonio and begrudgingly admits that Sweet Cheeks might top his list. It definitely tops mine.
Sweet Cheeks Q