Ken Yowell, owner of the empanada and tequila bar Calavera, has taken aim at another niche market with the opening of Oak City Meatball Shoppe. Located in the former Wild Ginger space in the Progress Energy Building, the restaurant specializes in - you guessed it - meatballs.
If that seems like a very narrow niche indeed, it quickly broadens when you take in all the variations on the theme listed on the menu. Five different kinds of meatball (traditional beef, spicy pork, chicken, veggie and “ball of the day”) are available with or without your choice from a mix-and-match selection of six sauces ranging from tomato to mushroom gravy.
And that’s just for starters. You can also get a meatball hoagie, sliders or something called a Smush: two meatballs (presumably flattened or “smushed”) on brioche with choice of sauce, cheese and optional toppings such as fried egg or bacon. Sandwiches (except for the slider) come with your choice of salad or side from a list that covers a wide spectrum from arugula salad to spaghetti to collard greens.
Cake pops (flavors include red velvet, double double chocolate, cookies and cream, and lemon cake) are on offer to satisfy sweet tooth cravings.
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Throw in a bar whose liquid refreshments include a strong selection of bottled and draft beers (served by the 20-ounce imperial pint), a modest but varied wine list, craft cocktails and an impressive selection of whiskeys (primarily bourbon), and that niche doesn’t look so small after all.
Oak City Meatball Shoppe (180 E. Davie St.; 919-714-9014; oakcitymeatball.com) is open Monday-Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Friday-Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Yowell plans to add lunch service in a month or so.
Greg Cox, the N&O’s restaurant critic, also reports restaurant news. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tune in to his radio show at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF.