Meatball House’s World of Flavors
Getting the (tasty) ball rolling
Photos by Shannon Cornmann
When you try the Meatball House, the newest restaurant on Campus Corner, there are two things you should know going in – no, make that three: It’s not solely an Italian place; the chef is the renowned Andrew Black, who has helmed kitchens from Paris to Las Vegas to South America, and who OKC diners might recognize from stints at the Skirvin and Vast; and he is not afraid to experiment with big, bold flavors.
“We’re so not Italian,” Black says through his huge smile, “we’re all over the world. This menu is everywhere, and we wanted it that way; we wanted variety, we wanted people to say, ‘They’re taking meatballs to a new level.’ People are loving it.”
To Oklahomans, it might seem like an unusual choice for a foundation atop which to erect a menu. Black explains that he and partner Rudy Khouri, who founded La Baguette in Norman, traveled to various countries while working on ideas for a concept – this is a project three years in the making. They kept running across the tasty spheres in multiple food cultures, and decided to make meatballs their focus.
And now, with a prime location right across from OU, they’re rolling out a surprising amount of versatility for visitors. “What we’re about is giving guests a flavor combination they might not have thought of, but they’re gonna love.”
Case in point: The three options for appetizers all orbit the meatball but take the concept in deliciously different directions. The Lollipops present small versions on sticks bathed in a preposterously good peanut sauce that’s savory as it hits the palate and gets spicier and more delicious the more you eat. Our Man From Japan has a yakitori sauce underneath and a chimichurri on top for a simultaneously sweet and piquant taste.
And the French for Goat Cheese reduces the spheres to crumbles among chewy bits of candied bacon, bell peppers confit and near-molten morsels of baked chèvre. Any one is a good choice; seeing them together and sharing them around the table reinforces the restaurant’s breadth of possibilities.
Now for the meat, so to speak, of the menu proper. Diners navigate it by deciding what sort of protein they want – options include beef, pork or a blend of the two, plus turkey, lamb, a vegetable medley and a crunchy, breaded mixture of fish and potatoes. Then they choose whether they want that selection as sliders, or accompanied by a salad or wedge of focaccia, and what sort of sauce and cheese will top it all off. This approach allows for optimal customization, as well as encouraging experimentation: Are the lamb balls better in a rich tomato-basil marinara finished with provolone, or as a miniature burger whose barbeque sauce is sweet and tangy with a hint of cinnamon? Or should you get beef with a mushroom gravy and gorgonzola?
Even the pizza (with mini-meatballs, naturally) comes with a set of tomato-basil, chimichurri and sriracha mayo dipping sauces to encourage giving your taste buds a workout. And sides range from sea salt French fries to a risotto of the day to creamed corn, although it’s hard not to recommend the extremely rich mac and cheese – for the record, it’s mac and five cheeses. And yes, you can order it with meatballs, too.
The price tag is also a plus; it’s easy to recommend as a group hangout or date spot, especially in conjunction with the robust drink menu, and worth savoring more than once for its ample and far-ranging variety. After all, the world is big and round and full of flavor.
► Meatball House
333 W Boyd, Norman | 405.701.8300 | meatball.house
A Sidebar on the Bar
The penny-clad bar is a visual pleasure even without the flat-screen TVs in the back. It’s well stocked with beer, including several local labels and a longer-than-you-might-expect wine list, but the real draw should be the cocktails. Try the Gettin’ Lucky in Kentucky (bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup and rosemary) or a Painkiller (basically a pina colada, but an excellent one) and you’ll probably become a fan very quickly. I’m not even fond of gin, but I found the Sooner 75 that general manager Sarah Shearer mixed up (gin and Chambord with a splash of lemon and champagne on top) light, fruity and delicious.
Getting the Ball Rolling
If this sounds promising but you’re not in Norman all that often, here’s some good news: Chef Black is planning for this concept to have a snowball effect. Ground has already broken for a second location of the Meatball House in Deep Deuce, targeted to open later this year, along with a La Baguette Express and a chef’s table concept that Black is confident will knock some socks off. Stay tuned.