The Meatball Joint Rolls Up Short

Categories: First Bites
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Lee Klein
The "classic Italian" meatball sub.
The cool thing about focusing on one food is that you get to prepare it just right. Like the Meatball Shop on Stanton Street in New York City. Two guys -- one of whom, Daniel Hotzman, has been cooking since a four-year stint at Le Bernardin starting at age 15 -- came up with a great meatball and built a restaurant around it (now three restaurants). Last month, Bernie Matz (the Café at Books & Books, Bernie's L.A. Café) rolled out the same concept next door to his L.A. Café on Alton Road in South Beach. It's called the Meatball Joint, and it mimics almost every aspect of the New York shop, including the style and content of the menu.

Only thing is, the Meatball Joint doesn't get it just right.

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Lee Klein
Diners are handed a laminated menu that serves as a customized order form; there are colored markers on the table. You choose your ball, your sauce, and your presentation -- on top of spaghetti or other sides, in a sandwich ($10), in a slider ($3 each), or "smashed" on focaccia with sauce and mozzarella cheese ($9). Sort of like ordering dim sum or like ordering meatballs at the Meatball Shop.

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Lee Klein
Another view of the classic Italian.
The "classic Italian" meatball is culled from beef and pork, with Parmesan and herbs as flavorful filler. Whether you choose them, the turkey meatballs ("South Beach"), or eggplant and Parmesan balls (those aren't meatballs!), it's four spheres for $8. Sauce selection is "drunken mushroom," "fredo," and "fire-roasted tomato marinara." I sampled the marinara with the classic meatball on a baguette sandwich. The four meatballs were tender and tasty, if a bit heavy on the garlic. The marinara was fine, and the bread was crusty. It's a good sandwich, with a routine romaine/shredded carrot salad on the side.

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Lee Klein
Turkey meatball slider with red sauce and fredo sauce.
The turkey meatball had a pleasant flavor but was on the tough side. And it was small -- dwarfed by the challah mini-slider bun it was served on. I tried the "fredo," which is a thin and horrid Parmesan sauce.

A special lamb burger, which I also tried as a slider, seemed little as well, but it packed nice lamb taste and, when slathered with tzatziki sauce, made for a satisfying bite. Actually, more like two bites. It came with a cup of quinoa tabbouleh, which is one of numerous menu sides. The flavor was more or less like that of straight quinoa. Ugh.

I should note there's a nice list of craft beers and microbrews on tap ($5).

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Lee Klein
Lamb meatball slider with quinoa tabbouleh.
Service here is sincere but typically untrained. The waiter made no mention of specials; I noticed them written on a board after I placed the original order. The online menu lists ice-cream sandwiches (just like the Meatball Shop), but no mention was made of dessert, no dessert menu was handed out, and none was written on any board. If there are indeed desserts served, that's poor service.

And that's what I mean by things not being done just right. Sure, you can get a decent meatball sub here for $10. But that's not what a specialty shop is all about.

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Lee Klein
The specials board is under the TV set.
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Lee Klein

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Location Info

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The Meatball Joint - CLOSED

1570 Alton Road, Miami Beach, FL

Category: Restaurant

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15 comments
wheel alignment
wheel alignment

As the first point of contact with the road, the tires work in conjunction with the suspension geometry and weight transfer dynamics to provide grip.

Shrsfun
Shrsfun

A ghastly imitation of the phenomenal Meatball Shop in NYC.  Hopefully we'll get a REAL Meatball Shop in Miami soon.

Americana
Americana

Dude come on... your opening a "Meatball" Shop and the Meatballs suck. WTF is wrong with this picture? 

jt
jt

another talentless hack adding to the shit food culture that has infected Miami. How about an original idea? This guy calls himself a chef? Just because I painted the fence outside my house, it doesn't make me a painter.

Betty
Betty

I live at the Flamingo and I've been to the Meatball Joint 3 times since they opened 3 weeks ago.  Not only are the turkey balls great, they're no carb and gluten free.  I order the turkey balls with the mushroom sauce and roasted vegetables that are awesome and make for a totally healthy meal.  

Al G
Al G

Great pictures....The place looks great and so does the food

Tony M
Tony M

Not sure you're being fare about "mimics almost every aspect", would you have said that if it was a taco joint??? I been to the shop in NY and recently visited the The Meatball Joint on Alton, I thought it was super cute, the staff was friendly & the balls were very good....as good or better!

Meatball Mania
Meatball Mania

I am a fan of Bernie's, and I was so looking forward to the Meatball Joint. I am disappointed, however. I have been twice in the last two weeks. While the meatballs are fine, they don't standout. I think the problem is that he is going for healthy meatballs. The turkey ones are carb-free. That's great if you are doing the South Beach Diet. However, I don't come into a place named the Meatball Joint for a healthful meal. I want messy, gooey, cheesy, breadcrumb-filled meatballs, turkey, beef, pork or otherwise. If I want to eat carb-free, I'll have a salad elsewhere. He either needs to retool and whip up decadent meatballs, or let people know from the get-go that this is a healthy spot. 

crzap
crzap

Makes sense it would suck along with most places to munch in MIA

Suzanne
Suzanne

I agree, Lee.  I was just not impressed with this place.  

guest
guest

service at bernies is just as bad i called recently and the person on the phone BARELY spoke english. commonplace in miami but why answer the phone if taking an order will be such a challenge surely someone else may be better suited at that task!

Melg
Melg

Well done Lee , Great review , there are so little restaurants do training. surprising , they spend the money to open a nice place but no training !!! fire the manager , what is he doing there beside of drinking his coffee con leche  !!!

Jermaine
Jermaine

What?!  Someone on SoBe wasn't trained or professional?  Hold on the room is spinning.

steve
steve

wow..you just got someone fired..:)

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