You’ve heard of the cupcake craze. Or cronut-tiness. But how about meatball madness? Well my friends, it looks like meatball madness has hit the Triangle in the form of newly opened Oak City Meatball Shoppe! (Note the “e” at the end. Cool…) The empanada crazy folks from Calavera are now delving into meat-a-balla’s to the benefit of folks in downtown Raleigh and points beyond. I had stalked this place for a while after seeing a blurb from my friend Kristen at Gadabout Food and then pics popping up on their Yelp page but I kept on running into issues trying to visit. Since the Oak City Meatball Shoppe is new, they are not doing lunch and closed on Sundays which made things more of a challenge. But thankfully I was able to stop in for a visit after stopping in at Crank Arm Brewery. After a beer, I was definitely ready to feast on some spheroid-like meat objects!
For the outside, Oak City Meatball Shoppe is pretty plain jane but once you step inside you get a mix of hipster cool, homey warmth and a bit of funk from the music overhead. Cool-looking staff just like Calavera, the warm red sidewall is dotted with framed pictures and the specials board is flanked by meat grinders in homage to the humble meatball’s origins. I grab a seat at the bar and the place feels very comfortable from the start. With five or six beers on tap, I go with their Narrangansett which is the house beer. They’ve also got a ton of bourbon’s behind the bar if you want something stronger.
The menu at Oak City Meatball Shoppe is really basic in formula but allows for a multitude of taste combinations: five different meatball types (beef, spicy pork, chicken, veggie, special of the day), six different sauces (tomato, parm cream, pesto, meat sauce, mushroom gravy, sauce of day) and twelve sides/carbs ranging from collards to mac n cheese, smashed potatoes, kale salad and more. Add in three different sandwich options (slider- 1 ball, sandwich- 2 balls, hoagie- 3 balls) and you can see they’ve turned a simple menu into one with a bazillion custom permutations! I go with the spicy pork four ball plate, parm cream sauce and risotto to keep things simple.
While I wait at the bar, a quick scan of the dining room shows off an eclectic set of faces from 25 – 45. Bartenders are popping to Bruno Mars “Locked out of Heaven” and the place is lively. Good vibe here for a Monday night. My plate of meatballs shows up and it’s a nice pile of food! The balls are a solid 2″ diameter and tasty. Paired with the cream sauce and well-cooked risotto it makes for a delicious bite. Everything’s well-cooked, probably could use a bit more flavor and spice to the risotto but otherwise, very solid. I pass on the only dessert here, cake-pops, sticking to my beer. Service at Oak City Meatball Shoppe is very good, they had about 4 people serving for a pretty small space but I can see this place getting crowded, quickly.
Not every food craze is worthwhile but how can you go wrong with meatballs? From spaghetti sauce to subs and even Chinese lion’s head, the concept of a rounded portion of meat permeates a lot of different ethnic cuisines. So yeah, I expect the Oak City Meatball Shoppe to do well given their food, prices, service and ambiance! And yes, they deserve the solid press so far. Thank you so much for the lovely plate of comfort food Oak City Meatball Shoppe! I’ll be back soon unless I get pulled over into Calavera and all their delicious empanadas….
180 East Davie Street
Raleigh, NC 27601