84 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 982-8895

I trudged through the snow and slush to Epstein's Bar on Stanton to meet up with the girl who writes the blog Let's call her Snackish for the sake of argument. She had already put our names on the waiting list at Meatball Shop next door and was awaiting a phone call telling us that our table was ready. Meatball Shop is the recently opened comfort food restaurant on Stanton that serves a menu made up just about entirely of meatballs. It's a popular place with waits sometimes exceeding two hours. Snackish tried valiantly in the past to endure the wait, but couldn't bring herself to. After all, in the East Village, with restaurants ever two feet, finding somewhere else to eat is hardly a difficult task. This time, with a fellow foodie in tow, she was determined to succeed. We had to know. Is it worth that kind of wait? Clearly, there was hype to be investigated and who better to investigate it than semi-professional eaters like us?

I almost never eat out with other food bloggers. But I met the girl who writes a few weeks ago and we commiserated about being that guy in our groups of friends who always has to take pictures and notes at dinner. "No, you can't eat that yet!" I will sometimes cry out. Smacking hands away is a rarity. Arranging the items on the table to get a better pic is a given.
The seating at Meatball is tight. You can eat at the bar if there are seats available, but most people wind up at the large community table in the center of the room. We were lucky enough be given one of the few individual tables by the wall. The lighting isn't dim, but it's not too bright, either. Everything is wood or stone or iron. Meat grinder parts decorate a wall. The menu is laminated and comes with a pen. You don't order with your waitress so much as hand her the menu you've just scribbled all over. Fun, in a sort of there-should-be-sawdust-on-the-floor kind of way.

We ordered a range of meatball sliders, like a sampler pack, though they do serve heros if you want a larger sandwich. Meatball Shop has four kinds of meatballs (Beef, Pork, Chicken, and Vegetable) and five kinds of sauces (Tomato, Spicy Meat, Mushroom Gravy, Parmesan Cream, and Pesto). They'll also toss a fried egg on top of your ball for a buck. The fours sliders that I ordered were the beef meatball with tomato sauce, the beef meatball with parmesan cream, the pork meatball with mushroom gravy and the vegetable meatball with... spicy meat sauce (take that, vegans! heh heh). The beef/tomato was good and standard, like the meatball sub at Subway. The beef/parmesan was very good. It's a funny sauce to put on a meatball (I think) and I liked it. Cheesy, smooth, not too bitter. The best was probably the pork/mushroom. The pork meatball was the lightest of the bunch, not having tried the chicken and the mushroom gravy was like having it dunked in a revamped version of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. Condensed. The vegetable meatball with meat sauce was the least impressive. First, I couldn't tell that the meat sauce was a meat sauce. It was virtually indistinguishable from the regular tomato sauce. Meanwhile the vegetable meatball was dry and flavorless. I won't get this again.

I ordered their Simple Salad in my attempt to be healthy amidst the ground meat. It was a standard salad with apple sliced tossed in for sweetness. Nothing unique. We decided to try very simple, standard comfort food side dishes, which they served in a bowl family-style: the smooth White Beans and the bitter Braised Greens. Both were good, paired well with the meatballs and well worth four dollars each, but neither was made in any special way and my bet is that their other sides like the risotto, the polenta, the rigatoni, etc aren't made uniquely either. The whole goal here is to give you the food that you might get at the Colorado log cabin that Grandma lives in.

For dessert, Snackish and I decided to try a scoop of their Brown Sugar Ice Cream (very brown sugary. I bet this would be great in coffee) and a Vanilla Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich. The problem with the sandwich was that the cookie was very stiff. Not stale, but they should use a soft cookie because you end up squeezing all of the ice cream out of the sides.

Snackish felt much the same way that I did. That while the food was good, it wasn't really memorable. We were left wondering about why anyone in their right mind would choose to spend two hours in line or huddled by the chill of the front door to eat here. The reason, you learn once you're sitting down, is for the atmosphere. It's incredibly relaxing. Weirdly relaxing.

Meatball Shop may be trendy in a quasi-retro way, but it lacks the pretension and arrogance of other gastropubs. There's class here without it at all being classy. The food is everything a meatball restaurant should sell (meatballs in bread) and it's pretty cheap to boot. Meatball Shop is warm and comfortable. It's the restaurant version of a blanket and a cup of cocoa by the fireplace. You can't help but smile, even if you don't entirely know what you're smiling at.

Oddly enough, I'm finding myself craving a meatball slider right now.

2 beers, 7 meatball sliders, 1 salad, 2 sides, 2 desserts, 1 coffee, tax and tip totaled $62.25.

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