The Meatball Shop
84 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002 (other locations on website)
Dining at the Meatball Shop was not the meaty, juicy, “sauce dripping down my chin” kind of experience that I thought it would be. When I ordered meatball sliders to be paired up with every sauce, I was expecting to be covered in various saucy stains by the end of my meal. Sadly, this did not happen.
I love to try everything, so when I saw the menu, I realized that I had a lot to choose from. So I decided to make my own combinations of sliders and try one meatball with every sauce. I chose to stick with chicken and beef although they also have a vegetable meatball and a spicy pork meatball.
I ordered 4 beef meatball sliders with spicy meat, classic tomato, Parmesan cream and pesto sauces, the special “buffalo chicken ball” with Frank’s Red Hot and blue cheese, and one chicken meatball that I so confidently paired up with the mushroom gravy. Being the huge beef lover that I am and considering that beef meatballs are the best meatballs, I thought I could do no wrong.
Fast foreword twenty minutes later, my sliders were now in front of me, but they were not dripping with sauce as I imagined. Instead, there was a small dab holding the meatballs and the miniature slider buns together with the exception of the buffalo chicken slider that was (thankfully) overflowing with blue cheese. I tried them all, and here is my review/ranking.
1) Buffalo Chicken Ball (special) — the most “lathered in sauce” out of all of them with Frank’s Red Hot and blue cheese. An upgrade from the regular chicken wing, however you have to be a blue cheese fan to like this one.
2) Classic Beef Meatball with the spicy meat sauce — the spicy meat sauce had zing. It jazzed up the meatball and even enhanced a mild beefy flavor that is nearly impossible to taste because the beef is cooked until they are gray.
3/4) TIE: Classic Beef Meatballs with pesto & Parmesan sauces: both the pesto and the Parmesan sauces had so much potential but either gave too much, or too little. The pesto could have been more aromatic and the Parmesan was too sweet to pair up successfully with any meat. I tried both of these with the beef meatballs, but they would probably go better with chicken.
5) Classic Beef Meatball with classic tomato sauce: Okay, despite their names, neither of these were classic. As I mentioned earlier, the classic meatball is big and juicy and well, so is the classic tomato sauce. This tomato sauce was dry and stiff on the slider bun and had no spark, no pizzazz. This combination was a bore and I didn’t even finish the slider.
6) Chicken ball in the mushroom sauce: The mushroom sauce was dull, lifeless and dry with a bland flavor that only worsened the taste of the chicken. Basically this combination kind of tasted like dining hall food. I only took one bite.
My friend got the Everything but the Kitchen Sink Salad (3 meatballs served over a chef’s selection of seasonal market veggies and salad) with the spicy meat sauce and hers was better than my spicy meat sauce/classic meatball slider because hers were drenched in sauce. I think the route to take with the Meatball Shop is to stay away from the sliders or veer towards the naked balls or the hero.
Bottom line: The Meatball Shop has so much potential that needs to be explored. The idea behind the restaurant is so unique and a “meatball shop” is a great concept. The atmosphere of the east village location is trendy and hip, but I can’t let this dictate my final opinion because ultimately I didn’t like the meatballs very much and there are other locations that I have not seen.
The dining experience could have been a lot better — the restaurant was freezing and the meatballs were dry. I would also expect them to give much more generous portions, more than a golf ball size per se. And finally, I think the sauce selection should be tweaked and that each slider (or sandwich) should be overflowing with sauce to make it an amazing meatball experience.
Cool atmosphere (a bit chilly as you can see below, I am wearing my parka)
Average, dry food
A lot of potential