Having a Ball at Hopscotch in Oakland

by foodhoe on December 15, 2012

1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 | 510.788.6217 | website

An evening of Naked Balls!  Heroes and Sides!  Beer, Wine and Fool-Aid!   For one night only (the first Monday in December) Bay Area locals lined up  to sample the uber popular meatballs from The Meatball Shop who setup a temporary outpost at Hopscotch, a new restaurant in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood.  I know this is old news by now, but it was so good that I wanted to share the love with you, and if you have plans to visit NYC, these are very worth the effort to seek out.  We can only hope that they plan to expand out west…

We got there a little before they opened at 5pm and there was already a line halfway down the block.  Within 30 minutes we were in, we placed our orders for drinks and balls at the bar.  The menu was simple, but it was still hard to decide!

The cozy interior of the restaurant seats only 37 and in anticipation of the crowds, they created an auxiliary dining room out back.

We were told to squeeze through the busy kitchen which was filled with cooks busy at work, where behind the building a large tent was setup with festive lights strung along the perimeter.  There were long rows of folding tables covered with plastic white tablecloths, it was very cozy and even had hot air blowing in and as an added bonus, a dj provided background music which added to the festive mood.  There were many large groups of meatball devotees!

The two meatball gurus Daniel Holtzman (the chef) and Michael Chernow (the manager) focus on simplicity and deliciousness with their balls, which have become so popular that they have been featured in Oprah’s magazine O, Rachel Ray, and liberally showered with media love, and have published a cookbook last year.  Kyle Itani, the chef of Hopscotch, helped The Meatball Shop guys open their West Village outpost back in the day.  He invited them out to his own recently opened shop  to give Oakland the opportunity to sample their succulent meaty orbs swimming in richly flavored sauces (which btw really do deserve all the fame and glory).  Hopscotch recently earned a 3 star rating from Michael Bauer of the SFChron. Here is Michael Chernow who cheerfully greeted everyone at the entrance, he thanked everyone for their support and also very politely asked us to keep it moving as the line outside had over a hundred fifty people.  Yowza!

The Naked Balls were simply plated with four meatballs served with sauce and a piece of focaccia bread – $7.  I sat next to Jaycee who agreed to split some dishes with me and we enjoyed the Spicy Pork meatballs with the Spicy Sauce and dusted with shaved tendrils of savory parmesan.  Those were some luscious balls with a refined meaty texture and the zesty sauce was really supercharged with flavor, I liked this combination of naked balls the best.

Beef Balls in Classic Tomato Sauce, which was to quote Chris, very tomato-y.  These were less aggressively flavored but were mesmerizing with melted cheese in a lightly grilled bun…

All of the Heroes came with three meatballs, sauce and II Forno baguette with 3 balls, sauce + choice of mozzarella or provolone cheese served with a small side salad.  It was well balanced between the saucy balls, melted cheese and bread ratio, but super filling!

The sides were all $5, this is the Rigatoni with Parmesan Cream Sauce.  The pasta was cooked just right by me, a little firm but tender and lightly coated with the rich creamy sauce, which puddled on the bottom so you could drag each bite to get a little more.

The Freshly Milled Polenta arrived lightly steaming, it was rich and creamy and topped with a snowy layer of lacy aromatic cheese, total comfort food that the kids gobbled up.

The Simple Salad with Arugula, Apples was tossed in a sprightly dressing and provided something light to balance the rich meaty balls and creamy sauces.

An Instagram tableau shot.

Since I have no travel plans to NY, I am glad to have had the opportunity to sample the very fine product of The Meatball Shop.  Thanks for coming all the way out here guys, hope you open a shop out west.  And I think that because we were in the first round of seating, there were  lots of little ones running around, here’s one who snuggled up on the back of my seat to tickle me… which made us both giggle, isn’t she too cute!

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