8. Huckleberry Turkey Meatballs: Turkey is not known for delivering huge flavor, but chef/co-owner Zoe Nathan is clearly quite skilled, since she’s able to make the lean, gobbling orbs crave-able. The turkey meatballs come in vivid tomato sauce, with arugula salad for balance and country bread to sop up the remaining sauce.
9. Izakaya Bincho Meatball Stuffed Lotus Root [CLOSED]
Tomo Ueno is a wizard with his namesake bincho grill, which yields consistently savory results with skewers like Meatball Stuff w/Lotus Root ($4.50). Ueno slices the crunchy root vegetable to order, pulling from a tupperware container of filtered water. He molds chicken meatballs from a tsukune mixture, tops firm slices of lotus root, and brushes the tops with house-made teriyaki before grilling. The luscious Japanese meatballs come with sides of scallions and sinus clearing mustard. CLOSED
10. Komodo Meatballs: Eric Tjahyadi and chef/brother Erwin Tjahyadi feature a progressive Asian fusion menu in Beverlywood, and now in Venice. They’re probably best known for tacos, but don’t sleep on small plates like Meatballs ($5). The spicy quintet’s crafted from pork sausage, studded with cilantro, carrot, garlic and more. The meatballs are deep fried, resulting in crisp coats and juicy cores. A ramekin of romesco serves as a winning dipping sauce.
11. La Vecchia Cucina Spaghetti Vecchio Mondo: This Santa Monica classic has been around for 25 years, with Mark Mollica as chef for nine years, and co-owner for the past seven years. Still, he goes even deeper for his Spaghetti Vecchio Mondo ($16), relying on an old family recipe for hand-rolled beef and veal meatballs, which contain egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and milk-soaked bread, which he wrings out before adding to the mixture. Moisture’s good for meatballs, but too much is detrimental. Pomodoro sauce and al dente spaghetti complete the bowl.
12. Little Sister Balinese Meatballs: Tin Vuong generally cooks full-throttle. I’m pretty sure he’s never been in first or second gear. Sometimes, that can lead to overly big flavors, but his deep-fried meatballs, inspired by the Indonesian island of Bali, work well. Balinese Style Meat Balls ($11) combine brisket and pork belly trimmings with “secret spices,” shrimp paste and onion bits. Vuong coats his meatballs with panko and sesame baguette crumbs. They’re deep-fried in lard, served with tangy Filipino-inspired banana ketchup, and plated with pickled daikon and crushed peanuts.
13. Maximiliano Spaghetti and Meatballs: Of course chef Andre Guerrero would have good Spaghetti and Meatballs ($14) at his neighborhood Highland Park restaurant. After all, the wall murals depict spaghetti. He features house-made veal, pork and beef meatballs, with pomodoro, sharp-grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and consistently cooked spaghetti.
14. Michael’s Pizzeria Meatballs: This branch of a growing mini-chain from Michael Dene features a Promenade patio with orange umbrellas, marble tables and counter, and an oven that burns olive and orange wood at 800 degrees. The pizza’s good, but I might prefer their Polpette al Forno ($12), braised beef, veal and pork meatballs that arrive in a cast iron skillet (naturally), with sharp Parmesan slices, parsley, and rich tomato sauce that begs to be dipped.