Area chef/restaurateur Tiffani Faison dishes on her eateries’ contribution to the neighborhood’s evolving cuisine scene
“Fenway has changed so much,” remarks Chef Tiffani Faison, owner of two restaurants in the Boston neighborhood, Sweet Cheeks Q and Tiger Mama. “Of course, Fenway Park has always brought people in, but it’s not the only draw now.…I have always loved this area and now there is an exciting amount of development. It’s bananas.”
Chef Faison is a contributor to one of Fenway’s most appealing new aspects: adventurous dining. Her first restaurant, the barbecue joint Sweet Cheeks Q, opened in 2011. “I was totally nervous. It was a risk—there’s still not a lot of barbecue here, and there was no precedent then.” It was a risk that paid off. In the six years since its opening, Sweet Cheeks evolved its own “truly Boston” style, based on Texas barbecue. “We use great quality meat. We didn’t want to mop that under sauce, so we use a dry rub instead.” Chef Faison is proud that “there’s a significant population of Southern transplants here who love Sweet Cheeks.”
Her second Fenway venture, Tiger Mama, is no less unique. It was inspired by Faison’s travels in Southeast Asia, and is her “love letter to that area of the world.”
“People walk in and are immediately transported,” she says. “There’s an elegant green wall.…A beautiful energy flows through.” In addition to “Boston’s number-one tiki program” of tropical cocktails, the menu features “a mix of authentic flavors and the kind of combo dishes you see in Southeast Asian cooking, with spicy, funky flavors.” For newcomers hesitant about spice, Chef Faison recommends starting off with the claypot chicken or crispy potatoes.
With success that goes far beyond Fenway, Chef Faison has appeared on TV’s “Top Chef,” contributed to cookbooks and earned many accolades, most recently reaching the rank of semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Chef, Northeast.
Yet she remains most proud of those accomplishments that are closest to heart and home, like her team. “I’m proud of the people I work with.…It’s an extraordinary team and company culture that we have. When you start a restaurant, you can’t imagine the incredible kind of community it can foster.”