Just Opened: Meatball Hawaii
Left: Crispy rice balls and beef balls with polenta; right: meatballs and spaghetti
Photos: Fern palabay kanda
ON THE MENU
Balls and sauce from $8.50
Hoagies from $11.25
Add-ons and side dishes from $3
The fact that Chef Robert McGee opened a place called Meatball is probably the most perfect thing ever. Not that The Whole Ox, his last eatery that we loved, wasn’t its own kind of perfection. But really? A chef and butcher from West New York making meatballs? And that he’s making meatballs in Honolulu, a decidedly meatball-less city? Downright brilliant.
McGee, who’s been practicing his culinary craft in Honolulu for about five years as an executive chef and chef consultant for a number of restaurants including Apartment 3, The Whole Ox and Indigo, has built a reputation for being a solid chef with a serious penchant for meat and a keen focus on sustainability, farm-to-table dining and buying and eating local. His Meatball joint is all of that, rolled into a fast-casual dining experience that takes the best of the East Coast-y meatball shop culture and fits it into a cool old space on Kapahulu Avenue.
“The meatballs and recipes are very much what I grew up with, and the menu and the concept is very locally relevant,” says McGee, sitting in the whitewashed 30-seat dining room of his restaurant, which is La Bamba’s old digs, two days before his big opening last Saturday. “In New York, you wouldn’t be able to look at a meatball menu and build a loco moco, but here you can.”
Or you can build a hoagie. Or a meatball and risotto dish. With a side of crispy calamari or a salad of “gathered greens.” The concept of choosing your main protein (beef, pork, chicken, seafood and even veggie balls are on the menu) then choosing your sauce, then choosing your starch vehicle (hoagie, spaghetti, shells, polenta) for your balls and sauce and then adding a side (wings, fried eggplant, fries) to essentially build your perfect ball-centric meal hasn’t really been done here, and we say: It’s about time.
Meatball opened March 15. It’s located at 845 Kapahulu Ave., with parking off of Mokihana Street, in the lot behind Waiola Shave Ice.
Meatball, 845 Kapahulu Ave., 739-9229, meatballhawaii.com.