04/09/2012 11:27 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2012

America's Most Mouthwatering Meatballs

By Kate Krader, Restaurant Editor, Food & Wine

Follow Kate on Twitter: @kkrader

Aren't meatballs a terrific winter food? So comforting! But aren't they also perfect for spring? They're not as heavy as a stew or a big fat burger. Here then are some great places for meatballs nationwide.

The Meatball Shop, New York City. Meatball specialists Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow now have three locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn for their cozy restaurant, that's slogan is We Make Balls. The meatball options range from classic beef laced with ricotta to spicy pork and vegetable; you can choose the accompanying sauces like classic tomato or Parmesan cream. Holzman and Chernow tend to think broadly: you can have smashed balls, balls on top of your salad and naked balls. Maybe this makes you to think of some good punch lines; if so, there's a place to submit ball jokes on the Meatball Shop website.

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Marabella Meatball Co., Philadelphia. If meatballs makes you think Jersey Shore, consider Marabella. So far, MMCO's only location is Philadelphia, where you can build a sandwich like beef/pork/veal meatballs with marinara sauce and aged provolone. (Toppings like prosciutto and broccoli rabe are $1 extra.) But owner Judy Marabella's family owns the Jersey Shore's Marabella Family restaurant, where they serve meatballs on several of their pastas. So maybe, just maybe, an MMCO branch will open at the Jersey Shore if the eponymous show's cast members "want" new jobs.

Meatballs, D.C. Star chef Michel Richard's says his new spot in the Penn Quarter was inspired by his mother's budget cooking in postwar France: she'd make garlicky pork and potato meatballs for her five kids. Presumably Richard's mother was not serving the meatballs he is now featuring, which include flavors like lamb, crab and lentil, served in a grinder, over pasta or as part of a platter and sauced with options like Tandoori. Since the word "meatball" seems to bring out the 13-year-old in all male chefs, note the restaurant's signage ('balls', written really, really big).

Moochie's Meatballs & More!, Salt Lake City. "We put meatballs on everything!!" says owner Joanna Rendi. Indeed. You can get their meatballs atop spaghetti, macaroni salad, Mediterranean salad ("It may sound weird, but it's a really great salad!"), potato salad ("It's what we eat in the back!") or chicken Parmesan salad. Or you can transform their handmade meatball sandwich into an "atomic meatball" with the addition of feta cheese and jalapeño sauce. Unlike most meatball places, this one shares space with a ceramics store, Circle Pottery Gift Shop (Rendi's husband is a potter).

Haulin Balls, Las Vegas. To any meatball lover who's ever looked longingly through the pages of a muscle car magazine: Get ready to have your mind blown. Haulin Balls is a Vegas food truck with a trompe l'oeil image of a full-size black muscle car detailed on the side. But wait, there's more: The car is adorned with flames. Haulin Balls offers 5 "ballwiches": pulled pork; ground beef; and Thai-style turkey with lemongrass, ginger, cilantro; lamb and tzatziki. There's also—wait for it—the rotating "blue ball special."

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