Some more gorgeous photos featuring Sweet Cheeks’s tasty ‘que and down-home space - can’t you just smell the smoke in the air?
TFK recently had the good fortune to wolf down some serious Texas BBQ from Sweet Cheeks, a new joint that opened up last month in Fenway - BBQ so good that you almost can’t believe you’re eating it in Boston. We reviewed the spot for the Weekly Dig this week - take a look below (and above at some extra photos), and try not to drool on your keyboard.
“Let’s be honest with (y)ourselves—New Englanders aren’t exactly known for their skills with a smoker.
Enter Tiffani Faison.
You may recognize Faison from a few stints on Top Chef or from her time at Lucky’s Lounge, Perdix and the sadly shuttered Rocca. Faison’s newest foray is Sweet Cheeks, a Texas-style joint that opened in mid-November in Fenway, that’s serving up some very sassy ‘que with a vibe that manages to be simultaneously upscale and unfussy.
Faison has roots in the South and remembers her mother cooking staples like fried chicken, black-eyed peas and collard greens when she was growing up—Sweet Cheeks offers this same kind of traditional cuisine with her own twists. To prepare, Faison visited some of Texas’s best-known BBQ spots for some very delicious research.
Add to that a 4,700-pound J&R smoker named Tootsie and the very best ingredients available, and you get some of the most incredible barbeque we’ve tasted north or south of the Mason-Dixon.
Let’s start, as we should, with the meat: all of it is top-quality, all natural, and largely responsibly raised. We think it says something profound about a barbeque place when you have three delectable house-made sauces right in front of you (brown sugar-tinged Texas-style, tangy North Carolina-style, and zingy hot) and you realize you’re not using them because the meat is so damn tasty on its own.
Infused with a smoky flavor you can see in the pink ring around the edges (courtesy of Tootsie), the Great Northern brisket and Berkshire pork belly (both $18) are so tender they may melt into your plate. But don’t forget about the turkey legs, short ribs, pulled pork, and more ($15-25)—all of them (as we say in the South) taste so good, they make you wanna slap yo mama. (But please, don’t. We hear she’s a pretty nice lady.)
Onto the sides. Each tray is served with a hot scoop and a cold scoop, which translates to options like mac ‘n’ cheese, collard greens, heirloom BBQ beans, coleslaw and carrot and raisin salad. Standouts on our table included a creamy broccoli cheese casserole so rich we kind of forgot it had vegetables in it, and the surprisingly hearty farm salad of roasted Brussels sprouts and leaves with farro and halved grapes.
The drink menu at Sweet Cheeks is all-American, featuring local and microbrew beers broken into clever categories like Nice Cans and Oh You Crafty Huh?, as well as spirits aplenty. The mixed cocktails ($10) are served in low-key mason jars and are divine, especially the rich Damn Yankee with bourbon, maple liqueur, maple bitters, and a house-brandied cherry, and the easy-going House Bill 819—tea-infused corn whiskey, lemon juice, mint, and simple syrup—named for a state law proposed in Georgia that would have made it illegal for restaurants to not have sweet tea on the menu. Yes, that really happened.
The atmosphere is very relaxed, with cherry wood walls and strung bulbs on the ceiling, giving an almost outdoorsy feeling. You have simple rough-hewn low-tops and communal high-tops made from repurposed church doors and bowling alley lanes. Once spring is upon us again, look forward to a large outdoor beer garden complete with a quaint porch swing.
Sweet Cheeks is serving up some seriously delicious, no-nonsense barbeque and accompaniments with a laid-back air, and we suggest you get after it as soon as you can. Everything here was a homerun, which we think is appropriate for Fenway.
Well, maybe not this season—HEY-OOOO!”
Gettin’ our grill on in December with Steak Tip Tacos. Suck it, Jack Frost… suck it.
“Traditional” marinated steak tips from McKinnon’s in Davis Square - the flavor was a little sweet, which worked well with the overall spiciness of the dish. (Incidentally, McKinnon’s is a great neighborhood butcher shop and deli with quality meats and really impressive prices. Last month, we scored a 3-lb. pork loin stuffed with feta and spinach for $10.)
To go in with the steak tips, our other main protein was a pot of pinto beans - we are of the a-little-of-this-a-little-of-that mentality when it comes to seasonings, so they benefited from some cumin, cayenne, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and a generous handful of grated sharp white cheddar cheese.
