Not that I particularly like the idea that I'm adding to the hype, but I will admit:
Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow's new L.E.S. venture, The Meatball Shop, ain't bad.
Better, in fact, than "ain't bad." It's pretty darn good. (With a few caveats that I will outline in a minute.) In fact, for schlubs on the prowl, I think it would make for an excellent date spot.
Why? Three main reasons:
1) It's inexpensive.
A plate of meatballs costs $7. It's an extra $3 to add spaghetti, rigatoni or polenta. And in this city, $10 for a plate of spaghetti and meatballs is a great deal. If you want to add a halfway decent bottle of wine, I still think you would have trouble spending more than $50 or $60.
2) The meatballs are (for the most part) delish.
I've been twice now (I know, I know!) and three of the four meatballs I tried were excellent. The pork meatballs are perfectly decent. And the chicken meatballs (big surprise!) were excellent. (I was expecting something akin to a turkey burger in ball form -- not so! Perhaps they were over-compensating by seasoning the chicken meatball so well, but you could taste the right amount of salt and garlic. Nice and moist when you bit into it. Turned out really, really well.)
The biggest hit, however, was one of their specials -- the lamb and mint meatballs. They were truly superb. The mint was extremely subtle, and you could taste that gameyness of the lamb. Frankly, Chernow and Holzman would be crazy not to turn these lamb meatballs a regular item.
For dessert they have ice cream sandwiches made out of freshly baked cookies and homemade ice cream -- also excellent. I mixed and matched cookies and ice creams the two times I went. The best combo I came up with is the peanut butter cookie and chocolate ice cream. (Wowaweewawa!) The peanut butter cookie is truly scrumptuous. It's like eating a sandy-colored disk of butter. (In a good way.)
The only disappointment were the beef meatballs. Kind of bland.
3) It's a scene.
Of course, not everybody likes a scene. (Personally, I hate it.) But if you're interested in hotness, this is the ticket. I went there at 6 o'clock one night and by 6:30 there wasn't a table in the house. By 7 o'clock the place was a madhouse.
Their demerits are, of course, the beef meatball (which should really be your star dish) and I did have to wait an obscenely long time for my meatballs the second time I went. But the Meatball Shop is new, they're ironing out the kinks, and I'll forgive them for that.
Moreover, Chernow (who's running the front of the house) is extremely friendly and nice. (He also recognized me the second time I went -- always the sign of a good host.) As busy as the place was, he was very attentive and concerned.
Overall, I give the Meatball Shop 2 1/2 stars.