I’m very much aware that this review is long over due, since I first made my way to Meatball Shop on the Lower East Side in 2010. I have frequented back over the years with different friends and family, continually satisfied every time.
Hungry for some late night grub around 11pm on a Tuesday night, I suggested we try our luck at Meatball Shop. One of my friends was confused at my suggestion seeing as we were in the Lower East Side, and Meatball Shop was in the West Village. It goes to show the power of the quick expansion of one of the trendiest, fastest growing franchises in Manhattan. Even the original location is lost in the mind of converts.
We picked up our dry-erase markers and began to carefully select and circle things on the laminated menu. I always found the menu to be the most clever aspect of a restaurant boasting whimsical ideas. Gone are the days of messed up orders since you yourself select and write down your order carefully and hopefully effectively, depending on the time of night and in turn your mental state at that hour.
My friend Rachel and I decided to share some “naked balls,” their presentation of meatballs without any bread. We went for the beef over mashed potatoes with parmesan. To be “healthy” and lured by the words “goat cheese” and “figs” we decided on the Market Greens special for the day, a simple salad. Finally, we both needed to try the special ball; buffalo chicken with blue cheese dressing and Frank’s red hot. We each ordered a slider (one ball).
Another friend, Lindsey, at the table was a vegetarian, which is surprisingly not a problem at a place with “meat” in their name. They have vegetarian meatballs, sauces and sides, bringing the perfect combination and dining experience for those of all dietary restrictions.
Our meal was served all together and relatively quickly. I immediately dove into the salad overflowing with creamy goat cheese.
I almost wish I had more of the light, but complex salad. There’s something so wonderful about the simple and rustic combination of ingredients. Plus, figs and goat cheese in anything together is a winner in my book.
Next, we devoured the naked balls.
All of the side components seemed to be the star of the dish. The meatball itself was lacking in my book. For a place that mainly serves this product, I was slightly disappointed. I found myself picking pieces of cartilage and even bone out of my mouth after each bite, causing me to question the quality of meat being used. I understand that filet mignon would not be ground up for $10 for 4 balls, but this was something I have trouble looking past. I still enjoyed the beef slathered in creamy, decadent mashed potatoes, but it was not the best dish of the night. However, I must attest that the mashed potatoes were extraordinary and I could eat a bowl of that on the side with a nice piece of steak any day of the week.
On the count of 3, Rachel and I took a big bite of our mini sliders. And baby, this was the reason to come to the Meatball Shop in itself.
The chicken meatball was moist, with the heat of the Frank’s Red Hot subtly coming through, burning your tongue just enough. Then the creaminess of the lightly portioned blue cheese dressing saved the day, cleansing my palate in anticipation for the next bite. If you are around any time soon, I beg you to head to meatball shop just to try a slider of this for $3 and walk out the door, realizing your life is better for it.
We paid the reasonable bill, completely satisfied, talking about “balls” the whole subway ride home. For an old favorite, Meatball Shop, always seems to hit the spot just when you need it. And with the new lack of waits and hours until 2am on weeknights, I will be sure to be back soon. I just won’t order the beef meatball next time.
Location: Lower East Side, NY
Type: New American
Perfect For: Late Night, Cheap Eats, Neighborhood Hang
Reservations: Not Available
Favorite Dishes: Buffalo Chicken Meatball, Mashed Potatoes, Ice Cream Sandwiches