While we were sorry to say goodbye to Chef Dave Martin’s woefully short-lived Meatball Factory, which shuttered its doors at the end of April, the space at the corner of 2nd Second Ave and 14th Street didn’t stay empty for long. In an exciting “Contemporary art gallery meets fun summer eatery” venture, the folks at The Hole Gallery have launched a pop up restaurant, cleverly named Hole Foods, which will serve a rotating menu of seafood and featured comfort food dishes in a vibrant, modern art gallery setting.
Creating a completely artist-designed space, Joe Grillo of the collective Dearraindrop has transformed the restaurant into a colorful den of artworks, with a neon drip mural (pictured above) across the ceiling, walls and floor, customized tables and tablecloths, painted furniture, video works, black light bathrooms (Yes!), a ceiling installation and interactive sound sculptures. He even made a customized chef suit and hat for the executive chef, Robert Rubba. Grillo has exhibited internationally and has his first big New York City solo show with The Hole this coming October.
We passed by the restaurant this past Sunday afternoon, feeling parched by the freakish late spring heat, and being excited to perhaps sit at the bar and enjoy a chilled and refreshing artsy cocktail. Alas, it was not be, as the Mother’s Day holiday found the place to be closed up tight. We did peek in the windows, however, and the place is pretty cool. The limited menu looks appealing also, but the big green B on the door makes us want to wait a few weeks to see if they can transform that into a much happier blue A. Hole Foods promises to fill their summer tenure with special art projects and performances, including a Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black night, with hostesses and servers in head to toe Karen Black make up (read: expect partial nudity). So, maybe the food isn’t what’s most important. We’ll see.
Hole Foods, a Three-Month Pop Up Restaurant, is located at 231 2nd Avenue (Northwest corner of 14th Street) in NYC and will be in Operation until August 5th, 2012. Phone 212-260-8015 for more information.
It is no secret that The Worley Gig is a huge fan of all delicious foods, and we try not to discriminate. But if we had to pick a favorite single food (rather than an entire ethnic cuisine, in which case Mexican FTW!) we would choose Macaroni & Cheese. Because, pasta and cheese baked together, yum. Over the course of the past year’s many restaurant reviewing adventures we have had the pleasure of sampling a current trend in Macaroni & Cheese preparation: the addition of truffles, or truffle oil, which elevates this humble comfort food dish into the culinary stratosphere. In this post we revisit five New York City restaurants featuring a Truffled Macaroni & Cheese dish on their menu. Feel free to pay any of them a visit and tell them we sent you!
Upstairs at The Kimberly Hotel
All Food Photos By Anne Raso
Midtown Manhattan’s finest east-side rooftop dining experience is found at Upstairs, a swanky open-air cocktail lounge (with awesome nighttime views of the Chrysler Building) located on the Penthouse level of the Kimberly Suites Hotel (145 East 50th Street). On our first visit last summer, our heartiest mid-week appetite was more than satisfied by an order of rich and fragrant Truffled Macaroni & Cheese ($12), baked en casserole to a golden hue. Simply perfect. Rating: A
The Meatball Factory
Chef Dave Martin takes credit for starting the Truffled Macaroni & Cheese craze while he was a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef. His signature dish, a Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($11), is among the most popular items on the menu at The Meatball Factory (231 Second Ave at 14th Street). Chef Dave’s secret to achieving such delicious, cheesey-truffly baked goodness involves first cooking the cream base for the sauce until it develops its own “nutty” flavor, then slowly folding in both Fontina and Parmesan cheeses so that ingredients blend perfectly, preventing the sauce from “breaking.” This technique makes for a very creamy sauce and a unique integration of flavors that, when combined with the essence of black truffles, elevates this memorable creation high above “your Mama’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese” status. Rating: A-
Update: Sadly, the Meatball Factory Has Closed as of April 30, 2012.
At Bahr Che Wine Bar (tucked away at 26 Astor Place) their limited menu is enhanced greatly by the Lobster and Black Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese ($16.00) — one of the heartier choices on a menu punctuated by tiny salads. We especially enjoyed the big chunks of lobster tucked around tendrils of macaroni in a mild cheese sauce, but ultimately the dish called out for either more sharp cheddar cheese or extra seasoning (a few sprinkles of salt, even) to bring out the much desired black truffle essence. Rating: B-
One of our favorite new dining spots on the Lower East Side is DL (95 Delancey Street) where they do their Ludlow Mac (Elbow macaroni, with creamy béchamel sauce and cheese) three ways, including a glorious Truffle and Mushroom ($15), version. This is a classically oven-baked dish with a crispy panko crumb topping and plentiful slices of fresh mushroom added, which goes a long way towards enhancing the rich and flavorful truffle oil-infused sauce. Rating: A
Sons Of Essex
Sons of Essex is one of no fewer than three restaurants with the word Essex in its name that is also located on Essex Street (in this case, 133 Essex Street, between Stanton and Rivington). Sons of Essex is so enthusiastic about the Macaroni & Cheese trend that its menu even has a separate section dedicated to detailing the various types of Mac & Cheese that SOE serves. In addition to a daily Mac & Cheese special variety, each day of the week you can also get the Truffle Mac N Cheese ($16) made with elbow macaroni, Gruyere and a truffle cheese sauce, baked to achieve the crunchiest golden brown top you could ever ask for. Easily shared between two people, this dish answers the burning question, “What shall we have for an appetizer?” Rating: A+
East 14th Street is quickly becoming a go-to neighborhood for the seeker of comfort foods. Think about it: the first IHOP in Manhattan proper just opened between Second and Third Avenues a couple of months ago. And now, just a few storefronts further east, in the corner lot once shared by an Arthur Treacher’s-Pizza Hut–Nathan’s triumvirate of fast food, a new restaurant has just opened that specializes in one of our very favorite foods: Meatballs! The Meatball Factory – as it is called – is the creation of Chef Dave Martin. Known for serving up Foodie-esque yet accessible takes on classic American dishes, Martin was among the final three Cheftestants on season one of Bravo’s wildly popular reality cooking competition, Top Chef. Like fellow Top Chef alumni Angelo Sosa’s midtown eatery, Social Eatz, The Meatball Factory aims to elevate your palate for the American food favorites that you already crave.
