On a wall in Rodney Bowers’s new College Street venture Hey Meatball!, there’s a photo of a bandana-clad Bowers holding up a sign that reads “You’ll love the taste of our balls.” Bowers’s name is usually associated with more elevated dining—he worked at Mistura, opened The Citizen and The Rosebud and consulted for The Gabardine—but after getting married and having a daughter, he wanted a break from the high-stress world of $45 entrées.
The inspiration comes from a kofta (Turkish meatball) shop Bowers and his wife Natalie saw in Istanbul. The premise was simple: customers picked their meatball (beef, lamb or chicken) and paired it with a side dish like salad or roast potatoes. “I was just so in love, I knew I wanted to open a kofta shop,” Bowers tells us. In the end, he’s opted for a more multicultural approach to the meatball. Expect to see daily specials like butter chicken meatballs, chicken wing meatballs in a blue cheese sauce or, come Christmas, a Newfie-inspired salt cod invention. There are also more than enough Italian-inspired dishes on the menu for this new kid to fit in on the Little Italy block. The Rodfather, for example, is three pork-and-beef meatballs with a spicy veal bolognese sauce, garnished with fresh basil, grana padano and, according to kitchen manager Kyle Brown, “attitude.”
Bowers is trying to source all his ingredients from a 100-mile radius, but because of the shop’s late opening they only managed to catch the tail end of pepper season. Still, the Hey Meatball team did manage to can 1,200 litres of roma tomatoes this year. The meat is mostly from Rowe Farms. The mix ’n’ match menu allows customers to choose a protein (veal, beef, turkey, chicken, pork or vegetarian balls), a sauce (pesto, tomato, bolognese or alfredo) and a side (risotto, polenta, pasta, seasonal veggies or salad), all for about $11 (the prices are still in flux). There are also extra sides like a roast beet salad with feta and balsamic for $5 and epic meatball subs offered in three sizes: the hero with four balls ($9–$10), the crusher with two balls ($5–$6) and a single-ball slider ($3–$4). Two more items you don’t normally expect to see served with your meatball sub: organic soft serve ice cream ($3) from a giant mid-century machine and homemade sodas prepared with Q water and fresh produce like Ontario field strawberries ($3).
Hey Meatball!, 719 College St., 416-546-1483, heymeatball.ca