the MFA + Sweet Cheeks Q

This has been a winning combo for us on a couple weekends now, so I figured it was about time to write a little more about it.

sweet tea at sweet cheeks

Thanks to a birthday gift from my parents, Ian and and I have a membership to the MFA (you can get discounted passes via the BPL, and it's free on certain holidays + pay as you wish Wednesday nights after 4 p.m.). And Tiffani, of Top Chef fame (season 1 finalist and All-Stars competitor), recently opened up a barbecue joint down the street. High art + down home cookin' seemed like a match made in heaven.

So we invited a couple friends, Ian and Courtney, to join us for lunch at Sweet Cheeks followed by an afternoon at the museum.

It was a lovely meal (although I should have attempted only half the sandwich) and I discovered what could perhaps be my favorite mac & cheese in Boston to date. The meat is amazing, and Ian dared to declare it's the best barbecue in Boston (yes, he has tried Red Bones and Blue Ribbon which are also excellent).

We headed to the MFA next, and despite our heavy lunch (and Courtney's large baby bump), we still managed to cover just about all of the new Art of the Americas wing, from eighteenth century colonial through 1970s modern.

linda nochlin and daisy | alice neel

It was fun to experience the museum with friends, especially architect friends who are into design, particularly furniture (we spent a little extra time in front of the Eames chairs and got a little lesson to boot). We also came across "Linda Nochlin and Daisy" by Alice Neel, which reminded us of "Mama and Babe" by Sarah Irani at the MOBA and prompted a robust discussion on what makes good art.

orchids at the gardner

We repeated the same combination a few weeks later, rather unintentionally. The newly renovated Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was offering free admission to MFA members during opening week. We made plans and showed up to a crazy long line. We thought members could skip it like we do at the MFA. No dice. And after waiting in that long (but speedy, all things considered) line, we learned it wasn't a flash-your-card-get-in kind of deal. We actually had to reserve those free tickets in advance. Defeated by the bureaucracy (and probably occupancy limits) and frazzled by the overwhelming amount of people in the line, we slipped into the greenhouse hallway, snapped photos, and then headed across the street where they scanned our snazzy red membership cards and ushered us into spacious hallways.

the toad | pablo picasso

Since we'd already thoroughly covered the Art of the Americas wing on our previous visit, we wandered around to some of the fun smaller exhibits. Like an assortment of animal artwork and a timeline of jewelry.

After a lovely and relaxing afternoon, we met up with friends and headed to Sweet Cheeks to check out their dinner. It can be a long wait, but we just beat the big crowd. We split a couple cans of biscuits (four gigantic, heavy biscuits per can) between eight of us. Yes, they cost extra. It's worth every penny for the most dense yet flaky biscuits you'll ever eat, with a heaping portion of honey butter to boot.

And remembering my lunchtime mistake of overeating, I thought I'd pick off of Ian's dinner portion and just get a side of that mouthwatering mac & cheese. Only when the bowl arrived did I learn that a large side is a quart. For the record, it makes a great leftover lunch as well.

The gentlemen of the group decided to order bourbon from the impressive drink list. And our waiter, who could dish back exactly what we gave him, made very helpful suggestions. The spirits came in tiny mason jars (read: adorable manly).

We walked away with bags of leftovers, full bellies, and a tattoo and tiny plastic person from the bathroom vending machines.

If you're in the area, we'd highly recommend making a day of the MFA and Sweet Cheeks, preferably in that order so you can take your leftovers home. You won't regret it.

Pssst. If you're curious about our Boston recommendations, the Backyard Tourists: Boston page is new and improved!