One has to question when a restaurant/bar opens another restaurant/bar right next door. However, for the owners of Capital Pub and Hot Dog Company, it hasn't seemed to hurt business a bit to share a parking lot with their new venture, Mad Meatball. Mad Meatball started out slow back in June of last year, but with the expansion of their menu and promotions/specials, there has come a steady increase in traffic. Now more and more people are finding reasons to come back again.
One of the biggest reasons to come back is Mad Meatball's Mad Grinder ($8.99, served with one side). The sandwich's combination of Graziano's sausage, housemade red sauce, and mozzarella on a toasted hoagie is, perhaps, the best of its kind in Des Moines. The restaurant also has some of the best fried Calamari Rings ($8.99) that you will find, and MM's thin crust pizzas are also quite popular and reasonably priced (7-inch smalls start at $6.99 and 14-inch larges start at $12.99). While the menu has veered a little from what was planned prior to opening (early talk included several specialty meatballs in various sauces), the changes have been good ones. The menu sticks mainly to Italian favorites, with a few American bar favorites mixed in. The focusing in on Italian fare has helped the kitchen improve quality from when they first opened to now, and the addition of more pasta, sandwich, salad, and appetizer options has really made the restaurant take off.
My first visits to the restaurant were not entirely positive, I must admit—chewy pasta, tiny menu (only four items that weren't pizza), and inconsistent service all were issues. But over time, Mad Meatball has blossomed. The kitchen has not only mastered the menu, but expanded it, and the service has improved greatly. Add to the great food and good service, a fantastic patio, new promotions (like Trivia Night), and a bit of a makeover to the outside of the building (new sign, new flower beds, a fence around the patio), and the transformation has been night and day. In just over a year, Mad Meatball has grown up a lot, and what seemed like a bad idea to some (guilty as charged) has worked out rather nicely after all.
401 SE 5th Street, Des Moines
Open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.