Monday, October 31, 2016

8Ball Meatball

Spaghetti and meatballs is the dish that had the biggest impact on my life. It was what we had for dinner every Saturday night when I was a kid, and it kicked off my special night of activities. After dinner, my dad would go out and buy the early editions of the Sunday newspapers (we had two major papers back then) so I could plow through the pages and pages of full color comic strips. Then I would stay up and watch Ghost Host or Creature Feature or maybe even an old serial like Flash Gordon or The Crimson Ghost. But it was the spaghetti and meatballs I looked forward to the most: hearty and spicy and soul satisfying. I loved it so much, I asked my mom to teach me how to make it. By the time I was 12, I was the one who made dinner every Saturday.

Over the years, I played around with different styles of and recipes for meatballs. I'd like to think I'm a bit of a meatball connoisseur, so when a new place in Fells Point called 8Ball Meatball opened, I knew I had to try it out. As is usually the case with us, other commitments got in the way, but we were recently asked to attend a media dinner to check out what was going on at the meatball emporium.

We started with cocktails and 8Ball Meatball has some pretty sweet adult beverages to choose from. The OtoƱo, ordered by a friend who generously let us taste her drink, is a citrussy blend of Suerte tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, and spiced simple syrup; the Minx swears it was her favorite thing of the entire evening and wishes she had stolen more sips than the several she already had.

The drink the Minx ordered for herself was the Pear and Cider Punch while I went for the Cranberry-Ginger Highball, both from the Fall cocktail menu. While both rum-based drinks were unmistakably seasonal in flavor, each was light and refreshing on that particular warm Indian Summer evening.

8Ball Meatball's menu offers a handful of ball-inspired appetizers (plus a few others) to start one's meal. The fried pickles appetizer was especially tasty, lightly battered pickle slices fried to a light golden brown with a Ranch dipping sauce.

Goat cheese balls were served with a "Summer" salad of greens, blueberries, watermelon, and strawberries, all drizzled with a sweet glaze--a light contrast to the crunchy coating of the somewhat hefty balls filled with creamy goat cheese.

We also sampled the quite spicy Buffalo chicken balls with their traditional bleu cheese and celery garnish.

Entree decision-making is both simple and complex at 8Ball Meatball. Simple in that every choice involves meatballs. Complex in that several decisions must be made: select a meatball; select one of six sauces to go with it; and finally, decide how you wish to have it served. Your balls can come in a bowl of four; you can get three balls in a sub roll with cheese; or you can have an individual ball on a slider bun. There's also a variety of starches and salads that can be placed alongside or under your balls. You could also choose to put an egg on anything (why not?)

I chose the bowl of meatballs served over pasta. Normally, you can choose up to two different meatballs, but in the interest of journalism, I talked them into serving me four different balls so I could write about each one. The veggie ball is a dense composition of beans, soy, nuts, and tempeh making for a hearty, firm, bite. The classic is a traditional, tender meatball made of beef, pork, and veal. Although the tender pork ball is labeled as spicy, I found it to be pleasantly mild and probably my favorite of the four. That night's special meatball was Italian sausage with onions and peppers and it tasted exactly like you would imagine. I could've enjoyed an entire bowl of those!

My one strategic error was choosing the spicy pork sauce. Although it tasted fine, I'm afraid it made it difficult to discern the flavors of each ball. I would probably opt for the classic or pesto sauce next time.

The Minx ordered two pork and two chicken balls with a Parmesan cream sauce over the risotto del giorno, which happened to be butternut squash. The pork balls were her favorite as well.

Despite the preponderance of spherical proteins at 8Ball Meatball, they'd like everyone to know that they are more than just meatballs. Those tasty drinks, for one thing, which are enough to have us coming back for more. Additionally, they are open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. But if you find yourself roaming around Fells Point any day of the week and are looking for a place to have a drink and a nosh, the food is fun and the prices are beyond reasonable.

8Ball Meatball
814 S. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21231

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