64 Greenwich Ave
(between 7th Ave & 11th St)
New York, NY 10011
(also 2 other locations in Lower East Side and Williamsburg)
I was never particularly fond of meatballs before living in NYC. Meatballs always reminded me of dry and limp cafeteria spaghetti – not exactly something I would seek out. But after moving to NYC, I found that the Meatball Shop was the talk of the town. As a very open-minded eater, I was eager to change my mind about meatballs and checked out the Meatball Shop as soon as I could. The first time I went, we waited 2 hours for a table… don’t worry, this was before they had opened any other locations. I’ve been to all three locations now and will say that the original Lower East Side one has been lacking in quality since the opening of the other two locations… not sure why. The West Village and Williamsburg locations are great and much bigger.
Okay I know, I should really start with a meatball photo but one of my favorite things about the Meatball Shop is their market salads. They switch it up… every week maybe? The one pictured above is probably my favorite: butter lettuce, almonds, radicchio, sunchoke, clementines, and sherry vinaigrette. If you think about each ingredient… they are all very intensely flavored and so the combination could either go really wrong, or so so right. The butter lettuce was soooo tender and leafy! I now know why they are called butter lettuce because in their prime state, they really feel like they melt in your mouth… like butter. Almonds are always a welcomed addition to anything… it gave the salad a great crunch and nutty context. Radicchio is slightly bitter and almost a little spicy sometimes. I actually barely tasted them in this salad but I’m sure they added to the complexity of the salad. This was my first time having sunchoke and wow, was it amazing. Sunchokes are knobbly and funny looking… kind of like twisted ginger roots. They were boiled or maybe blanched just so that they had the consistency of a very chewy potato. They were slightly creamy… and had slight sweet and nutty undertones. They went very well with the almonds and butter lettuce. The clementines were the sweetest I’ve had (nothing like those awful sour and dry ones you find in most supermarkets) and the sherry vinaigrette just bonded all the flavors together. I. LOVE. THIS. SALAD.
Here is a close-up of a classic beef ball with spicy meat sauce. See how juicy and tender it looks on the inside? You have the option of picking the type of ball you want and the type of sauce (see menu photo on top). Having tried all of the balls and almost in every ball-sauce combination possible, I find that the classic beef ball and spicy meat sauce is my favorite.
- Classic beef balls are tender, moist (a little fatty), flavorful
- Chicken balls are too greasy and slightly bland
- Spicy pork balls are extremely porky (heavy) and not spicy at all
- Vegetable balls almost end up too dry (though this is a favorite ball among many of my friends) – the second slider in the photo below is a veggie ball
- Special balls… depends on the week but I always order them because they are usually damn good. Most recently, I had the steak, bacon, and cheddar ball with mushroom sauce (as the waitress suggested). Heavy, yes, but delicious!!
- Classic tomato is a like a marinara that is a little too sour
- Spicy meat sauce is nice and chunky (meaty and tomatoey), but not spicy at all…
- Mushroom gravy is pretty light actually and adds a nice shroomy flavor to any ball
- Parmesan cream is basically alfredo sauce… it can be deadly (in a bad way) when paired with a greasy ball. I think it goes well with the veggie ball because it gives the dry healthy ball some extra fat :)
- Pesto ball SOUNDS like it should be fabulous (made with spinach, basil, walnuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese) but it is actually very bland and they never give you enough of it
Sorry for the change in lighting here, they are actually from two different days. Pictured left is the Naked Balls: 4 balls served with a piece of focaccia bread for $7. This is probably the best deal on the menu in terms of sheer quantity of food. 4 balls doesn’t sound like too much but you’d be surprised at how filling they are. I will usually get these paired with the market salad. Pictured right is the sliders, which are $3 each. These are great because you can try more types of balls and sauces. Since I’ve been so many times, I usually will get these to try out their new balls. You also have the option of getting the Meatball Smash (2 meatballs smashed together in a bun), Kitchen Sink (balls over lots of greens), or Hero (3 meatballs in a hero).
The Meatball Shop is also known for its ice-cream sandwiches. You get to customize your own by picking the type of cookie and type of ice cream. In the photo above, I chose the special cookie (lemon, chocolate chip, and almond) … with a vanilla bean ice cream. Their cookies are always pretty good, somewhat chewy but never chewy enough. The ice cream is always frozen hard but delicious. Their ice cream flavors are very real… the mint ice cream, for example, tastes like mint leaf… barely sweet and very minty. The espresso ice cream tastes like coffee straight up, bitter and fragrant. You can never really eat the sandwich like a Klondike because the cookie and ice cream here are completely separate units. It’s like if you took a real sandwich apart and ate the bread first and the turkey and cheese separately. But unlike a real sandwich, cookies and ice cream are very good on their own so I definitely don’t mind…