The Meatball Factory
231 2nd Avenue
(between 14th St & 15th St)
Manhattan, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 260-8015
My knowledge of meatballs does not go further than the Swedish meatballs I’ve tried from my Scandinavian grandmother’s kitchen, and having never been to popular Lower East Side hangout The Meatball Shop, I didn’t quite know what to expect from Union Square’s newest addition, The Meatball Factory. This small restaurant that is based out of the old Nathan’s Hotdogs at 14th Street and 2nd Avenue just opened at the end of October from Top Chef alum Dave Martin.
For early evening on a weeknight, I was impressed at how crowded the place was. It seems they have made the most of the 1600 square feet, filling it with as many tables as possible and one bar serving solely wine and beer – but a healthy selection at that, including my Rogue Dead Guy Ale, which was quite satisfying. The layout was quaint, with wood floors, chairs, and tables, and several chalkboards showcasing menu specials. The service was consistent, and several different people interacted with us during the experience, clearly taking things out to us as they were prepared.
The menu had a large selection to choose from, but in the dimly lit room the crammed menu was difficult to read. There were plenty of creatively named options including the gallery of meatballs and a plethora of sauces to choose from. I recommend going with The Sauce Sampler which allows you to choose a type of meatball – from pork to Meatzza (which had angus beef short ribs, hanger steak, buffalo, potato, and parmesan) – with a choice of three sauces. Sauces range from the spicy (Hells Bells Vodka Sauce) to the sweet Dragon’s Lair (a green curry peanut sauce with red bell pepper and thai basil) and everything in between.
If you want more than just meatballs, the menu offers cracker bread pizzas; seasonal salads; Sammies (meatballs and sauce on a challah roll); cheese fries; and the famous Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese, which I can vouch is rich and tasty with both fontina and parmesan cheese, but also very greasy, so pace yourself. The Fall Chop, which includes arugula with red seedless grapes, pears, green apple, and radicchio with caramelized pineapple and vinaigrette and smokey rubbed Golden Graham crisps, was impressively inventive. From the sides, I highly recommend the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Maple Syrup and Red Chili Sauce, a sweet-meets-savory version of a normally mundane side that was possibly my favorite part of the meal.
The meal would not have been complete without some “sweet stuff” from their dessert menu. While I opted to go with a rather safe option, The Hot Tin Roof Sundae, a malted hot fudge sundae over marshmallow gelato with candied nutmeg walnuts and sea salt caramel, there were plenty of daring treats. The Pig Sticks, a cherrywood bacon served with malted hot fudge and sea salt caramel, looked and smelled intriguing. They also offer floatillas featuring either root beer, grape or orange Fanta, or Newcastle beer with mascarpone gelato, or they offer PB&J or Magic Cookie Bars. Due to the overwhelming selection on the menu, I’ve concluded that I must come back to try the rest of what this factory makes.