New York is the kind of city where a foodie can satisfy any craving, no matter how obscure or specific, virtually any time of the day or night. At several locations throughout Manhattan, The Meatball Shop serves up the eponymous entrees made from a variety of meats ground in-house, with a wide array of sauces and sides, simply in bowls, in sandwiches, on salads, as sliders or on heroes.
Our first visit on a weeknight around 5:00 at 200 Ninth Avenue was one of the few times the popular spot was half-empty. Another visit on a Friday meant 45 minute wait for a table, although the hostess offered to text us when our table was ready. Customization, using dry erase markers on reusable order forms is the order of the meal: "Naked Balls" or meatballs served by themselves are four for $7 with choice of sauce and a side of focaccia. Sides from $5 can be served alongside of underneath the meatballs. Fresh local pork, beef, and chicken are spice and ground into well-flavored, perfectly moist meatballs.
The focus here is clear: simple, fresh food created from well-sourced ingredients without fuss or pretense. Specials are constant and vary by location. The evening we visited the special meatball was a "Cuban", which was a meatball inspired by the Cuban sandwich of South Florida with beef, pork, and pickle, which we enjoyed with the special sauce of the day, a cucumber dill sauce spiced with hot mustard served cold. Housemade ice cream and cookies also feature specials, and a coconut macaroon around the evening special pineapple rosemary ice cream was a perfect match. Several classic and inventive cocktails round out the bar menu, which also offers local and European wines.
The Takeaway: The wait for a table during peak hours notwithstanding, The Meatball Shop is a quickly craveable treat for the born and raised Manhattanite or the casual out of town visitor. Five Manhattan locations. Most open Noon - 2 a.m. Sunday - Thursday. Noon - 4 a.m. Friday/Saturday. 2nd Avenue location open 6 p.m. - 12 a.m. daily. www.themeatballshop.com