Gone are the days when meatballs were mere accoutrements for spaghetti. Today, meatballs have become a food group of their own – and restaurants across America are offering them in all shapes, sizes, and sauces. Read below to find out more about five of the country’s best meatball centered restaurants.
1. The Meatball Shop –New York, NY
The Meatball Shop in New York, NY is America’s first meatball restaurant, and arguably, its best. Originally opened in 2009 in New York City’s Lower East Side, the Meatball Shop is a simple, no-frills meatball joint whose focus is food. The original Meatball Shop restaurant itself is small, cramped, and has communal tables so the wait to eat there can be hours long at prime dinner time and weekends. But what it lacks in atmosphere it makes up in deliciousness and experience. The Meatball Shop offers a customizable menu, where you can choose the type of ball you want (classic beef, spicy pork, chicken, vegetable, or the daily special) and the way you want to eat it – in a hero, smash (2 balls smashed on a brioche bun with sauce and cheese), salad, or served plain with your choice of sauce. The Meatball Shop also offers delicious sides and mouth-watering desserts. They are famous for their ice cream sandwiches and let customers pick the type of cookie and flavor of ice cream they want. The Meatball Shop has been so successful that there are now 4 locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Whatever their secret recipe is, they’re really getting it right.
2. Marabella Meatball Co. –Philadelphia, PA
Marabella Meatball Co. opened in Philadelphia in 2011. An offshoot of Marabella’s, a Philadelphia Italian staple, Marabella Meatball Co., orMMCO. for short, uses a system similar to the original Meatball Shop in New York. They offer a selection of balls (Beef, beef/pork/veal, chicken and veggie), sauces (tomato, marinara, and mushroom), cheeses (provolone, fontina, piave vecchio, and mozzarella), and a variety of vegetable toppings. But MMCO. has more of a traditional Italian focus, pushing meatballs served over your choice of spaghetti, penne, or rigatoni. You can order bowls of meatballs with no noodles or get them on a sandwich, but the majority of MMCO.’s menu is dedicated to offering suggestions for how to pair your meatballs and sauces with pasta. MMCO. is a counter service, casual, and affordable no frills restaurant, attracting people with the delicious, cheap Italian food, not for the atmosphere.
3. Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery –Denver, CO
Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery opened in Denver in 2012 and is a counter-service restaurant with a clean industrial feel. The restaurant is not just another replica of the Meatball Shop in New York. Its menu offers many more non-traditional options than the legendary New York spot. Slotted Spoon’s menu features meatballs with varied and unexpected ingredients like Adobo chicken, Colorado beef, Italian pork, Swedish Salmon and Baja Black Bean. Balls are served via hoagies, salad greens or pasta. Slotted Spoon customers get to choose between warm sauces such as chile queso, honey jalapeno BBQ, Spanish Pepper Cream, and San Marzano Tomato, or cold sauces like chipotle ranch, tzatiki crema, roasted garlic vinaigrette, and basil pesto. Like the Meatball Shop and MMCO., the menu at Slotted Spoon is completely customizable, but Slotted Spoon does offer “Signature Sandwiches” as well as a couple of starch and vegetable sides. Business is booming for Slotted Spoon and they are planning to open up a catering division soon.
4. The Meatball Spot – Las Vegas, NV
The Meatball Spot is Las Vegas’ only restaurant fully devoted to meatballs. Opened in 2012, The Meatball Spot’s big menu offers a variety of balls including classic, beef, pork, chicken, turkey and vegetarian topped withsauces like tomato, spicy meat, pesto and mushroom gravy. What makes the menu different from other meatball joints is that is features a lot of salads and offers the option of ordering pizza. Customers at The Meatball Spot can have their meatballs plain, on a salad, on a pizza, or on a sandwich. The restaurant also features a good mix of starches and veggies, and a huge selection of ice cream sandwiches and milkshakes. In a city pretty focused on gluttony, The Meatball Spot fits right in.
5. Zeno’s Meatball Kitchen –Dallas, TX
Zeno’s Meatball Kitchen is the newest restaurant on our list – but despite its recent opening in April, Zeno’s is receiving non-stop rave reviews. Zeno’s is a fast food joint where the food is cheap but delicious. The menu boasts 8 types of balls served on their own, on salads, on sandwiches and with a selection of baked potatoes and toppings. The menu offers set sandwiches, with clever names like “Ball Buster,” and “Great Balls of Fire” as well as a variety of sauces and flavors. Zeno’s side offerings are what you’d expect of a fast food joint – French fries, slaw and pickles – rather than veggies and starches of most meatball places. Zeno’s offers a very unique meatball experience that’s different but just as good as the other meatball restaurants out there.
– Emma Stratigos