Last week, The Meatball Shop—a restaurant dedicated solely to orbs of meat, from the menu to the decorative meat grinders on the wall—opened on the LES . The latest in Lower East Side niche dining, the newcomer has gotten New Yorkers all excited at the prospects of a comfort food to obsess over. The roster of meatballs include beef, spicy pork, chicken, vegetable and salmon with a weekly special, and they can be ordered in several permutations: with pasta, in a bowl with focaccia, and in slider or grinder form. The hype around this opening has been high-octane for a casual place, so it was a breeze to gather the good, the bad and the service slip-ups that go along with it.
The Good News: Always Hungry NY gave a mostly positive, food-porn-laden review, giving a nod to the 'balls ("five types of meatballs - but no veal!! - with weekly specials"). The star? "The Spicy Pork Meatballs with Spicy Meat Sauce over Rigatoni was the night’s best dish— a kid’s meal for grown-ups. The rigatoni was al dente. The sauce was sweet and salty, with a little bite." The beef meatballs were "as good the next day, cold." As for sides, "The White Beans were like mashed potatoes with a curiously enjoyable sandy quality. Servers advised going with the Braised Greens over the Broccoli or Spinach. They’re right— even kale-haters would be happy." [AlwaysHungryNY]
The Great News: Foursquare reviewers were unanimous with good words. One user writes that although chaotic, it's worth it: "Food is great. Service can be a little crazy. At the bar, I ate someone elses order. Oops.....more for me :)" Another tried everything: "Just ordered everything on the menu, frigging ridiculous." [4Sq]
The Shilly News: This shill was a bit too obvious and was undoubtedly called out: "swung by for friends and family and was totally impressed with the meatballs (tried beef + pork). The highlight was the perfectly velvety red sauce. Really good deal. And of course the ice cream sandwich (went for peanut butter cookie + chocolate ice cream). Decadent but good." [Eater NY]
The Good, But Crowded News: One Menupages take-out reviewer was mostly pleased. "Glad I ordered to pick-up. Extremely crowded and noisy, many people waiting." As for the food? "Meatball sliders 1 pork, 1 chicken, 1 beef, were excellent, tasty, and even still warm when I got home. Side order of rigatoni was very good--very tasty sauce, not overcooked, even had parmesian cheese. Unfortunately they forgot my ice cream sandwich--when I called they were very nice and apologetic and since I wasn't going out again--they promised to make good on my next trip there." [MenuPages]
The Good Yelps: Exactly half of the Yelpers who've weighed in so far gave the place a thumbs up, while the other half was a mixed bag of unmoved/appalled/disappointed. First, the good. A yelper on a date ("it turned out to be a perfect date place") noted that "The braised kale was perfect, and i had to try a salmon meatball slider, which was surprisingly delicious." In terms of sides, another wrote: "We ordered about 6 different types and I think the winners were the braised vegetable and the risotto." The sauces also received high marks: "The sauces here are phenomenal- and I truly urge you to try the Classic T and the Mushroom sauces... Especially with a nice slice of focaccia on the side, as a wonderful sauce delivery vehicle." As for the ice cream sandwiches: "The home made ice cream and cookies were out of this world. The flavors were so rich and fresh." And the cherry on top? "Great selection of wines, great atmosphere, and REALLY good prices." [Yelp]
The Bad News: Other Yelpers weren't so lucky. The biggest complaint across the board had to do with service. "The 'bartender' who took our order and didn't seem very competent - couldn't you tell us you were out of beef and special meatballs all in one go? Instead of a 5 minute interval?" Another agrees: "I felt rushed and it was too loud to carry on a conversation. I will be waiting until the hype has died down before I come back." One reviewer (also an Eater commenter) makes a great point: "For a meal that is largely prepared in advance- meatballs, bread etc- the service was painfully slow." Stories of disorganization also abounded: "They were completely out of beef and lamb balls. At lunchtime. On a Monday. Sad." For one Yelper, the experience was "An Utter Disaster: "Long story short, we waited for over an hour and finally the waiter came over to us and apologized for not serving us our food yet. He said they must've lost our order and told us to send in another order form. We were told that the order would be expedited and would take no more than 5 minutes. 20 minutes later, after several other people were served, we decided to walk out. Only then did we get an apology, but we weren't offered any comps." [Yelp]
The Similar Twitter News: Twitter is ablaze with tweets, mostly good, about the place. @MRR14 gave their recommendation: "meatball shop was awesome. Get the chicken meatball with the Parm sauce." @kitchensense took a photo of their spread. Their favorite? The same as Always Hungry - "spicy pork meatballs in tomato sauce." @pgrannoff4 was especially enthusiastic: "Meatball shop- def top 5 meals in NYC-amazing food esp the create ur own ice cream cookie sandwich!" However, as @NOLITADINO noted, it's definitely crowded and tough to get into: "Just tried to get into The Meatball Shop on the LES. Slammed. Eating at Peasant on Elizabeth Street w. @TheUnknownChef & The Tux instead." [Twitter]