Located at 370 East Main Street in Carrboro, The Shoppe specializes in meatball plates and sandwiches. There is a full bar, and food and drink specials change regularly.
As a concept, a meatball bar straddles the line between the ridiculous and the sublime. In practice, The Shoppe leans far more toward the latter than the former. Whether you are craving a classic spaghetti and meatballs with tomato sauce or want vegetarian balls with greens or a salad, this establishment has you covered.
To start, The Shoppe features some genuinely comforting ambience. Candlelit tables, unobtrusive background music, and classy décor make this an easy place to settle into.
Service is another major plus. Our server, Jarely, did a great job of breaking down the menu, offering recommendations, keeping drinks filled, and generally making sure that we had an enjoyable meal.
As befits the branding, meatballs are the name of the game here, but rather than cobble together preconfigured dishes with questionable names, patrons are given the freedom to make their own combinations. Choose your ball (beef, chicken, pork, veggie, or the daily special), your sauce (tomato, parmesan cream, pesto, meat, mushroom gravy, or the daily special), and your side (risotto, polenta, potatoes, ziti, or the aforementioned spaghetti or collard greens). For our first visit, my wife opted for beef meatballs and mushroom sauce while I tried the spicy pork meatballs with parmesan cream sauce. We each started with a market salad (mixed greens, avocado, and goat cheese) and shared a family-sized portion of risotto.
The food was nothing short of excellent. The salads were refreshing and featured goat cheese creamy enough to win over my goat-skeptical spouse. The meatballs came four to an order and were generously sized with almost no filler. The spicy pork meatballs played well with the richness of the parmesan cream sauce while the beef meatballs soaked up the bold mushroom flavor of the velvety sauce. The highlight, however, may have been the risotto, a daily special accented with hints of peach. Creamy and appropriately textured, it complemented the meatballs perfectly. At $8 for an order of meatballs, a piece of focaccia, and a side, you’ll easily get your money’s worth.
If there is one area where The Shoppe could use some improvement, it is in the availability of nonalcoholic drinks. Granted, this is a bar, but the absence of iced tea and coffee was sorely felt.
“Meatball bar” may still invite some snickering, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Great food and service coupled with a cozy environment and fair prices make The Shoppe a must for those in the Carrboro area.