I’m skeptical of restaurants that specialize in one particular item, since they tend not be very good. The Meatball Shop is a notable exception. Following the well-deserved acclaim and success of their Lower East Side restaurant, Daniel Holzman (executive chef) and Michael Chernow (general manager) have expanded into two new locations: Williamsburg and the West Village. If you’ve ever been to the original Meatball Shop, you’ll know that noise and tight seating ensured having a casual conversation was nearly impossible. Fortunately, the location in the village, only two weeks old, has the same menu in a slightly more upscale setting.
If it’s your first time, the waitress will walk you through the every item on the checklist-style menu. It’s a necessary lecture, since the option to choose your meat, sauce, cheese, and bread can lead to a range of meals. The meatballs can be served with a side of focaccia (Naked Balls, $7), between a small brioche bun (Sliders, $3), two in a larger bun (Smash, $8), or in one of their toasted Heroes ($9). I’ve found the hero, which comes with an arugula and apple salad, to be the best deal.
Keeping up with the prevailing Thanksgiving theme, The Meatball Shop’s special of the day was turkey and stuffing meatballs. Between the toasted Il Forno bread were three large meatballs topped with cranberry sauce. The texture of the turkey balls was impressively soft and moist, since turkey is a lean, dry meat. In addition to croutons and cranberry, turkey skin is added for a fatty and flavorful taste. The herbs—sage in particular—added a spice to each meatball that rounded the sweetness of the cranberry. Aside from half of the hero being soggy from the soaking up too much sauce, it was a filling and satisfying sandwich.
A trip to The Meatball Shop would be incomplete without an Ice Cream Sandwich ($4), a scoop of ice cream between two freshly-baked cookies made by Michael’s wife, Donna. There happened to be a Thanksgiving special for dessert as well. The chewy cookie contained hazelnuts, cherries, raisins, and white chocolate, and was a perfect match for the creamy cranberry ice cream. The entire dessert was appropriately sweetened and worth getting even if you think you’re full. I washed it all down with the Special Lemonade ($3), a seasonal drink. Right now the lemonade is infused with pear, which was a nice contrast to the tangy taste of lemon. Request that they go easy on the ice. My friend Bill ordered it first and received more ice cubes than liquid, and the drink lasted only three sips.
The major issue I had during today’s lunch was with the service. During the half-hour wait for our food, our waitress asked if we enjoyed the meal was before it was served. After dessert, another waitress assumed we arrived and handed us fresh menus and began the first-timers lecture. I have a feeling my toasted hero was partially soggy because it was sitting for longer than it should have. Still, The Meatball Shop is a favorite of mine, and the West Village is my preferred location. The crowd is also less populated (with hipsters) than in the LES location. I would highly recommend it for a casual date. I can’t imagine the prices will stay this low for much longer by the way, and the turkey special certainly won’t.
The Meatball Shop (site) ★★★★☆
64 Greenwich Ave (between 7th Ave & 11th St)
Manhattan West Village, NY 10011
Neighborhood: West Village