We also tried our hand at a throw-together homemade tomato salsa. Fat Kid #1 already has an amazing family recipe for a garlicky tomatillo salsa that will have you breathing fire for three days, but this one was a little more standard - three tomatoes, half a white onion, one jalapeno, a half bunch of cilantro, the juice of one lime, and a tablespoon of Maine sea salt thrown into the blender, and we were done.
This probably won’t be our last foray into grilling for the winter, though - we’ve been known to fire it up with snow on the ground.
Some gorgeous shots of Zinneken’s loveable Belgian waffles. We want one right now. Or seven.
“Zinneken’s is the new Belgian waffle shop that popped up in Harvard Square in mid-September in a cheery yellow corner spot on Mass Ave. If you haven’t already happened by, the first thing you’ll notice as you approach is that the aroma reaches out with a sweet and doughy iron fist, grabs you by the nostrils, and more or less hypnotizes you through the door.
Entering this wee shop is like walking into someone’s bright and cozy kitchen, with floral throw pillows cushioning studious Cantabrigians and tall bar stools providing a perch for newspaper-perusers to observe passersby through the huge windows overlooking the street. Antique waffle irons adorn the walls, along with black & white photos of Europe, and some funky but faithful representations of the famous Manneken Pis – the little bronze boy in Brussels who won’t stop peeing into the fountain.
Zinneken’s is the brainchild of Nhon Ma, a Harvard MBA holder, and Bertrand Lempkowicz, an entrepreneur who came from the plush toy industry, high school pals from Belgium who definitely know a thing or two about waffles. Ma is the one with the dining industry experience – his parents ran an upscale restaurant in Belgium for almost 30 years. Zinneken’s doesn’t take on the linen tablecloth set, however; this, Ma explains, is Belgian street food, a snack item that is eaten at all hours of the day, which explains why you can swing in for one at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anywhere in between.
The menu features a waffle styled after the popular Liege variety, one of 10 kinds found in Belgium. The Liege waffle is characterized by a chewy, dense texture, unlike what most Americans are used to when we think of massive breakfast waffles drowning in imitation maple syrup and margarine. These are the real deal, featuring the important addition of imported pearl sugar, creating sweet-but-not-too-sweet pockets of caramelized happiness in the rich, yeasty dough.
As a newly initiated waffler, you have lots of options at Zinneken’s. You can order off the menu, featuring already dreamed up selections for around $6-8 each, such as The Gourmand (bananas, fresh whipped cream, and caramel), Berries Insanity (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries), or The Zinneken’s, the namesake featuring whipped cream, dark Belgian chocolate, and speculoos, which is a caramel ginger spread made from ground Belgian cookies of the same name.
Alternatively, you can create a Frankenstein waffle of your own creation by picking your toppings. Choices range from the pretty healthy (fresh fruits) to the not-so-much, like caramel, real maple syrup, Oreos, ice cream, and the hazelnut-chocolate nectar we all drool over – Nutella.
Later, Zinneken’s is planning to add another of the myriad Belgian waffles to the menu to give patrons a little more variety: the Brussels style. This one is a little closer to the Yankee Doodle concept of breakfast waffles, but executed properly with panache – prepared with batter, not dough, and a bit lighter in texture.
In the meantime, don’t delay in coming down for one of these rich, flavorful Belgian delights. If you’re on the go and don’t have time to linger, they can also wrap one up for you to take away, which is traditionally the way they’re consumed in Belgium. We fully support any proprietor who encourages us to eat waffles anytime the urge strikes us – even if we might have to consider <shudder> exercising while doing so.”
A few of our favorite shots from the Kendall Square piece, including the very cool sit-practically-in-the-kitchen bar at Firebrand Saints, flaming cocktails at Abigail’s, and the plate-lickable tournedos of beef with rainbow chard and garlic/parsley bordelaise at Catalyst.
Kendall Square has been experiencing a resurgence, morphing from what many considered to be just a place where nerdy-techy-nerd-nerds spent their days, hissing at the sunlight, to a hipper go-to evening spot where the brainy and the brawny can co-exist for some top-notch sips and eats. TFK recently did some investigating at a few of the au courant restos – Abigail’s, Catalyst, and Firebrand Saints – to see what each of them is bringing to the Kendall Square table. See what we uncovered…