Co-owners, Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow, now have five locations throughout the city - Lower East Side, Upper East Side, West Village, Chelsea and Williamsburg - and each one offers a similar appeal.
Holzman, began his culinary career at the age of 15 at Le Bernardin in New York City. Four years later, attended the Culinary Institute of America with a full scholarship from the James Beard Foundation. Before graduation, he accepted a position at the soon-to-open Palladin in New York City under chef Jean-Louis Palladin and remained there for the next six months.
Over the next decade, Holzman honed his craft at some of the west coast's finest restaurants - The Rio Hotel, Campton Place, The Fifth Floor, Aqua, Jardinière and Axe.
Meanwhile, Chernow began his professional career in 1996 as a bartender at the popular nightclub, Life, on Bleecker Street in New York City. Two years later, he signed on to open Woo Lae Oak on Mercer St. in New York City, and in 2001, moved to Los Angeles where he worked at Woo Lae Oak’s original location.
In 2010, Holzman returned from the west coast to New York City and teamed up with Chernow. Together, they opened The Meatball Shop in New York City's Lower East Side. Their concept proved an immediate success and before long, another four locations followed.
Their formula was simple: a mix-and-match menu of meatballs, sauces and sides where guests felt the empowerment of designing their own meals as opposed to simply ordering their meals.
They also sought to provide guests with a fun and comfortable atmosphere where they could enjoy a meal within a light enviroment.
We decided to sit at the end of the bar as opposed to a table and we were instantly met with pleasantries by a welcoming young man behind the bar. We ordered a glass of Chianti and a pint of Sixpoint Wheatball Ale (which I later found was made specifically for the establishment by Red Hook). The Chianti was a nice choice - smooth and medium-bodied - and I thought the Wheatball Ale was terrific. Not quite as "hoppy" as Red Hook's IPA, it was a great beer that stood up well to a hearty meatball lunch.
Under the heading - NAKED BALLS - there were a number of choices to consider:
SIDES (Under or On-the-Side)
You could also order any of those combinations on a HERO (3 Balls on a Baguette w/sauce & cheese) or what they called a MEATBALL SMASH (2 Balls on a brioche bun w/sauce and cheese).
Additionally, the menu had varieties of Sliders, Meatball Salads, Ice Cream Sandwiches, Floats, and various other items meant to induce smiles and lots of yum's.
We decided on two NAKED BALL plates of vastly different varieties.
The first consisted of Classic Beef Meatballs with Spicy Meat Sauce over Freshly-Milled Polenta.
The second was Spicy Pork Meatballs covered in Mushroom Gravy on top of Risotto.
Two Classic Beef - Spicy Meat Sauce Sliders were something of an afterthought just to ensure no pangs of hunger would even consider working they're way into our foodiological atmosphere.
Our meals arrived in short order and the portions were more than generous. Four glorious meatballs arrived tucked between our choices of sauce and sides.
I think what I found most surprising was the delicious gourmet quality of the meatballs.
The spicy pork meatballs were very good as well and had that same special "tingly spiciness" that was exuded by the spicy meat sauce. However, I must be honest, the mushroom gravy was barely a notch above pedestrian, and in retrospect, I would have opted for the spicy meat sauce, or perhaps, even the pesto instead. The bed of risotto was very tasteful and I would have been far more enthusiastically cheering on its flavor if not for the polenta. In truth, it paled in comparison. The polenta was that good.
The sliders were great... and fun! They were so good in fact, I would not hesitate to personally take a cue from White Castle's tagline and "Buy 'em by the sack."... that is, as long as they were the Classic Beef/Spicy Meat Sauce combination.
All in all it was a fun place to visit. The drinks were good. The food was hearty, filling and delicious, and even more so, fun to order. The staff was friendly and talkative. The decor clean and interesting. The music was invigorating. And by New York City standards, it was inexpensively priced. I would not hesitate to venture in once again. In fact, I would even consider going out of my way to do so, particularly if I was with a group of friends