I find talking about the quality of the meatballs at The Meatball Shop to be a little redundant and to be honest, quite boring. When you stake your claim on one item, there’s an expectation that they better be good, but you don’t get to 4 locations in New York without being great at what you do. For the record, the meatballs are good. Very good. Bouncy and not too dense, the meat is clearly not overworked, and full of flavour.
The Meatball Shop is everything that is good about New York dining. Specialists in one item, they focus on it and they do it well. A casual, buzzy atmosphere to boot and decent sized portions at a fair price make for an enjoyable meal. The kind of familiar neighbourhood place you can drop in for comfort food. Ordering is a breeze; tick your choices on the laminated menu. Choose your meatball and how you want it served; On top of polenta, spaghetti, on a salad, baguette, or smashed onto a brioche bun.
Americans generally have a bad rep when it come to diet. Birthplace of burgers, fries, and known for the wonderous ways that bacon can be worked into each and every meal; it’s no wonder that their rep for nutrition is less than stellar. While I can’t speak for the situation in middle-America, I’ve found that New York in general does really great salads.
The Everything but the Kitchen Sink Salad is a prime example of what a good salad should be. All too often salads are pathetic wispy bites with too much crunch and far too much in the raw vegetable territory. The Meatball Shop does it right. Sweet roasted carrots and cauliflower sit alongside peppery rocket and raw beetroot and slices of crispy apple. A hodgepodge of ingredients but it all really works together especially with the spicy pork meatballs and the pesto I opted for the salad to be topped with. Pesto was a little heavy-handed with parmesan, cancelling out the bright freshness of the basil, but nothing that couldn’t be overlooked.
If salads aren’t your thing, you can opt for the ‘Smash’ and have meatballs squished on a toasted brioche bun under a layer melted mozzarella and tomato sauce.
With so many mix and match options, it’s pretty easy to find something for everyone if you’re in a group. Even vegetarians are catered to with a vegetarian ‘meatball’. The Lower East Side location is a little small, but on a Friday night we had no problem walking in and snagging a table for 2. Pricing is brilliant – mains average around $10. Add on a drink and tip and you can still walk out with change from a twenty.
Desserts will push the bill a little higher. For $5 you can choose a scoop of ice cream to be wedged in between 2 cookies. The mint ice cream is flavoured with flecks of chopped mint leaves. Not as creamy as other ice creams, it’s bright flavour makes it right for the heatwave NYC is currently experiencing. The chocolate chip cookies was a touch too firm, meaning the cutlery worked against the cookie, but with 2 hands it was light work and an even lighter, sweet finish to the meal.
Open till 2am weeknights and 4am on the weekends, The Meatball Shop is an infinitely better option than that $1 pizza slice you were eyeing up.