the meatball bar....they've definitely got some balls
In the circle of restaurant life in this town, as one place closes, another opens and usually pretty quickly after that other one closes. Spaces don't seem to stay vacant that long as people seem to think they can make it happen with their own food idea. Such is the case with the space that formerly held Shorty Goldstein's. Not much longer after they called it quits, in moved The Meatball Bar to serve up something totally different in the Financial District.
I was sort of looking forward to this place (when I used to work downtown) as I am all about meatballs and it would be something different to offer in the neighborhood. Then of course, I'm no longer working nearby and it has taken some time for me to get by and check them out. Though, at least it let them get their footing and work out whatever kinks new businesses serving food go through. That is what I hoped for as I actually made two separate visits to the place. Part of this is because I was dining solo and they offer a selection of meat choices, toppings and side for your balls and I figured it would be good to try a couple variations.
The way it works is you pick the meat of your ball, what kind of sauce you want on it--the balls alone will run you $9 for four. Then you can add a side to your order for an additional $4. With tax it all comes to about $14. Seems kind of a lot for a quick lunch but I was interested to see what I'd get.
I wanted to be a little different and ordered the turkey meatballs with Korean gojuchang sauce served on a bed of braised greens. First impressions were, the portion seemed a little small. The balls were not all that big. It didn't have all that much taste and the texture was like some kind of compressed meat not ground meat. It was very odd and tasted a little processed with its springy spongy texture. The gojuchang sauce wasn't all that spicy either, surprising since it is a red chili sauce. I was looking for some kick and got more of a flick instead. The greens, which was swiss chard, were sauteed with a little garlic and left with a little crunch on them. You got a pretty decent serving and I did like them, though like the texture, I found it odd they served the meatballs and sauce over the top of them. It's not like they were noodles or risotto, which are other options you can also get.
Flash forward a few weeks and I'm back again to see if things are different. I went for the chicken meatballs with mushroom demi-glaze and side salad. The balls were bigger than the previous ones and the texture this time was actually better. It was more like a meatloaf and you could tell it was ground chicken, though I will say, I think there was a bit too much breading in the mix as parts of them were a bit mushy. I did like the mushroom glaze, very mushroomy and like a semi-thick gravy which worked well with the balls. As for the side salad, it actually came on the side!
I was expecting the meatballs to be on top but I got two different containers this time. The salad tuned out to be pleasant mix of romaine lettuce, carrots, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers with a light vinaigrette dressing on the side. It was also a good sized portion meaning another side that was pretty good.
Okay, so I didn't dislike everything I had, but they also weren't all that great. The meatballs on both occasions were just a little off texture wise and while I liked the sides, when you factor in cost, it just seems like a lot of money for something that is only meh. Guess we will see how long they last in SF's current restaurant landscape.