If you know your cows, you know beef cheek is a tougher cut that, when cooked properly, can resemble pulled pork with a stringy, tender texture. Basically, this means cheek can lend itself to some outstanding tacos and sandwiches, and that's what Smokey Cheeks is betting on.
Smokey Cheeks opened in January at 1815 Mangum Rd in Spring Branch East with counter service, a few outdoor picnic tables, and a drive-thru window. All this makes for a great takeout experience. Along with cheek, featured meats include pulled pork, pulled chicken, carne asada, and half and whole chickens. They're presented on meat plates by the pound, and in tacos and sandwiches (Cuban, mostly).
One thing's for certain: They got the name right. There's serious smoke here, most prominent in The OG, a taco that includes coleslaw, ghost pepper blueberry hollandaise, pickled onion, and cilantro. Awarded reserve champion at the 2020 Houston Rodeo Uncorked! Best Bites competition in February, the taco is a little too smoky for my liking and tastes a little one-dimensional, though fans of the plume may find it exactly what they're looking for. But the thin cheek pulls off effortlessly, and don't let the ghost pepper blueberry sauce scare you off, as nothing about this taco is spicy; if anything, it's just a hit of heat.
My favorite bite is actually the indulgent but thoughtfully crafted brussels sprouts, which are charred perfectly and served in mustard vinaigrette with bacon, Cotija cheese, and cilantro.
While I didn't try any of the eatery's Cuban sandwiches, it makes a solid chicken sandwich with coleslaw and pickled onions. It can be ordered spicy too. And I'm curious about the loaded cheeky balls, essentially macaroni and cheese balls covered in queso, meat, crema, and barbecue sauce. Plus there's breakfast to consider, as Smokey Cheeks produces a range of breakfast tacos.
All this to say Smokey Cheeks is certainly an option when you want roadside barbecue, especially if you want an extra punch of smoke. If anything, it lives up to its name.