For about 6 months straight last year, I couldn’t escape the buzz around Daniel Holzman & Michael Chernow’s new Meatball Shop in the Lower East Side. Every food publication across the country made some sort of mention of it, but surprisingly, I wasn’t inclined to put it on my “to-eat” list. My mom’s meatballs are perfection, so I knew that if they weren’t identical to hers, they would undoubtedly disappoint.
Then finally, the perfect opportunity presented itself. At 2am last night, after far too many vodka cocktails and hours standing in heels, I left the bar in search of food. And of course, right in front of my eyes grew a crowd of drunk young adults vying for space at the Meatball Shop. With liquid courage, I busted through the door, found a seat at the bar, and called the only person whom I knew would join me at this moment: my fellow foodie Sonia.
As I anxiously awaited her arrival, I scanned the menu, which with images and checkboxes attempts to be simple, but is actually complex. Meatballs on sliders, meatballs in a bowl, and meatball sandwiches scattered across the menu made my eyes dart far too many directions in a short period of time. So rather than pick my option by checking I box, I told the bartender exactly what I wanted: a normal bowl of meatballs with tomato sauce, some risotto (if they even had it), and one chicken meatball with mushroom sauce. Fortunately, they had all of the above.
The chicken meatball slider came on a lightly toasted bun, and for $3, was a great little snack to tide me over while politely waiting for Sonia. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t that good. Maybe the fact that it was late had something to do with it, but the meatball was room temperature, and the mushroom sauce reminded me of Campbell’s soup cream of mushroom. When Sonia arrived, we dug into the bowl of regular meatballs with fresh tomato sauce. These were definitely better, but the balls lacked the salty, subtly crispier edge that I so love about my mom’s meatballs. These were more traditional, fluffy and made with more filler than what I’m accustomed to. Regardless, these were definitely tasty, and for around $9, a great buy.
The risotto was just not good. It desperately needed cheese, it was cold, and the starchiness of the arborio rice was overwhelming.
I’d like to assume that in the middle of the night, the chefs were a little off their A-game, and the food here is normally as delicious as most critics claim it to be. After viewing pictures on Yelp, I regret not trying the meatball sub – with hot bread and cheese, I can’t imagine being disappointed. Though my high expectations of the Meatball Shop weren’t met last night, I’d like to give it another try to fairly judge (meaning 100% sober, and at a reasonable hour) before writing it off as overrated. That said, his place gets major brownie points for having mix and match ice cream sandwiches (which I’ll definitely try post Lent) and serving food until 4am on Saturdays.
Location: 84 Stanton Street @ Allen