One thing I love about food in New York, which I think makes it different from food in many other places in the world, is its specialization. Not only is it possible to find “the best Italian” or “the best deli” or “the best ____,” but in New York, these best of categories seem take on a whole new level of specificity. There are restaurants that make entire menus focused around a single food item. For example, take The Meatball Shop.
Guess what their shtick is… Meatballs, meatballs, and some more meatballs, which come in many iterations with different sauces (i.e. pesto, tomato, and spicy meat), settings (atop polenta, nestled within a bun), and meats (pork, buffalo chicken, even veggie!). After doing a little math, I figured out you can order your meatballs one of 1,080 ways.
(This is before you get to the build-your-own ice cream sandwiches! Which sadly I was too full to try…. But they looked charming.)
What I love about The Meatball Shop is that even though their menu centers around a single item, there’s something for everyone – vegetarians, gluten-free eaters, those who think it’s sacrilege to eat a buffalo chicken meatball with blue cheese sauce, and those who don’t.
Everything is very simple, but simple in the way that it tastes homemade – like something you could do if you had the time, the right ingredients, and (ahem) were actually skillful in the kitchen. And also surprising for a meatball shop, is the fact that their veggies are delicious! I ordered “the Kitchen Sink,” in which three meatballs of your choosing are served atop different daily vegetables of the chef’s choosing. My favorite was the carrot salad you see in the upper right hand corner of the plate.
The Meatball Shop is also really reasonably priced (only $10 for that heap of food you see above) for the quantity and quality of the food. No mystery meat here. The Meatball Shop specifies where all of the meat is sourced, and grinds it all in-house (which the kind of creepy meat grinders adorning the wall would suggest).
Luckily for residents of Manhattan and Brooklyn, there are several Meatball Shop locations at which to get your fill of meatballs. I went to the location in Williamsburg off of Bedford Ave, which is not only awesome for every reason mentioned and pictured above, but also because the service is super great and lacks the smirky ‘tude often found in other w‘burg restaurants and coffee shops.
If the Meatball Shop does all things meatballs, The Chocolate Room does, you guessed it, all things chocolate.
I stumbled upon The Chocolate Room in Park Slope late on Saturday night, when I was starving. While it would have been reasonable and responsible to eat a proper meal, I did the entirely unreasonable and irresponsible thing of swapping a salad for a sundae. And it was the BEST decision EVER.
(Side note: remember those rare times when your parents made breakfast for dinner because they were too tired to do anything else? And do you remember how your 11 year old brain went insane with excitement over the fact that you were about to eat pancakes, even though it was after 10am?
That was me x 100 when I decided to eat at the Chocolate Room for dinner.)
The smell of chocolate permeated the entire restaurant. I’m pretty sure even the wall paper would have tasted good. Luckily before I had a chance to eat any wallpaper, our server brought my friend and me a sample of the chocolate sorbet to start off. I had never a chocolate sorbet, but this was amazing. It wasn’t creamy in the same way an ice cream or gelato is, but the flavor of the chocolate was wonderfully intense.
I poured over the menu for longer than was reasonable given the fact that it’s limited to cakes and ice cream, and finally decided on the banana split after seeing one made. My friend and I were seated at the bar where we had a perfect view into the kitchen. A perfect view into the kitchen that makes solely dessert is both utterly torturous and delightful.
Of course I never pass up the opportunity to make my order unnecessarily complex, and substituted the vanilla ice cream in the Split for half scoops of mint and espresso. Thankfully our server was super awesome, and didn’t seem to pass any judgement on the fact that THREE different kind of ice cream in a banana split was insufficient for me. My friend was nice and normal enough to order the brownie sundae, as it comes.
Both were heavenly.
Everything is made in-house, and the ice creams were truly fantastic. Ice cream often seems to be flavored after a flavor. For example, you know the ice cream is mint flavored, but only because you’ve tried mint flavored ice cream dozens of times before, not because the flavor actually resembles mint. Not so at The Chocolate Room. The Strawberry ice cream (usually one of my least favorite flavors) tasted as much of strawberries as any ice cream I’ve had, and the mint chip ice cream tasted so minty and fresh I found myself looking for traces of mint leaves in the ice cream (there were none).
Each of the sauces atop my split were great too. There’s almost nothing I love more in a dessert than an excellent chocolate sauce, and the hot fudge sauce was delicious. The other really nice touch were the brûléed bananas. These were fun to watch being made, and also added another texture to the split.
The brownie sundae was similarly perfect. Of course, of critical importance to any brownie sundae is the quality of brownie. This brownie was everything one should be – warm, the perfect blend between a fudgey and cakey texture, and very, very chocolatey. The ice cream was topped with a delicate plop of homemade, not too sweet whipped cream, and a brandied cherry. Perfection.
Even after I had finished an ENTIRE banana split by myself, I developed a serious case of food envy each time I saw a dessert being made in the kitchen. Next time I go, I’ll have to make sure I sit a bit further away from the kitchen.
Perfect for: it’s cloudy and you want more than a chance of meatballs
Perfect meal: Abita root beer float and the Kitchen Sink with spicy pork and the traditional tomato sauce
Perfect for: a post-dinner-date dessert and drink
Perfect meal: Fondue for two and a glass of chocolate wine