WASHINGTON — New York has plenty of pizza joints and bagel shops, but several years ago, childhood friends Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow noticed there wasn’t anything dedicated to another iconic New York food: the meatball.
They decided to change that, and in 2010 opened The Meatball Shop on New York’s Lower East Side. Since then, the concept has grown to six New York locations, and this month, they’re branching out of the Big Apple and opening a new shop in D.C.
What can local diners expect? WTOP spoke with Holzman to get the details on the new digs.
The concept is all about customization
The idea behind the menu, Holzman said, is that it’s a “choose-your-own adventure.”
Diners start by selecting the kind of meatball they want — with options ranging from classic, to chicken, to veggie — followed by the sauce (tomato, spicy meat, pesto, etc.) and the “style” (over a bowl of greens and veggies, on a hero with sauce and cheese, or smashed between a brioche bun).
Yes, there is the option to enjoy meatballs piled on top of a plate of spaghetti, but pastas and other starches are considered “sides” at the shop. Feeling fancy? Holzman said on the weekends, they’ll serve lobster-balls Benedict. And if you’re really hungry, you can get a bucket of 25 meatballs, made from any ball and sauce combo.
Holzman, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, who spent most of his career in fine-dining restaurants, said his go-to order depends on his mood. If he is depressed, nothing puts a smile on his face like a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. If he is feeling healthy, he opts for the salmon balls over a kale salad. And if it’s cold outside, he gets spicy pork meatballs over polenta with spicy meat sauce and extra Parmesan cheese.
There will be a local spin at the first non-NY location
The Meatball Shop may have started in Manhattan, but its D.C. storefront will have more of a local feel. The restaurant is moving into the former Cork Wine Bar space on 14th Street in Northwest D.C., and hired the ultra-hip MP Shift firm to design the layout.
“We definitely have a look that is The Meatball Shop,” Holzman said. “We wanted to update it a little bit and refreshen and take the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, if we were opening (the first store) in 2018, what would it look like? And let’s do that.’”
Being careful not to give too many details away, Holzman said a big bar will be to the left of the entrance, a kitchen in the back, and some “cool photography” spread throughout.
The D.C. shop is also working with José Andrés on a meatball made with fresh Iberico ham, manchego cheese, garlic, onion, paprika and other spices, served on slider buns with piquillo pepper confit and a specialty aioli. A portion of the proceeds benefit Andrés’ nonprofit World Central Kitchen.
Holzman said The Meatball Shop has always sourced local ingredients, and he hopes, as the eatery gets up and running, to work with other local vendors. The restaurant also has a robust cocktail menu and dessert menu, with ice cream sandwiches being the specialty.
The Meatball Shop was planning on opening in early August, but now expects to make its D.C. debut on Aug. 22, provided everything goes according to plan, Holzman said.
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