[I'm sad to write that The Meatball Joint is closed as of February 2013. We hope it resurrects somewhere, maybe off the beach? In the meantime Bernie's L.A. Cafe next door is still awesome.]
When I heard that Bernie Matz of the Cafe at Books & Books and Bernie's L.A. Cafe had a new meatball-themed restaurant opening, I immediately put it on my list (even though it literally has "meat" in the name) as both of his other places are exceptionally vegetarian-friendly. Over the summer I had tried a meatball place in NY and was disappointed so I was hoping this one would be better, and I'm happy to say it definitely was. The Meatball Joint is on Alton Road a block south of Lincoln, directly next door to Bernie's and their slogan is "BEER, WINE, BALLS" so you know what you're getting into. Their menu is a laminated form you write on with markers to indicate your ball and sauce preferences.
One of the three main ball choices is the vegetarian "West Hollywood" which is made of eggplant, herbs and Parmesan. I'm pretty sure there were some mushrooms in there as well. In NY the veggie balls were dry and crumbly but these were moist and well-seasoned. The sauce options are a fantastic marinara, a very tasty Alfredo, and a chunky mushroom gravy. There are always specials too, and they day I was there they had a falafel ball that was spot-on.
You can get your balls on a plate, smushed on a sandwich or as "sliders" on little buns. They have an awesome happy hour on weekdays from 3-6 where drinks are reduced and the sliders are only $1.50 each. I could barely finish three of them so it was a great deal.
They also have a huge selection of sides that are all vegetarian. The day I was there the "Sauteed Greens of the Day" was a delicious plate of kale and onions in a balsamic/tomato sauce. The normal veg of the day was a slightly boring dish of roasted cauliflower, carrots, a Brussels sprout (literally one) and pear. It could've used some sauce or seasoning; we ended up dunking it in the leftover slider sauces. The winner of the sides though was their mac and cheese casserole which was decadently gooey and had a crispy layer of cornflakes baked on top of it.
All in all despite the name The Meatball Joint is another great vegetarian option on South Beach. Thanks Bernie! Keep up the good work.