The Meatball Shop, Upper East Side
After all the hype, we decided we had to try the Meatball Shop. This is a newer restaurant here on our Upper East Side that specializes in GUESS WHAT? – Meatballs! The concept of the place can’t be beat. Too bad the execution needs some perfecting.
Meatball entrepreneurs Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow opened this their fifth location of Meatball Shops in early August. Business appears to be booming, since when we showed up at around 2PM on a Sunday, it was pretty packed. They are serving a brunch menu which I guess makes it a unique outpost of the empire.
The “Naked Balls” concept is a sort of Choose Your Own [Meatball] Adventure style menu. You mix and match the type of ball, the sauce and the accompaniments. They have you check off your order with a dry erase marker on their menus. You can also do variations of the adventure with sliders, heros and what they call a “smash” which is apparently something like a sloppy joe. The brunch menu has pre-fab combos of the above and some eggs.
The bar was not full so we were allowed to sit where we liked. What shocked us was that the early twenty something hostess actually asked us if we wouldn’t mind moving down to accommodate another couple while we were mid scarfing down our meatballs – our food fully served and everything! Pretty gauche!! The staff should be taught that this is a big no-no.
The place itself was kind of dark inside. They are going for a retro feel – lots of dark woods, chalk boards and meat grinder kitsch decorating the walls. Some small wildflower vases on the tables were a cute touch. Décor was not much to write home about.
Now for the meatballs…I ordered the brunch special of biscuits, balls and gravy. I got spicy pork balls and mushroom gravy. The dish was tasty, but seemed a bit over-seasoned. My favorite part of the dish was the biscuits. It also came with two eggs. I was totally full by the end of it, which was too bad because I would have loved to try the ice cream sandwiches. For a beverage, there was no shortage of choices, but I had a sweetened ice tea which was great.
Roberto always being extremely hungry tried a “naked balls” approach. He ordered the spicy pork balls with the red meat sauce and side of spaghetti. He liked it but said to me “your mom’s meatballs are better” – to which I smiled. He also got a slider. I guess I should have figured the slider would be tiny, but is was quite underwhelming to look at when it came out. He got the special meatball with the special sauce on the slider which turned out to be again the spicy pork and mushroom sauce. He was also pretty full by the end of it.
Overall, I would like to return and try more balls and leave some room for the ice cream sandwiches. But I think it would be best for us to wait until the buzz dies down a bit. Next time, if I could choose my own meatball adventure again, I’d prefer a regular table from which I don’t get moved and a slightly quieter dining experience. I suspect we are getting old. 😦