Cluck Cluck Chicken Meatball (All Food Photos By Anne Raso)
Having lived in a state of Meatballs-on-the-Brain for close to a week while anticipating our visit, we chose two types of meatballs to share: the Cluck Cluck Chicken Meatball, made with Bell & Evans Chicken, Esposito’s Chicken Apple Sausage and White Wine, and the Meatza Meatza (one of two beef-centric meatball varieties on the menu) comprised of Braised Certified Angus Beef Brand Short Ribs, Hangar Steak and Filet, Buffalo, Potato and Parmesan. Both choices were very naturally juicy, and because Dave uses no traditional “binder” (i.e. breadcrumbs) in his meaty mix, you are really going to taste the flavor of the meat.
Meatza Meatza Beef Meatballs
Other meaty concoctions offered include the Turducken (a mix of Turkey, Chicken and Duck, like it sounds), Lambda Lambda Lambda (Lamb, duh), Hog Wild (Pork) and the Vegan’s Dream meatless ball, featuring nine different types of veggies all mashed together with tofu and roasted garlic – yummy. All meatball selections are $8 for a generous 5-meatball portion, while the vegan choice is $9. Meatballs are accompanied by a side of your choice of eight homemade sauces, but for a few bucks more you can trade up to a selection of three different sauces, which seemed like the way to go – because if some is good, more is better! The Cluck Cluck was well complimented by the thick Salsa Verde of Roasted Tomatillos, Green Chilies and Caramelized Sweet Onions flavored with Lime, Fresno Chiles and Agave. We also chose a traditional Fire Roasted Marinara (super garlicky) and the Hells Bells Vodka Sauce made with Absolut Peppar – tasty, and excellent with beef. Kick up the fire in any of these sauces with a splash or two of the house-made Red Pepper Agave sauce found on each table.
Marinara, Hells Bells, Salsa Verde Dipping Sauces
Dave’s World Famous Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese
While on Top Chef, Dave takes credit for starting the Truffled Macaroni & Cheese craze with the introduction of his signature dish, a Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($11), which according to our server is among the most popular items on the menu. Chef Dave, who was quite visible in the front of the house on the night of our visit, joined us table-side while we savored – noodle by noodle – a shared portion of this delicious cheesey-truffly baked goodness, to personally describe his secret method of first cooking the cream base for the sauce until it develops its own “nutty” flavor, then slowly folding in both Fontina and Parmesan cheeses so that ingredients blend perfectly, preventing the sauce from “breaking.” This technique makes for a very creamy sauce and a unique integration of flavors that, when combined with the essence of black truffles, elevates this memorable creation high above “your Mama’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese” status.
Pureed Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic (Tastes Better than it Looks!)
While we certainly would have been quite satisfied with the Meatballs and the Mac, a side of Pureed Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic (with cream, of course, $5) sounded too amazing to pass up, and we were not disappointed! TMF’s menu also features half a dozen varieties of Crispy Crackerbread Pizzas (we hear that the Thai This Pizza featuring the Turducken Meatballs in a Green Curry Peanut Sauce is a favorite), plus Pastas, Sandwiches, Salads and even Poutine (aka Disco Fries, $5 – 10)! For dessert we were easily sold on the TMF Floatillas: traditional soft drink floats made with Dave’s Vanilla Mascarpone Gelato ($6)! On the night of our visit they were out of the Fanta Orange soda that makes up the Creamsicle, so we chose the Purple Cow Floatilla made with Fanta Grape – equally decadent and so huge we could not finish it!
Here is Chef Dave Bringing Us Our Massive Purple Cow Floatillas!
Last but not least, we tipped the scale of pure indulgence by ordering the Pig Sticks: Slices of Nueske’s Wild Cherrywood Bacon served with sides of Dave’s Malted Hot Fudge and Sea Salt Caramel for dipping! Pig Sticks are a dessert that should be enjoyed at least once by anyone who worships Bacon as much as we do here at The Worley Gig! As you can see from the prices listed in this review, The Meatball Factory is easy on your wallet: nothing on the menu is over $15. They also have a nice wine list with all bottles of wine is priced at or under $40. Beer lovers can choose from among 18 varieties on tap and 20 bottles of craft beer. With the welcome addition of The Meatball Factory to this East Village neighborhood, we just might turn 14th Street into a Foodie haven yet!
Pig Sticks: Oink!
UPDATE: I AM SAD TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE MEATBALL FACTORY HAS NOW CLOSED EFFECTIVE APRIL 30, 2012. RIP!
The Meatball Factory is Located at 231 Second Ave. or 251. E. 14th Street – depending on whom you ask – at the Northwest Corner of 14th Street and Second Avenue. Currently Open for Dinner Only, Hours are Monday – Sunday 6:30 PM – 11 PM. Credit Cards Accepted! Phone 212-260-8015 for more Information!