the view from our little corner
Sometimes I wonder why I’m so attached to New York City; honestly, my life is so confined to my own little corner of Brooklyn that I’m essentially living a small-town life. I leave Williamsburg once a week, maybe, and that’s usually to hit Trader Joe’s or (gasp) Target. The Lower East Side, with all its restaurants and cute little shops, is a quick zip over the bridge, but lately it feels like it’s the other side of the world. Case in point: The Meatball Shop.
I’ve been hearing about it for ages (well, since it opened on Stanton Street early last year). Tonight, I finally learned what all the fuss is about. Why? Because they came to me. That’s right, I waited until they opened a branch five minutes from my apartment. Seriously, I’m a major loser.
But enough about me. You want to know how it was. Now, you’ve probably guessed my standards have changed in the last five years. Where I used to look for transcendence in a bowl of pasta, for most of my current restaurant excursions I want a place I can a) take Harry and not stress about what he’s going to eat; b) rely on the staff to understand some of the realities of dining with a preschooler, like providing extra napkins without being asked or putting the sauce on the side so it doesn’t touch His Picky Highness’s food; and c) not go any further into debt.* If a restaurant can pull off those three things and serve me food worth talking about (or worth not talking during), I’m a fan for life.
The Meatball Shop on Bedford Avenue is just such a place. They only opened yesterday, but things were humming right along tonight. The hostess took one look at my energetic little boy and seated us in a far corner, the kind of table that might have pissed me off in my younger days but now just makes me grateful. The waitress was over in seconds to explain the menu: They’ve got five varieties each of meatballs and sauce, and five different ways to combine them (simply meatballs & sauce, as a hero, as a medium-sized sandwich called a “smash,” as single-balled sliders, or on top of an “everything but the kitchen sink salad”). In addition, there are a dozen sides (six each of carb-y and veg-y). The menus themselves are laminated, with dry-erase pens provided so you can write out your own order. This made Harry very happy, especially when the waitress let him keep his menu to use as a sketchpad while we waited for our food:
that would be a ghost in the ocean, riding on a duckie float. of course.
The food, by the way, came blissfully quickly: A side of rigatoni for Harry (plain, with just olive oil), a beef meatball hero with classic tomato sauce and provolone for Stephen, and an order of chicken meatballs and pesto (with one of those meatballs intended for junior) plus a daily special salad (lettuce, fennel, pickled cauliflower, toasted almonds, roasted tomato vinaigrette) for me.
There was a hiccup or two—some confusion with my salad order, and the meatballs came before the pasta. Harry took one look at those golf ball-sized sweethearts, flecked with herbs and topped with a shower of grated parm, and decided they were Not for Him. Which meant his food was late, in his opinion. Just as he was whining that it was never coming (approximately 90 seconds after the meatballs landed), his rigatoni magically appeared. At $4, it was the perfect size for a kid, and it wound up making him very, very happy.
Stephen devoured his hero, though he kindly let me take a bite. I have to say, I thought it was better than the much-lauded version sold at Best Pizza, which I have sometimes found to be so overwhelmingly salty that I couldn’t eat it. The Meatball Shop’s sub had the perfect ratio of bread to meatball to sauce, and the side salad put it over the top in terms of value (at $9, it’s the same price as Best Pizza’s).
My salad was better than average—certainly better than I can make at home on most days, what with the house-pickled cauliflower and the roasted tomatoes in the dressing. And my chicken meatballs were extremely satisfying, especially when dunked in the small bowl of pesto. Harry, of course, ignored the one I’d so carefully cut up for him, which was just fine—Stephen wound up eating it. And then Harry remembered that the waitress had mentioned ice cream sandwiches. Would he get dessert? he wondered aloud. Not unless he tasted that meatball, or at the very least some salad, I said.
Never underestimate the allure of an ice cream sandwich. Not only did Harry try some of my salad (the lettuce only, which he very carefully divested of every tiny speck of almond), he also had 1/16th of a chicken meatball. Of course, he got dessert.
As for that dessert, it’s what really sent us over the moon. They’re made to order from house-made components, and you get to choose your cookie-ice cream combo. Harry opted for chocolate chip cookies with strawberry ice cream. When it arrived at the table, the poor little kid’s head just about exploded: It was HUGE. A softball-sized scoop of fresh strawberry ice cream wedged between two oversized chocolate chip cookies, it was too big for a full-grown adult to pick up and bite. This is not a bad thing, really, since it meant that the three of us shared it. I broke off hunks of cookie and slathered on ice cream, creating mini-sandwiches for Harry, while Stephen and I went to town on the remainder with spoons. Harry got three small ice cream sandwiches in the deal, and we grownups had more than enough sweet to send us home smiling. All this for $4.
So here’s the deal: I intend to hit this place as often as possible. The food’s great, the prices are amazing, and my kid loved it. And did I mention that they have a full bar, for those who don’t drift off after a single glass of wine?
*Obvs, when it’s just me and Stephen, different expectations apply. But thanks to our finances, date nights have been few and far between lately.
The Meatball Shop
170 Bedford Ave, between N. 7th & N. 8th Sts.