Phaedra Cook is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes of 2015. It's a collection of personal favorites that is also indicative of Houston dining. It's a scene where a vast range of dishes coexist: highbrow and lowbrow; local and international; cheap and expensive; modern cuisine and beloved tenets — and everything in between.
Some of the best meatballs in Houston are in the tunnels underneath downtown. They’re so legit, they landed Brooklyn native Joey Galluzzi a runner-up spot on Food Network’s series, “America’s Next Great Restaurant.”
Fortunately for Houstonians, Galluzzi decided to open his restaurant here. You can find him underground near the intersection of Travis and McKinney at 930 Main. There is almost always a line of up to a dozen people, but it moves pretty quickly. You can usually see Galluzzi himself doing expo at the counter and running deliveries to the tables to keep things moving along.
Galluzzi has a naughty sense of humor. His original restaurant name idea was Saucy Balls, but he relented to using less provocative Brooklyn Meatball Company. Still, the name lives on in the menu. An order of Saucy Balls consists of two of your choice of meatball, sauce, a spoonful of ricotta on top and a hunk of baguette on the side for $4.99. You can add extra meatballs for two bucks apiece.
That bawdy, fun sense of humor appeared again when Galluzzi let us in on a secret. We asked what his favorite sauce was and he said, “So, my favorite is the Spicy Marinara and add a dash of the Creamy Gorgonzola to it. I call it the Orgasm Sauce!”
Of course, we both completely cracked up after that and hilarity ensued. He had to update some of his newer staff members on what exactly that was. I’m glad he did that instead of me.
I have to admit, though: he’s right. The Spicy Marinara sauce on top of 100-percent Angus beef chuck meatballs was already my favorite and adding the gorgonzola sauce added new dimensions of richness and heft. There are also Spinach Pesto and regular marinara sauces to choose from.
At Brooklyn Meatball Co., there’s something for everyone. Vegetarians can indulge in the eggplant balls. The water has been pressed out of the eggplant so the resulting meatball is firm and holds its shape even after it is cut into. If someone is avoiding beef, they’ll find the turkey meatballs irresistible. (I love beef, but I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed the turkey rendition.)
You can also get a meatball sub or meatballs on top of spaghetti or rigatoni. Even the salads come with meatballs. The only caveat is to remember that this is a fast food place in a food court, so your delicious meal will be served in a Styrofoam container.
Soon, there will be more than one Brooklyn Meatball Company downtown. Galluzzi told us he has plans to open a second location at The Shops At Houston Center at 1200 McKinney. Based on the high level of business he does underground, the new place will likely be just as successful.
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One last secret: Brooklyn Meatball Company doesn’t have them all the time, but they make cannoli fresh and fill them by the order. There is so much that can go wrong with cannoli. They can be too big or too small. The Houston humidity can get to them and soften the pastry shells. The balance of spices can lean too far one way or the other—too much cinnamon, for example. The cream filling might be grainy.
The cannoli we had at Brooklyn were pretty much perfect, with crispy shells, smooth cream and a lovely balance of flavors, so ask about them when you visit.
The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:
No. 89, Perry's Steakhouse/Perry & Sons Pork Chop
No. 90, General Tso's Chicken from The Rice Box
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies